You are currently viewing Haves and have-nots: How the boom in tech jobs is gradually transforming Dublin into a two-tier city

Haves and have-nots: How the boom in tech jobs is gradually transforming Dublin into a two-tier city

A single friend of mine is looking to buy a house in Dublin. He wants a small, central place because he doesn’t drive.

Not working in tech, his budget is less than €350,000.

Last week he showed me his options. Unless he is willing to buy a “refurbishment opportunity” (a wreck), or somewhere several miles out of town, there is very little physically available to him.

What is available is bought up within days for €50,000 above the asking price.

My friend does not growl. But he thinks he’s fighting against a tech-fueled inflationary clock.

Judging by recent job advertisements, he’s right – and it’s going to get a whole lot harder for him.

This month alone, more than 1,500 new jobs – most of them well-paid – have been advertised by tech companies expanding their operations in Dublin.

Next week, Google will start requiring its 4,000 employees to return to the Dublin office several days a week, marking the beginning of the end of telecommuting.

Both of these measures will put even more pressure on house prices in or around Dublin City.

It started a few years ago, but the Irish capital is moving closer and closer to a San Francisco-style setup, where only high earners can really afford to buy something in the canals.

And just like San Francisco, those who can afford to buy don’t consider themselves wealthy. We now live in a double reality: tech and non-tech. Tech means earning a minimum of $60,000 or $70,000, with many comfortably earning over $100,000.

When I was just starting out in the working world, a six-figure salary was something that only a tiny percentage of top performers would believe was possible in their careers. In Dublin today, that’s not unusual in the twenties.

“A starting salary in some software engineering jobs is over $100,000,” Stripe co-founder John Collison told me earlier this year at an event to promote the software engineering course. immersive he helped design at the University of Limerick.

“I don’t think it has seeped into popular consciousness here.”

Collison is right: the disparity in wages and wealth between the tech and non-tech communities hasn’t really been fully integrated into Irish society.

Your niece, who works at Google, almost certainly earns more than you’ve ever earned. For her, a monthly rent of €2,850 is irritating, but quite affordable. At 28, she’s looking to buy a flat for €500,000 – or, if she’s part of a couple with someone in her field, they could buy a house for €850,000.

There are now two Dublins: one for people who see themselves as part of the mainstream economy and one for workers in the booming tech (and adjacent service) industry.

I have seen this happen in recent years and have often wondered when it will become a political issue.

In a way, it’s a credit to our sense of Irish community that we haven’t made it divisive yet. After all, it’s not tech workers’ fault that their industry pays so much more than others. And there’s one more point to make that it’s a sign of Ireland’s long-term success, however lopsided.


Aneel Bhusri, CEO of Workday. The tech company recently announced 1,000 new jobs, based in the traditionally working-class neighborhood of Grangegorman

But can this serenity last? In the run-up to an election that is now largely about housing and the cost of living, is it possible that the exclusion of the city center for all but one or two occupational sectors will not transform from somehow into something pejorative?

Take Workday’s recent announcement of 1,000 new jobs in the traditionally working-class northern neighborhood of Grangegorman.

Aren’t there mixed feelings from local residents, whose adult children have been gradually driven out of the neighborhood due to the extra €70,000-100,000 charged for modestly sized two-bedroom terraced houses ?

If another handful of big job ads were to be made in the same area, would there be a single Stoneybatter house available for less than €400,000?

How many members of the traditional East Wall community see the next generation of their families settling in the same area, or anywhere nearby?

And what does all this say about the kind of city Dublin is becoming?

Are we taking stock of the fact that Ireland, through planning passivity, is allowing the area between the canals to become an area primarily for wealthy tech workers to buy and live in? Or from 2022, “less paid” between channels, does that mean €50,000?

During his own house hunting, my friend does not wait. Everywhere he looks he sees articles and comments that property prices will rise in double digits again within the next year or two, leaving him unable to buy anything in the city. He feels he has to buy urgently.

Normally the role of a friend is to say soothing things, that everything will soon be fine and a normal level of affordability will return to the Dublin property market.

But I can not. What I see, covering several different angles of tech life and the tech industry in Ireland, is that a chasm is growing in Dublin between wealthy tech workers and other regular earners.

If anything, it’s going to get a whole lot worse.

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