Ireland’s Project Economy 2023: at the forefront of economic growth

"The project economy has emerged as a significant driver of economic growth, with organisations leveraging a diverse workforce that includes both employees and independent contractors.

This blended approach allows organisations to become more agile, innovative, and adaptable to change, which in turn accelerates their growth beyond what would be possible with an employee-only model."

- Professor Andrew Burke, Dean & Chair of Business Studies, Trinity Business School

Ireland’s Project Economy 2023, the only independent longitudinal study into the work and lives of Ireland’s independent self-employed contractors and freelancers, unveils its latest findings.

Trinity Business School and Contracting PLUS collaborated on the research which examines the extent and nature of working as a self-employed professional and recognises the impact this key cohort has on employment and on the economy in Ireland.

The study reveals new talent strategies and critical trends impacting Ireland’s economy, workers and organisations across the country. Now in its third year, the research focus of Professor Andrew Burke and Professor Na Fu reveals that the project economy is coming of age with blended employee-freelance workforces being the norm rather than the exception. 

The contribution of the Project Economy has emerged as a significant influence on economic expansion, with organisations increasingly implementing a hybrid work-force model of both permanent employees and independent contractors. 72% of organisations have a minimum of 10% or more freelancers in their workforce, crucially allowing organisations progress projects quickly, acquire sought-after skills fast and become more innovative and responsive to change.

The research report illustrates the Project Economy to be a highly educated, highly paid workforce that is at the forefront of innovation and research in Ireland. Most high-skilled freelancers (78%) voluntarily choose to become independent contractors rather than become employees.  They earn an average salary of €123,572, which is 71% more than equivalent employees. 

Highlights from the research:

  • Average daily rate of all independent professionals: €568
  • Average daily rate of a project worker: €589
  • Average daily rate of a gig worker: €528
  • Average daily rate of over 60’s: €689
  • Gender pay gap: 10% (versus CSO 2022 data which calculated a national average of 22%)

Speaking at the launch of the report, Jimmy Sheehan, Managing Director of Contracting PLUS says "… the advantages that blended workforces offer, such as increased flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and access to specialised expertise, means the trend of using independent professionals will continue into the future.  A key ingredient to a successful blended work force is the supply of and access to a pool of high skilled contractors. To ensure the continued availability of contractors, policy makers need to better support this way of working and not be out to penalise companies and workers who engage in non-PAYE working relationships."

The increasing importance of contractors’ contributions drives business growth past what would be possible with an employee-only model. This cohort is working at the forefront of development and innovation and their increasing contributions inform the positioning of industry sectors and predict the state of the economy. The benefits these workers bring is felt in organisations of all sizes, both for-profit and not-for-profit.

Professor Na Fu (Human Resource Management) explains how independent workers experience considerably higher levels of job satisfaction and well-being and considerably less age and gender pay discrimination than their employed counterparts: "Age and experience are valued far more in the professional contracting sector than in traditional employment sectors. These findings are important because they highlight how independent contracting can be an extremely valuable career option for older high-skilled workers who may feel undervalued in traditional employment sectors. As we face a national pension crisis, the research indicates that creating a more conducive environment for older high-skilled independent contractors could potentially offer part of a solution. As with our earlier surveys we find that there is a lower gender pay gap amongst high-skilled freelancers than employees. We should embrace this workforce and recognise the immense value that experienced workers have to offer."

The study was carried out by Trinity Business School and the full report is available online and contains the input of over 1,000 self-employed professionals, recruiters and organisations engaging freelancers and contractors, using an anonymous online survey.

Read the full report here


Jimmy Sheehan

Managing Director, Contracting PLUS

Mobile: + 353 (0)86 949 1611