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2020 Ireland Salary Guide

The Morgan McKinley 2020 Salary Guide outlines permanent salaries and contract rates for professional roles in Ireland, as well as the most in demand skills and prominent market trends.

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COO Overview

Welcome to Morgan McKinley Groups 10th Annual Salary Guide. This guide has been compiled with the support of data gathered by our Foreign Direct Investment team and our team of 200 experienced consultants from a sample of over 40,000 placements in Ireland in 2019. This has been our most comprehensive guide to date including an additional 4,000 positions across five locations in Ireland.

Established in 1988, Morgan McKinley Group is a privately owned Irish Headquartered Global Talent Solutions Group with operations in Ireland, The UK, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Australia and India.

Morgan McKinley Group operates in Ireland through its five trading brands of Morgan McKinley, La Crème, Accreate, MMK Executive and M3S with offices in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. All business areas offer solutions for permanent, temporary and daily rate contracting staff.

Impact of COVID19 and Delayed Launch of this year’s Salary Guide

This guide was due for release in early March but due to the onset of the COVID19 pandemic we chose to postpone it’s release to allow time to assess the initial impact this crisis was likely to have on salaries for the remainder of 2020.

The European Commission revised their initial forecast from February that Ireland’s economy would grow by 3.6%, to a projected 8% contraction in 2020 as the impact of the coronavirus began to take hold. This was on the back of 2019 when the real GDP growth was forecast to be 5.9% in 2019, the fastest rate in the EU. As at the end of May 2020 there were a total of 579,400 persons availing from the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, with a total of 1.1 million people receiving some form of state support - the largest monthly increase in unemployment in the history of the state. Ireland’s unemployment rate had risen to 5.6% from a 13 year low of 4.8% at the beginning of the year. While this crisis has undoubtedly caused a sudden and sharp shock to the employment market causing widespread pay adjustments, our understanding at this time is these are temporary adjustments.

Certain sectors have been more adversely affected than others, most notably, travel, tourism, childcare, retail and construction. As we launch this survey, the construction sector has been one of the first to re-emerge in May following a gradual easing of the lockdown restrictions in place in Ireland with sites staging a partial return to work. The retail sector has followed with a re-opening that is restricted to a lower capacity due to the social distancing requirements.

Considerations to impacts on Salaries

Recent data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that going into the pandemic wages were rising strongly and were up 4pc in the first quarter of 2020 from a year ago. This was consistent with our projections for the year ahead. There are a number of factors which would lead us to believe that the ranges provided for a number of positions will still hold in line with last year’s salary trajectory. 

Firstly there have been business sectors that have been performing positively throughout including Pharma, MedTech, Healthcare, Payments, E-Learning, Gaming, Public Sector and Home Entertainment etc. Disciplines such as supply chain, technology and engineering have been largely bullet-proof. There have been instances where talent was displaced because the sector in which they were working was adversely affected, but they have been quickly reabsorbed where their skills were required by employers in other less affected sectors. The current market uncertainty has also driven a growth in demand for contracting services. In addition, the swift response from government in the form of economic and policy support to businesses has been important in supporting the efforts of business to recover and succeed in the ‘new normal.

Salaries and employment in the areas of Office Support have been largely impacted, not least because of the immediate move to remote working of most workforces, the halting of any international travel and requirements to schedule same and the slow and phased return to the office environment. We anticipate a 5-15% drop off in salaries across this discipline over the coming months. 

Conversely we have seen some early indicators of salary appreciation in pockets of the pharma manufacturing sector where operatives have been financially incentivised because of the risks of COVID19 to go on site to ensure no disruption to manufacturing timelines. This has varied from a 10 to 50% uplift in hourly pay and as a minimum, pay has remained stable for this cohort of talent. The same sector has had continuous onsite employee presence throughout the crisis and therefore considered to have best-in-class practices in place around a compliant health and safety workplace. 

We expect the Financial Services sector to indicate differing dynamics. On the one hand demand for fund accountants, compliance, asset management and insolvency professionals is strong, the salary levels may grow marginally in these positions (less than 10%) to entice and reflect the risk a professional is taking to leave their current position to join another employer in the current environment.  On the contrary the drop in demand for retail banking professionals and contraction of hiring is expected to see a drop in salaries in the region of 15%. 

Furthermore, positions that were in strong demand prior to COVID-19 such as software engineers, IT auditors, cyber security experts and data and analytics professionals will continue to be in demand and we expect these to still command the upper end of the salary ranges provided for in this guide.

As a direct impact of COVID19 and Brexit before that, demand for all levels of supply chain and procurement professionals show no signs of abating. Rather, there has been sustained growth in demand month on month for supply chain specialists, buyers, planners, analysts and procurement specialists. Morgan McKinley conducted recent research with leading procurement professionals which revealed that addressing risks posed to their supply chain during COVID19 was priority number one and this largely centered around addressing an over reliance on a small number of global suppliers and the need to develop clusters while maintaining the global supply chain route. 

Strong talent is never more in demand than in a crisis and for this reason we expect the salaries for in demand skills to hold. Talent that was in strong demand prior to COVID-19 such as software engineers, IT auditors, cyber security experts and data and analytics professionals will continue to be sought after and we expect these to still command the upper end of the salary ranges provided for in this guide.

