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Ireland

Basic Information

Area: 70,273 km²

Calling code: +353

Population: 4,422,100

Official Language: Irish, English

Time zone: WET (UTC+0), Local time: 12:01

Overview

The country of Ireland is divided into two separate areas: The Republic of Ireland, which covers 70,273km2, and Northern Ireland. It is Europe's third largest Island, after Great Britain and Iceland, covering a total of 81.638km2. An estimated 6.1 million people inhabit the country, 4.3 million of which live in the Republic of Ireland, and 61% of the total population live in urbanized areas. The countries largest city and economic hub, is the capital city of the Republic of Ireland - Dublin, which is located on the eastern coast, and has a metropolitan population of 1.6 million. Other large cities include Cork, Limerick, and Dún Laoghaire.
Ireland became a member of the European Union (EU) in 1973, and in 2002 the Republic of Ireland joined the eurozone which saw the old Irish punt being replaced with the new euro currency. Northern Ireland chose not to join the euro system, and uses the Pound sterling.

Economy

Since joining the euro, Ireland has experienced rapid growth up until 2008/2009, when growth slowed due to the economy being affected by the global financial crises. In terms of each sectors contribution to the countries GDP of $229 billion, industry and the service sector are both of equal importance, while agriculture only accounts for 5% of the total GDP.
The largest employers in Ireland are CRH Plc (construction), Smurfit Kappa (wood and paper), the Bank of Ireland (finance), Kerry Group (food) and Ryan Air (transport). The low corporate tax rates have attracted a wealth of high profile multi-national companies to the country, most of which choose to run their regional headquarters from the city of Dublin.

Ireland has a large natural store of base minerals, and it is one of the leading zinc exporters in Europe with several large mines in the country such as the Tara, Lisheen and Galmoy mines. Goods are exported via one of the countries numerous seaports, or from the Dublin Airport cargo terminal, which has 9 cargo airlines transporting goods to international destinations.

Infrastructure

Ireland has a total of 39 airports, the largest being Dublin Airport (DUB), which is located 10km north of the city centre. It is a hub for Europe's largest low-cost airline Ryan air, and it handles over 20 million passengers annually. There are four other large international airports in the country: Belfast Airport (BFS), Cork Airport (ORK), Shannon Airport (SNN) and Ireland West Airport (NOC).

There are a number of public transportation options, including high-speed passenger trains, light rail, buses, and an underground metro system which operates in Dublin city centre. An extensive road network spans the entire country, and the Irish government have invested EUR 34 billion into updating and developing the current roadways.

Most cargo transportation is done via one of Ireland's many shipping ports, with ports in Northern Ireland shipping more tonnage a year than those in the Republic of Ireland. Major ports are located in Cork, Dublin, Shannon, Derry and Waterford. The Republic of Ireland handles a large percentage of all ferry crossings which connect Ireland to England, transporting over 3.6 million passengers annually.

Ireland has limited natural energy resources and relies on importing products from other countries. Most of its oil and gas needs are imported from the United Kingdom, and the increasing consumption of energy in the country have pushed electricity prices up. Ireland is trying to switch to more renewable energy sources, with the Sustainable Energy Authority (SEAI) signing a five year agreement to improve and transform the current energy infrastructure into one that is more environmentally friendly.

Workforce

Roughly 67% of Ireland's total labourforce of 2.2 million work in the service sector, while 27% are employed in industry and just 5% in agricultural sectors. There are two official languages in Ireland: English and Irish Gaelic, with most educational institutes teaching in the English language.
The education system is strong, with primary and secondary education being funded by the state, and provided to citizens free of charge up until the age of 15. After completing secondary school 50% of pupils continue onto further education, in one of the countries 38 higher education institutes. The prestigious University of Dublin (Trinity College), is one of the leading universities in Europe and offers bachelor and master degree programmes. Ireland has a high literacy rate of 99%, but the unemployment figure has increased rapidly over the past few years, and now stands at 12%.

Business Costs

Corporate tax rates are extremely favourable for the business owner, at just 12.5% of gross annual profits, which is one one the lowest rates in Europe. There is a higher 25% tax bracket which is applicable to petroleum companies, mineral products and land-dealing. Personal taxes work on a tiered system, ranging from 20% - 41% depending on the total amount earned by the individual. Like England, Ireland's taxes work on a Pay As You Go system (PAYE), where they are deducted from each monthly wage by the employer - unless the individual is self-employed when the total amount is paid in a lump sum at the end of the tax year. VAT rates are reasonable, with many items such as books, newspapers, children's clothing and educational items being exempt from VAT; a discounted rate of 13.5% is added onto restaurant services, while the standard rate sits at 21%.

Rental costs are highest in Dublin's CBD, costing an average of $50.16 per square foot per month (Cushman & Wakefield 2010). Costs are lower in the Dublin International Service Centre at $40.05 per square foot per annum, while rental costs in Cork are extremely favourable at just $20.16 per square foot per annum.

The National Minimum Wage Act ensures that all legal workers are paid at least €8.65 an hour, which is higher than England's minimum wage of £5.52 per hour which converts to €6.38 per hour.
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