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Ireland’s first ever research report on the country’s ‘project economy’ and the high-skilled independent professional contractor has indicated that the medical locum sector is the only sector where contractors are not overly optimistic about the future. Locums of all levels work in the medical sector, but in terms of the ‘professional’ element of the Trinity Business School survey, responses were mostly from pharmacists, doctors, psychiatrists and counsellors.

Trinity Business School and Contracting PLUS collaborated on the work, which examines the extent and nature of professional contracting, and recognises the impact this key cohort has on employment and on the economy in Ireland. Variously known as professional contractors, freelancers, and solo self-employed workers, these workers earn more than one-and-a-half times the earnings of equivalent employees.

Professional contractors charge an average rate of €501.00 per day and, in 2020, earned an average income of €109,066. Compared to equivalent employees in the same occupational codes, contractors earn roughly 58 per cent more, the researchers said. Three-quarters of professional contractors do project-based work and earn even more, charging €535 per day and earning €116,802 per annum, or 70 per cent more than equivalent employees.
Independent professionals typically take less days off than their permanent counterparts.

Average holidays were reported as 17 days per annum, with 80 per cent of respondents taking less than 22 holiday days in a year. The research is based on a sample of 1,458 valid responses and was carried out by researchers at Trinity Business School and was led by Prof Andrew Burke, Dean and Chair of Business Studies.
Ninety-five per cent of the sample had a third-level education, and some also had professional qualifications. Seventy-three per cent work in knowledge-based sectors such as pharmaceuticals, finance, ICT, engineering and technical activities, medical devices, life sciences and as medical locums.

Contractors are distributed throughout the economy, but are over-represented in pharma, finance and ICT. 
With the medical sector in Ireland still currently under immense pressure with Covid-19, the IMO in October 2020 reported a deficit of approximately 2,000 consultants in the HSE. When there is a shortage in the skills market, the number of available contract roles typically increases.

Just 24 per cent of medical locum respondents in the survey were female and the average age of contractors in the sector was 41. The average daily rate is €475 with median earnings, 33 per cent, in the €300-€399 bracket. Eight per cent of those surveyed earn over €800 per day. The 2021 study was carried out in February 2021, using an anonymous online survey.