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Monday 2 October 2023 Dublin: 11°C
FactCheck: Does Ireland really lead the world for skilled labour?
The Taoiseach made an interesting claim in the Dáil this week. Is it true?


DURING A DEBATE this week about Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor’s plan to entice emigrants back home with a 30% tax rate, Taoiseach Enda Kenny sought to underline Ireland’s attractiveness as a place to invest.

He claimed “We are number one in the world for skilled labour”.

That’s a big claim – is it true?

(Remember, if you hear a claim about Ireland’s global rankings, email or tweet @TJ_FactCheck).

Claim: Ireland ranks first in the world for skilled labour
Verdict: FALSE

  • We rank 5th in the world for skilled labour
  • We were recently number one, but that was two years ago
  • The Taoiseach’s claim is based on accurate but out-of-date figures

What was said: / YouTube

Kenny was speaking in response to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, during Wednesday’s Leader’s Questions. You can watch an excerpt of his statement, above. This is the section we’re interested in:

What we want to do is to continue to have the country recognised as an attractive location for investment. We are number one in the world for skilled labour, we’ve climbed up nine places in terms of competitiveness…

The Facts

FactCheck asked Fine Gael and the Taoiseach’s office for evidence in support of his claim. Kenny’s spokesperson stated that the source was the 2014 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook.

This is an annual report produced by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), a business school based in Switzerland and Singapore.

It evaluates competitiveness based on four main factors: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure.

Each of those four are comprised of 20 sub-factors, which are in turn comprised of 340 measured criteria.

One sub-factor of “business efficiency” is availability of skills, and one criterion of that is the availability of skilled labour.

In 2014, Ireland ranked 15th in the world for overall competitiveness, which is nine places higher than three years previously, and ranked first in the world for the ready availability of skilled labour.

These two points were highlighted by the IDA at the time (although they got the number of years wrong), in similar terms to those used by the Taoiseach on Wednesday.

…The IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2014 puts Ireland at number 15 in overall global competitiveness rankings, and first for availability of skilled labour in the world.
Ireland has moved up nine places in overall competitiveness over the last four [sic] years.

So both statements made by Kenny in the Dáil on Wednesday were true of Ireland in 2014.

But that was two years ago – how are we faring now?

FactCheck obtained a copy of the 2016 World Competitiveness Yearbook, which shows that our overall ranking increased between 2015 and 2016 – from 16th to 7th in the world.

Overall_1yr_change_2016 IMD IMD

On skilled labour, however, we are ranked 5th in the world, not first. The Taoiseach’s claim is based on accurate but out-of-date figures.

We rate this claim FALSE.

You can see how Ireland ranks on all the major measures of competitiveness, here.’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here.

For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here

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