Key points for selected operatives and related occupations
- In 2013, there were approximately 72,000 persons employed in operative occupations, representing 3.8% of Ireland's workforce
- Approximately 70% of total employment of operatives was concentrated in manufacturing (mostly food; machinery and equipment; pharmaceuticals; computer, electronic and optical products)
- Between 2008 and 2013, overall employment in the selected occupations increased by 3% on average annually; this was in contrast to an average annual decline of 2.4% in total national employment; the strongest employment growth was observed for food, drink & tobacco operatives (16.2% on average annually), while the strongest decline was observed for plant and machine operatives (9.3% on average annually)
- Over the five-year period, there were approximately 10,000 net jobs created; the largest employment increase was observed for food, drink & tobacco operatives (6,600), while the largest employment decline was observed for plant and machine operatives (4,900)
- Between 2012 and 2013, overall employment of operatives increased by 2.1%; the largest employment increase was observed for assemblers (1,700), while the largest decline was for food, drink & tobacco operatives (1,800)
- The workforce of both construction and plant & machine operatives was the most mature among operative occupations, with approximately one fifth each aged 55 or older, exceeding the national average; in contrast, it was the youngest for food, drink & tobacco (14% aged under 25)
- The education profile of operatives was skewed towards the lower end of the educational attainment spectrum; for instance, half of construction operatives had lower secondary or less qualifications
- The share of non-Irish nationals employed in each operative occupation (excluding construction and chemical) exceeded the national average; at 34% and almost 30%, the highest share was for food, drink & tobacco and plant & machine operatives respectively.
In 2013, vacancies were most frequent for process (e.g. food); construction (e.g. scaffolder) and machine (Computer Numerical Control (CNC)) operatives. Higher than average replacement rates were observed for construction and food operatives, while the later also had a higher than average turnover rate in 2013.
While there is currently no shortage of operatives in general, it is recognised that some manufacturing companies in engineering, medical devices and pharmaceuticals are experiencing difficulty in sourcing operatives with CNC skills.
In May 2013, there were over 300 job seekers registered on the DSP system who were machine tool setters and engineering operatives. However, it is likely that many job seekers were trained in traditional operative skills and are deficient in the digital competencies required for technologyintensive manufacturing environments.
Expected significant capital investment in high technology sectors is likely to positively impact on the demand for operative skills in the medium term. In addition, employment of operatives is expected to be positively affected by the further automation of production processes and the associated replacement of unskilled labour with skilled operatives.
However, the operative role is expected to become more knowledge and skill intensive (i.e. super-operative).