Hundreds of Irish business people will attend the third Arab-Irish Business Forum at the Mansion House in Dublin today. They will hear from speakers from the Middle East and Gulf, together with Irish CEOs already doing business there, about opportunities in the region. There are currently around 450 Irish companies that export regularly to the Middle East, and of those, around 150 have a permanent presence there.

Mike Hogan, Manager for the Middle East with Enterprise Ireland, said Irish firms are selling everything from IT solutions to agri-tech and food production solutions. "We are very strong on education, we have a lot of scholarship students from the region in Ireland as well, and we have a strong tradition of selling life sciences and health care solutions into the market as well."

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The Arabs like dealing with the Irish, according to Mr Hogan. "The Irish are seen to have a very flexible approach to business in terms of offering solutions, and in many cases, not imposing their own view on a client, so working with a client to come to an optimum solution. Many of the Arabs appreciate that level of flexibility."

Saudi Arabia does not have a good human rights record, which is a concern for Irish business. Mr Hogan said that people rightly have concerns about the internal workings of many of the countries that Ireland trades with. He said Enterprise Ireland is a government agency and it is guided by government policy. "Saudi Arabia, for example, is a country which has a lot of opportunities for Irish companies, but it is wider than that, it is a wider Gulf region, and also emerging markets like Egypt are attracting attention as well."

Mr Hogan said Irish business women will be attending the Arab-Irish Business Forum. "We are also trying to sell some new narratives about the region, and not just the typical images of mega projects. We're talking about the experiences of Arab entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurship in the region, and also the changing dynamic of the market."

Saudi Arabia is a very youth oriented culture, with over 50% of the population under 25. "They are heavy users of social media, e-commerce etc, and some of the female entrepreneurs we have today will represent the start-up regime there," Mr Hogan said.


Minimum wage can be low wage trap for some workers 

A minimum wage job can be a stepping stone to higher paid work, but such work can represent a low wage trap for certain groups of workers, according to the latest research from the Economic and Social Research Institute. The research found that there is a far lower chance of progressing out of minimum wage work for non-Irish citizens, younger workers, those working part time or on temporary contracts and for those with lower educational attainment.  

Dr Paul Redmond, Research Officer at the ESRI, said that while minimum wage employment acts as a stepping stone to higher pay for many employees, it is important to note that it can also represent a low wage trap for certain types of workers and is also associated with a greater likelihood of becoming unemployed.

Morning briefs

*** Yesterday's Exchequer Returns do little to change the sums ahead of next week's Budget. Tax revenue for the first nine months of the year - at €37.5 billion - was marginally behind expectations. It was just over 5% ahead of the figure at the same time last year. The Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will reveal Budget 2019 next Tuesday.

*** The Irish Times has reported that Minister Donohoe is poised to give Korn Ferry, one of the world's largest headhunting firms, the job of assessing pay at bailed out banks. Salaries for top executives at AIB and Permanent TSB remain capped at €500,000.

*** Growth in the country's services sector improved to a three-month high in September, prompting firms to tap an increasingly tight labour market and hire staff at the fastest pace this year.  The services sector covers areas as diverse as communication, financial, IT and the tourism trade.

*** Supermarket chain Tesco has reported rising sales for an 11th consecutive quarter, driven by growth in Ireland and the UK. It reported a weaker than expected 24% rise in first-half profit. Tesco shares dropped more than 5.5% in early trading this morning.

*** Shares in luxury carmaker Aston Martin have been priced at £19 pounds a share, valuing the firm at £4.3 billion pounds. The listing on London's stock exchange is the first by a UK carmaker for many years.

*** Australia will remove a controversial tax on female sanitary products following years of campaigning by women's groups there. Tampons are sold with a 10% goods and services tax because they are categorised as non-essential items. Women have argued it is an unfair classification, noting items such as condoms and sunscreen are exempt.