The untold story - understanding the Multinational Sector in Ireland

A team of researchers from the University of Limerick are working to better understand the landscape of Multinational Companies (MNCs) in Ireland. Professor Patrick Gunnigle, Professor of Business, Leader of the Work, Knowledge and Employment Research Theme, Kemmy Business School, explains: “Ireland is arguably one of the most dependent on multinational companies in the world. It is vital that we understand the landscape of multinational companies here to better inform policy debate on this sector.”

It is vital that we understand the landscape of multinational companies here to better inform policy debate on this sector.

IDA figures state that over 160,000 jobs are generated from multinational companies in Ireland, however, as study co-author Dr Jonathan Lavelle points out: “The true figure is actually much higher since IDA figures exclude certain categories of MNCs such retailers LIDL and ALDI. While just over 40% of MNCs in Ireland are of US origin almost one in six are Irish, examples of which include CRH, Kerry Group, Paddy Power and Ryanair.”

Attracting Multinational investment has been a central plank of Irish industrial policy for over five decades, and traditionally Ireland would have been remarkably successful in attracting US FDI. In 2006 the gross stock of American FDI in Ireland, was greater than the gross stock of American FDI in Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. Indeed US MNCs represent a distinct group in many respects. Manifestations of such distinctiveness include more centralised and standardised approaches to subsidiary management, frequent deployment of shared service centres, utilisation of performance-related pay systems and a strong preference for trade union avoidance. In contrast to our success in attracting US MNCs, Ireland has failed to attract significant levels of inward investment from emerging economies in Asia, South America and Africa.

As Gunnigle and Lavelle point-out, the sector is ever-changing and has a wide impact on Irish society from labour and management practices to influencing future entrepreneurship, skills and technology transfer and FDI investment. Prof Gunnigle added; “Expansion of the indigenous MNC sector in Ireland has been a relatively recent phenomenon and its make-up is not widely understood. Indeed there  is something of an untold story in discourse on  multinationals in Ireland.”

Professor Patrick Gunnigle and Dr Jonathan Lavelle are Lecturers at the Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick.