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Business in Ireland

The percentage turnover accounted for by the Top 50 enterprises by GVA

This chapter outlines key statistics for the Irish business economy. Business Demography data was used to analyse the number of enterprises and employment across five sectors: Industry, Construction, Distribution, Services and Financial & Insurance. This data was combined with the Structural Business surveys, which are run annually by CSO.

Table 16.1 Overview of the Business Economy, 2017
 EnterprisesTurnoverPersons engaged
Financial & Insurance8,121€61,801bn102,725
Total Business Economy291,365€729,500bn1,624,907
Source: CSO

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In 2017, the business economy in Ireland was worth €729.5 billion, employed 1,624,907 persons and had 291,365 enterprises.

The Services sector, which includes communications companies and accommodation, had the largest number of enterprises 158,574.

The Construction and Distribution sectors reported 57,255  and 48,598 enterprises respectively. Industry had 18,817 enterprises while the smallest number of enterprises 8,121 was in the Financial & Insurance field.

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Number of enterprises
Financial and
IndustryConstructionDistributionServicesFinancial and Insurance
Turnover by sector- 2017238.624.9186.7217.661.8

The Industrial sector generated the most turnover and contributed €238.6 billion to the economy.

The Services sector had a turnover of €217.6 billion; this was followed by the Distribution sector, which includes wholesale and retail businesses, with turnover of €186.7 billion.

The Financial & Insurance sector generated €61.8 billion turnover and the smallest sector in the business economy in Ireland in 2017 was Construction with turnover of €24.9 billion.

IndustryConstructionDistributionServicesFinancial and Insurance
Persons engaged242966137239367405774572102725

The Services sector dominated employment figures with 774,572 persons employed.

Distribution enterprises provided employment for 367,405 persons.

The Industrial sector which includes manufacturing had 242,966 persons engaged.

The business sectors with the lowest number of persons employed in 2017 were Construction with 137,239 and the Financial & Insurance sector, which includes banking, with 102,725 persons employed.

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SMEs (<250)Large (250+)
All Sectors74164295665

Gross Value Added (GVA) per person engaged across all sectors averaged €295,665 for Large enterprises and €74,164 for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Large Industrial enterprises reported the highest GVA per person engaged at €746,411 for 2017.

The lowest GVA per person engaged was in Distribution enterprises with 250 or more employees, at €50,979.

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Large enterprises which employ 250 or more persons generated just over 61% of all GVA. 

Small and Medium enterprises combined accounted for a further 20.7% of GVA, while the remaining 18.0% was generated by Micro enterprises that employ less than 10 persons. 

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Table 16.2 Contribution of 50 largest enterprises by GVA and employment within sector, 2017
  IndustryConstructionDistributionServices1 Total Business Economy 1
Business Economy
Turnover €m238,60124,869186,677217,552 667,699
Gross value added€m101,8929,22722,39475,607 209,120
Gross operating surplus€m88,9633,24510,56248,833 151,603
Persons engagedNo.242,966137,239367,405774,572 1,522,182
Contribution of Top 50 Enterprises by GVA
Turnover%73.020.729.747.7 38.6
Gross value added%85.619.035.944.8 54.1
Gross operating surplus%93.834.852.659.7 70.5
Persons engaged%20.27.817.79.6 6.3
Contribution of Top 50 Enterprises by employment
Turnover %59.814.311.528.3 23.6
Gross value added%69.612.719.416.8 33.0
Gross operating surplus%74.912.914.914.9 40.3
Persons engaged%27.310.323.313.8 10.7
1 Excludes Financial & Insurance activities (NACE Rev.2 Section K) and includes Services NACE divisions R92, R93, S95, S96.
Source: CSO
Top 50 by employmentTop 50 by GVA
Gross Operating Surplus40.370.5

The Top 50 enterprises by GVA in Ireland accounted for 38.6% of all turnover with 6.3% of persons engaged. The Top 50 enterprises by employment accounted for 23.6% of total turnover and 10.7% of persons engaged.

