Manufacturing accounts for over 12% of total employment in Ireland with 260,000 people working in the sector which is responsible for €12.5 billion in wages and employment taxes annually.

Ibec is calling for a national action plan to address competitiveness in manufacturing, and consolidate and grow upon its success on the world stage.

To coincide with its report entitled 'Manufacturing in Ireland Today, Tomorrow and Beyond', Ibec published the results of a survey which shows increased business confidence for the next six months, as well as many challenges.

The top five major challenges for manufacturing in the next six months were identified as cost of energy (70%); transport and logistics costs (64%); attracting and retaining a quality workforce (63%); and availability (62%) and cost (57%) of raw materials.

"No major surprises there," said Sharon Higgins, Director of Membership and Sectors, Ibec. "We are seeing these issues across many sectors but they are significant across the manufacturing sector."

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Interestingly, challenges such as managing Covid related issues (12%), hybrid working (7%), and managing carbon emissions (20%) did not score highly, while taxation was cited as a major challenge over the next six months by only 4% of respondents.

Does the fact that managing carbon emissions did not score highly, suggest that it is not a priority for the sector? Ms Higgins said no, it is very much a priority but other challenges are more pressing in the short term.

"We asked our companies to tell us what they would see as the top challenges and priorities for the next six months, and I guess it's all relative. It's important to say that 80% of companies say sustainability will be a minor or a major challenge for them, and 60% are intending to increase investment," she said.

"When we are looking at the top challenges and priorities, it is very much there. It's just in the next six months, there are others that are more demanding on people's time.

Ibec said now is the time to put a spotlight on the sector, which when every other country saw manufacturing exports fall during the pandemic, Ireland's grew.

"We feel that given the fact that there is such optimism out there and nonetheless many challenges, it is important that we look at the whole sector together and identify what is required from taxation to digital supports and innovation, the sustainability agenda, and look at the supply chain and regulation. We want to look at all of those and we've identified the key recommendations within our report."