Ireland’s economy is largely focused on exports of goods and services, as the domestic market is relatively small. Gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017 was USD 353.3 billion. GDP per capita was $ 73,200 that year, which is among the highest in the world.
Ireland has traditionally been an agricultural country with little industry. In 1949, almost half of the country’s jobs were related to agriculture. In 2015, only five per cent of the working population was employed in the agricultural industry, while industry and especially service industries had grown correspondingly.
From the mid-1990s, the Irish authorities have introduced a series of economic reforms to reduce inflation and promote foreign investment. The result is that there are a number of foreign companies in the country. This has contributed to a sharp increase in the number of jobs and a reduction in unemployment.
Ireland introduced the euro as currency in 2002, along with eleven other EU countries.
Agriculture is of great importance, but still plays less role today than before. In 2004, agriculture (including forestry and fishing) accounted for 6.4 percent of employment and 3.2 percent of GDP. In 2017, the figures had dropped to 5 and 1.2 percent respectively. Membership of the EC in 1973 gave Irish farmers access to larger markets, and agricultural income increased significantly during the first five-year period. Initially, Ireland received significant funding from the regional aid schemes, but during the 1980s much of it was redirected to the member states of southern Europe. Together with the general agricultural crisis within the Union, including large surplus stocks, this has created difficulties for the agricultural industry in Ireland.
Irish agriculture is mainly a mixed field of agricultural and livestock farming, where most of the income comes from livestock farming. The farms are small, and many are run as family farms or in combination with other industries. Grain cultivation (barley, wheat, oats) is particularly important in the east and southeast. Potatoes, turnips and sugar beets are also grown. Dairy farming dominates in the south and sheep in the higher parts of the country, especially in the west.
Despite the relatively rich coastal waters around Ireland, fisheries play a minor role in the country’s economy. Moreover, domestic fish consumption is very low by Western European scale. The most important fish species are mackerel and herring. In the estuaries and in the rivers, commercial fishing is conducted for salmon and eel.
Mining and energy
Ireland has deposits of oil and natural gas, lead, zinc, silver and copper. Europe’s largest lead and zinc mine was opened in 1977 in Navan. Outside the south coast, valuable discoveries of both oil and natural gas have been made. Natural gas, which is extracted from the Kinsale field, is used both for power generation and in households.
The production of electric power comes from natural gas, oil, peat, coal and hydropower. To reduce the dependence on imported energy carriers, the production of peat and domestic coal has been increased.
Industry employs (together with mining, construction and civil engineering) 11 percent of the working population (2015) and contributes 38.6 percent (2017) of GDP. The rapid industrial growth Ireland underwent from the 1960s onwards resulted in a rough transition from a small industry aimed at the domestic market to a high-tech, capital-intensive and export-oriented industry. These companies are largely on foreign hands.
Main industries are electronic, pharmaceutical and chemical industries. In addition, the traditional food and beverage industry comes with slaughterhouses, breweries, distilleries, mills, sugar refineries and canning factories. Furthermore, machinery and transport equipment, textiles and clothing are manufactured. Most of the industry is located in and around the capital Dublin and adjacent to Shannon International Airport.
According to Countryaah, main export goods are machinery and equipment, computers, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pharmaceuticals, meat and dairy products. The main import goods are computer equipment, machinery, chemicals, petroleum products and textiles.
Throughout history, Ireland has been financially dependent on the United Kingdom. However, when the Irish joined the EC in 1973, one of the goals was to reduce dependence on neighboring countries. Trade with the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland has declined sharply in recent years. Other important trading partners are the United States, Germany, France and Belgium.
Foreign trade as a percentage by country (2017)
Transport and Communications
Ireland has a well-developed road network with consistently good standards. The 4301 kilometer (2018) railway network is of secondary importance. Air traffic is provided by the state-owned company Aer Lingus. International airports can be found at Dublin, Cork, Knock and Shannon; the latter two are also used on transatlantic flights. Ferry connections with the UK are of great importance, while the commercial use of the country’s channels has ceased. The main port cities are Dublin, Cork, Dún Laoghaire, Waterford, Rosslare, Limerick and Galway.