What’s stopping Canadian Multinationals from expanding further in Ireland?

  • Ahead of Canada Day on Friday July 1st 2022, The Ireland Canada Business Association has released the results of its annual ICBA Member Sentiment Survey. Respondents to the 2022 survey employ over 60,000 people across Ireland and Canada.
  • Members are embracing ‘new ways of working’ – no return to the 5-day in-office week.
  • 75% plan to expand operations and hire more people, 90% have resumed business travel post-Covid, majority are increasing investment in ESG and digitisation initiatives.
  • Supply of talent, increasing labour costs and designing the appropriate post-Covid work week are top challenges for business leaders.

The ICBA, who counts among its membership Air Canada, Shopify, PressReader, Irish Life, TD Bank, Bank of Montreal, Greenfield Global, Soti, and Optel Group, released the results of its membership survey to coincide with Canada Day, the country’s globally-celebrated national Birthday (Friday July 1st).

This year’s survey reveals a significant post-Covid-19 return to positive sentiment, with respondents planning new investment, expansion, and new ways of working. However, many of the same key obstacles to growth identified in previous surveys are still present, along with some new, pandemic-related challenges.

75% of respondents plan to expand their operations in Ireland and hire more people. However, when asked about obstacles to further investment and key business challenges faced, they identified competition for talent (89%), rising cost of living (62%), and insufficient housing (46%). 40% also point to challenges around designing the most appropriate post-Covid working arrangements for their staff, 31% are concerned about cybercrime threats, and 30% about increasing salary costs.

For over 90% of ICBA member companies, business travel has now resumed, albeit on a much-reduced level to pre-pandemic levels. ICBA Members have also embraced the ‘new ways of working’ – none of our respondents have returned to a full 5-day working week in the workplace, and most popular working arrangements are now:

  • 3 days remote, 2 in office (35%)
  • Fully remote (27%)
  • 2 days remote, 3 in office (19%)
  • 4 days remote, 1 in office (11%)
  • 1 day remote, 4 in office (8%)

Reflecting these significant changes to the working week, just over half of companies plan to retain their existing office space in 2022, with 26% planning to reduce their current footprint. 22% plan to lease/buy more space, reflecting plans by some to significantly increase their workforce this year.

In some good news for the Irish government, 85% of respondents praised its response to the Covid-19 pandemic and efforts to support the business community during that difficult time. However, significantly less than half of our survey respondents are satisfied with government supports around employee wellbeing and housing requirements, and assisting companies to become more environmentally sustainable.

Finally, over two-thirds of companies have increased investment in digitisation and in ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) initiatives this year, driven by new regulations, changing customer expectations, and a desire to achieve ‘carbon neutral’ status. When it comes to investing in the workforce in 2022, our members plan to prioritise:

  1. Increased pay and conditions
  2. Upskilling
  3. Wellbeing initiatives

Dr Deirdre Giblin, Co-Vice Chair of the Ireland Canada Business Association:

“This year’s survey is a fascinating and valuable snapshot of how the Irish-Canadian business community has rapidly adapted to the post-Covid business landscape after a very difficult two years. We are very encouraged by the fact that three-quarters of respondents now plan to significantly increase their investment in Ireland and hire more people – Ireland is increasingly seen as the natural gateway to Europe for Canadian multinationals for many reasons, including our similar legal systems, shared language, cultural similarities, and, of course, the impact of Brexit.   

However, it is very concerning to see that the obstacles these companies face when trying to grow in Ireland are the very same ones as they faced last year and the year before – namely competition for talent, cost of living, and shortage of housing. While some of the factors to blame lie outside of the government’s control, it is essential that multinationals in Ireland have confidence in our leaders’ ability to address these challenges and we must see a clear and comprehensive plan outlined in this years’ budget, if not before.

The Irish government has shown incredible leadership and initiative in its response to the Covid-19 crisis, and we are confident that it can apply the same qualities to optimising the country’s business environment. Right now, Ireland’s economic and diplomatic relationship with Canada is a highly valuable one, but is has so much more potential. At a time of inflationary pressures and recessionary fears, such relationships must be protected and nurtured, and so we urge government to address the issues clearly outlined in this survey as a priority.”