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Table 16.3 Breakdown of personnel costs in the total business economy1 by size class, 2017
  SMEs(<250)Large (250+)Total
Personnel costs€m36,52220,99557,517
Wages & salaries€m33,18818,41751,607
Social security costs€m3,3332,5795,910
Social security costs as a % of personnel costs%9.112.310.3
Wages and salaries per employee€uro30,51242,39233,903
1The total business economy includes NACE Rev.2 Sections B to N (excluding K) and R92, R93, S95 and S96.
Source: CSO

The business economy in Ireland generated €51.6 billion in wages and salaries and a further €5.9 billion in social security contributions.

The average spend on wages & salaries per employee was €30,512 in Small & Medium enterprises.

In Large enterprises, which employ 250 or more persons, the average spend on wages & salaries per employee was €42,392.

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Table 16.4 Number of persons engaged in SMEs by sector, 2011 to 2017
YearConstructionServicesDistributionIndustry FinancialTotal
Source: CSO
SMEs (<250)Large (250+)
Active enterprises99.80.2
Persons engaged68.431.6

SMEs accounted for 99.8% of all enterprises and 68.4% of persons engaged.

They also generated over 50.2% of all turnover and 38.6% of GVA.

The number of persons engaged by SMEs increased by 21.4% between 2011 and 2017. All sectors showed increases between 2011 and 2017, with the Construction sector at 41.3% and the Services sector at 27.5% showing the largest increases.

The Distribution sector recorded the lowest increase of 9.7% for the same period.

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Persons EngagedActive Enterprises
Mining & quarrying4155451
Electricity, gas etc9588637
Water supply etc94611028
Motor trade372899390
Wholesale trade10482314348
Retail trade22529324860
Transportation and storage10062925736
Accommodation and food18918619205
Information and communication10202715953
Financial and insurance1027258121
Real estate2808815178
Profession, scientific etc14535343587
Administrative and support14018118716

Retail trade accounted for the largest number of persons engaged at 225,293.

Mining and quarrying accounted for the least amount of persons engaged at 4,155.

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Table 16.5 Structural business statistics by sector and nationality of ownership, 2017
 Irish-ownedForeign-owned affiliatesAll enterprises
  Owned by EU multinationalsOwned by non-EU multinationalsTotal 
Number of enterprises
Services (excl. Financials)156,8229088441,752158,574
All sectors279,8921,8771,4753,352283,244
Number of persons engaged
Services (excl. Financials)640,23859,44874,886134,334774,572
All sectors1,196,559151,593174,030325,6231,522,182
Turnover (€millions)
Services (excl. Financials)100,06216,129101,361117,490217,552
All sectors281,43363,224323,041386,265667,699
GVA (€millions)
Services (excl. Financials)43,6005,86526,14132,00675,607
All sectors79,03816,059114,023130,082209,120
1 Industry covers NACE Rev.2 (05-39) of which Manufacturing (10-33), Construction (41-43), Distribution (45-47) and Services covers NACE Rev. 2 H to N (excluding K) and includes NACE divisions R92, R93, S95, S96.
Source: CSO


Figure 16.9 Irish MNEs abroad and foreign MNEs in Ireland, 2017

Figure 16.9 Irish MNEs abroad and foreign MNEs in Ireland, 2017

Foreign multinationals in Ireland employed 325,623  persons and generated €386.3 billion in turnover.

Foreign-owned enterprises accounted for 57.9% of total turnover and 62.2% of total GVA in the Irish business economy

Services which includes Distribution accounted for 79.7% of employment in Irish-owned affiliates abroad.

The average turnover per person engaged in Irish-owned foreign affiliates was €234.6k.

Turnover per person engaged in Irish-owned foreign affiliates was lowest in Services.

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Figure 16.10 Employment in Irish affilates abroad 2017

Fig. 16.10 Employment in Irish affiliates abroad, 2017

In 2017, Irish multinationals abroad had turnover in excess of €228.4 billion, with US and UK affiliates accounting for 57.1% of this. There were nearly 974,000 persons employed in Irish multinationals abroad, 34.6% of whom were in the US and the UK.

In terms of employment by continent, Europe, Asia and the Americas each accounted for approximately a third of the total, with employment in the remaining regions amounting to 2.5%. 

Interactive tables: Statbank

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Services (ex. Finance)DistributionConstructionManufacturing
Ireland 36.512.23.847.5
United Kingdom56.

The Manufacturing sector accounted for 47.5% of total GVA in Ireland in 2016.

The United Kingdom recorded the lowest percentage of total GVA for the Manufacturing sector at 16.4%.

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