Future Talent Challenges

Perhaps the most adversely affected talent pool have been graduates and emerging talent. This crisis has seen employers call time or a reduction in numbers in the immediate term on their internship programmes and a reluctance to commit to hiring graduates with no experience. This has been reflected in a growing youth unemployment rate of 11% towards the end of 2019 to 13.5% as at the end of May 2020. For this reason we expect entry level salaries to drop or stabilise in the immediate term. Economists have reported on the harmful effect on the careers of people who enter the labour market during a crisis, with salaries likely to be still lower on average as long as five years after starting employment.

There will be immediate short-term challenges to our supply chain of talent from outside of Ireland due to travel restrictions which will hamper global talent migration into Ireland in the near term, forcing employers to consider locally based talent until such constraints are lifted. Ireland has to date relied on importing some key skills in the areas of IT, Technology and Engineering to meet the demand from the growing ecosystem of multinationals expanding and setting up operations here. Pressure within the rental sector is expected to improve and with house prices predicted to drop, this is a welcome sign as the cost of housing has been linked to wage pressure and inflation.

Early Signs of Recovery and Hope for the Future

It is too early however to predict whether the economy will bounce back sharply from the recession. Ireland experienced one of the toughest lockdowns in Europe and has been slower to emerge from it. Despite the threat of the UK crashing out of the EU and a Hard Brexit coming back into focus, the Brexit preparation that Irish businesses have been putting in place, particularly around supply chain management and identifying new market and revenue streams is being activated now with COVID-19 providing the best possible test of their robustness.

The Central Bank of Ireland's monthly Business Cycle Indicator (BCI) for April showed that the fall in economic activity was about twice as deep as the financial crisis of more than a decade earlier. But economists globally have been consistent in their forecasts that the recovery from this crisis is expected to be more rapid than the previous one. There have even been small early indicators of this in the employment market where at the end of May, the number of people unemployed fell by approximately 50,000 signalling a reduction in the COVID-adjusted unemployment rate down from 28.2% to 26.1% as the restrictions have been eased. There have been positive indicators from other countries with Australia and Germany showing rapid rebounds in their restaurant sectors, arguably one of the worst affected business areas in the initial instance and a good indicator of positive signs for those sectors hit hard by social distancing.

Regardless of when this happens, there is little doubt that the method of how work happens is going to change as a result of this pandemic. Once employers have navigated the safe return to work protocols for their employees and we have adapted to the new normal, we expect the current remote working revolution to have wide reaching implications. Many experts are predicting a blended approach from employers to remote and office based working in the future, offsetting the convenience, reduced overheads and social connectivity benefits which both clearly offer. It is not clear at this point if this is likely to have any impact on the remuneration offered by employers but in the advent of our National Broadband roll-out, it is expected that there will be a greater disbursement of talent outside of the capital cities which should result in a reduction in growing cost pressures that we have become accustomed to over the past number of years. This will also benefit our ability to attract overseas talent who will have the flexibility to relocate here and consider a range of career opportunities across the country that will afford them return to the quality of life we had long been associated with.

To all our clients and candidates, thank you for your support throughout 2019 and we look forward to working with you through this current challenging landscape in the year ahead. We hope that the salary and market insights provided in our expanded Salary Guide for 2020 will be of value and assistance to you and your organisation.

Wishing you all a safe and successful 2020

Ger FitzGerald
COO Morgan McKinley Group, Ireland


Overview of Foreign Direct Investment in 2020
Solid Foundations

At the outset of 2020, Ireland has 466,991 professionals directly employed in multinational and indigenous headquartered businesses across the country, as an output of the combined efforts of our two government bodies IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, breaking all prior employment records. Against this backdrop, the disbursement of this employment has meant the regions, outside of Dublin, have experienced up to 40% uplift in employment which has been the most striking transformation of our professional labour force over the last five years. This has not happened by chance, it has been as a result of a concentrated and cohesive government strategy with collaboration and co-operation across the industry, service providers and educational institutions to ensure its successful execution.

Importance of our Talent Pool

Access to Talent has underpinned the very success Ireland’s FDI strategy has yielded. Ireland has benefitted from a diverse and globalised workforce. The free movement of people across 30 EEA member countries has meant our ability to attract highly qualified European talent with a right to live and work here without requirement for visas or employment permits has resulted in Ireland, as a small but growing nation, being able to punch above our weight in supplying quality talent to the many multinationals and indigenous companies that set up and expand operations here.

Changing Times

As we go forth into a new decade, we are at the beginning of defining a new IDA Ireland 5 year strategy, facing into a general election that is likely to yield a new government and Brexit becomes a reality when the UK, Ireland’s biggest trading partner leave the EU on 31st January 2020. It is a year that will require inspired leadership from government, industry leaders and policymakers alike to ensure we successfully retain and grow the hard-won investments Ireland has achieved over the last decade. This should enable Ireland to be a place where we can continue to attract and retain the talent and skills that we need to remain a leading location for Foreign Direct Investment.

Challenges for FDI
  1. Quality infrastructure and world class public services
  2. Tax policy to nurture indigenous business and our affinity with international investment
  3. Tackle climate change and lead on creating a sustainable nation
  4. Law making that creates the conditions for business success and a competitive labour market

Trayc Keevans
Director - Foreign Direct Investment | Global

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