Employment in healthcare occupations makes up 5% of Ireland’s workforce, around 100,000 persons, of which 52,000 are nurses and midwives.
Overall employment in the area did not grow noticeably between 2011 and 2016. But there was growth in certain professions, including therapy professionals and health associate professionals, a category that includes roles such as paramedics, dental hygienists and pharmaceutical technicians. Both these categories expanded by over 6%.
Figure 1: Data from National Skills Bulletin, 2017. SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit.
Demand for medical practitioners has been largely stable and this will likely continue into the future, as the pressures of an aging population and demand for skilled healthcare professionals internationally will ensure continued opportunities for trained professionals in Ireland.
Following from the National Skills Bulletin, 2017.
Key points for selected healthcare occupations
- In 2016, there were approximately 100,000 persons employed in healthcare occupations, representing 5% of Ireland’s workforce
- Almost 87% of overall employment was at professional level (approximately 87,000 persons)
- There were 52,000 employed nurses and midwives, accounting for almost half of overall employment in healthcare occupations;
- Over the period 2011 to 2016, overall employment levels in the selected occupations remained relatively static; however, employment growth was observed particularly for health associate professionals (6.2% on average annually) and occupational and other therapy professionals (6.4% on average annually); in contrast, average annual employment rates contracted for medical practitioners (2.5%), physiotherapists (2.3%), and nurses and midwifes (1.8%)
- Between 2015 and 2016, overall employment declined by 3.3% (or 3,400 persons in absolute terms); employment levels remained relatively static for most occupations with the largest absolute decline for nurses and midwifes of 3,600 net jobs
- Four fifths of those employed in healthcare occupations was aged 25-54; almost one quarter of occupational and other therapy professionals was 55 years or older; the share of mature workers was almost one fifth for pharmacists, other healthcare professionals, and nurses and midwives
- Almost 95% of employed healthcare professionals had attained third level qualifications; the share was 74% for associate professionals
- While most persons employed in healthcare occupations were female, employment of medical practitioners was gender balanced
- Occupational and other therapy professionals had the highest share of persons in healthcare occupations working part-time, at over one third
- Almost 30% of employed medical practitioners were non-Irish nationals, while the average share for the selected healthcare occupations was close to the national average (14% compared to 15%).
Recruitment in the health sector is driven primarily by government policy and funding. Overall employment numbers are unchanged compared to 2011. Despite this lack of growth, there is evidence of a significant demand for healthcare professionals.
Healthcare professionals (and in particular nurses and doctors) account for a relatively high share of persons hired in 2016. Most recruitment occurred due to replacement demand (with approximately 3,000 exits to inactivity recorded for the selected occupations). Frequent movement of doctors and nurses between employers is also evident, with over 2,000 intra-occupational transitions identified for medical practitioners and a further 3,800 for nurses. A large number of skilled personnel were sourced from outside the EU with over 2,100 new employment permits issued. The number of job ready job seekers previously employed in these occupations was negligible. In 2015 there were over 4,000 third level graduates (levels 8-10).
Demand for healthcare professionals is expected to persist, with demand increasing due to an aging population as well as international competition to attract the skills and talent to the sector.
Shortages have been identified for the following occupations:
- medical practitioners: (especially locum and non-consultant hospital doctors, registrars and medical specialists (e.g. general and emergency medicine, oncology, psychiatry, orthopaedic, anaesthetists, paediatricians))
- nurses: advanced nursing practitioners (e.g. intensive care, operating theatre, theatre nurse managers), registered nurses (e.g. general nurse, cardiovascular care, elder persons’ care, paediatric, oncology, intellectual disability care, fertility) and clinical nurse managers
- radiographers: (clinical specialists; MRI and CT radiographers)niche area specialists (audiologists, cardiac technician, dieticians).
- niche area specialists: (audiologists, cardiac technician, dieticians).