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Architectural firms have shed an average of 60% of employees in two years

Three in five employees (60%) in architectural companies have lost their jobs since 2007, according to a comprehensive survey of the profession by the leading recruiting expert Hays.

In Dublin, the figure is slightly higher, with 61% of employees being made redundant. Almost one third of architectural firms nationwide (32%) have laid off between 61% and 100% of their staff during this two-year period. These job cuts have affected every level of the business, from receptionists to partners.

“The Architecture In Ireland Employment Report by Hays clearly demonstrates that architecture has felt more than its fair share of pain during this recession,” says Paul O’Donnell, Manager of Hays Architecture.

“The sheer scale of job losses within the architectural profession is simply staggering. One practice we spoke to had shed 168 out of 180 jobs,” he continued.

178 architectural firms responded to the survey which was carried out at the end of last year. The 178 firms employed a total of 2,306 people in 2007, but that number had fallen dramatically to 945 by the end of 2009. Only 16% of the firms who responded to the survey (28 in total) have not shed any jobs in this two year period, however, twelve of the practices were sole traders before the recession.

The Dublin based firms in the large category (50 plus employees) shed an average of 78% of their workforce, or almost 70 people each, while the large firms outside Dublin shed 67% or 47 of their employees. Overall, 29 large or medium sized companies (15 plus employees) surveyed by Hays are now categorised as “small”, with less than 15 employees. Only 20% of companies questioned say they have made less than 20% of their staff redundant.

“The devastation of the architectural industry over the past two years is even showing at college level, where applications to level 8 architectural college courses has seen a drop of 27%, from 3,952 to 2,787,” says Paul O’Donnell. “This shows that even school leavers are losing faith in the industry.”

It’s not all bad news though, 43% of firms surveyed say, despite the massive lay-offs, they expect to recruit again within the next 18 months. Of these, many report that they will rehire staff that they have made redundant. However, 46% of firms said they don’t know or can’t see any growth in staff numbers in the foreseeable future.

For example, one respondent in Dublin said “I’ve no idea when we’ll recruit again, we’re all just trying to hold on to our own jobs.” While another director in a formerly large firm said “I have a huge reservation to hire permanent staff again and will most likely outsource instead, as I do not want to have to let people go again.”

According to the survey, banks also posed a problem for the architects. 70% of firms indicated that they had projects in the pipeline being held up due to lack of finance.

The firms that are proving to be the most resilient in the face of the recession are those which are proactively seeking a speciality area that is commercially viable. Niche areas, such as sustainable design, fire consultancy or archaeology, have all proved more ‘recession proof’. However, these specialist areas clearly do not need the same resources that were required to serve the once-buoyant residential and commercial sectors, that have now collapsed.

“Firms that diversified and sought a strategy to develop a broader range of services and expertise in these more resilient areas have fared better in the recession,” says Paul O’Donnell. “These businesses have on average, retained staff at twice the rate of the national average.”

“However, the industry is still crying out for stimulus. Some well thought out investment in genuine public interest projects would create momentum and help the recovery of the profession through 2010 and beyond”.

A number of recommendations come out of the report aimed at assisting the architecture industry to weather the recession:

  • IInvestment: A National Program of Public Works, spearheaded by leading Irish Architects and focusing on projects that are investments in the national interest

  • Training: A review of architectural training and continuous professional development to ensure a broader business acumen is part of the Architect’s learned skill-set in the future”

  • Establish a National Architecture Think Tank to stimulate the industry
  • Avoid a skills gap through a program to promote the role and profession of the Architect

    - ENDS -

For more information, to receive a full copy of the “Hays Architecture Ireland Employment Report” or to set up an interview please contact Stephen Flanagan on 01 661 2772. Please find below a list of press releases published in relating our report's findings:

The Irish Examiner - January 22, 2010

Study shows huge architecture job losses

The Irish Times - January 22, 2010

60% have lost jobs in architectural firms

Businessworld - January 22, 2010

60pc of architects have lost their jobs

Metro Herald - January 22, 2010

Business bites

Business and Leadership - January 23, 2010

60pc of architects have lost their jobs

Construction & Property News - February 2010

Survey highlights massive job losses

About Hays:

Hays Ireland is part of Hays plc (the "Group") the leading global specialist recruiting group. It is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Australia and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe. It operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments.

The Group employs 6,933 staff operating from 345 offices in 28 countries across 17 specialisms.

For the year ended 30 June 2009:

· The Group had revenues of £2.4 billion, net fees of £670.8 million and operating profit of £158 million.

· The Group placed around 50,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 270,000 people into temporary assignments.

· The temporary placement business represented 56% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 44% of net fees.