In 2001, the workforce was estimated at 11.8 million. Of those employed in 2000, 8% were in agriculture, 28% in industry, and 64% in services. The estimated unemployment rate in 2002 was4.7%.
The right to join a union is protected by law, and as of 2002, about 31% of the labor force were union members. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) represents 64 unions and is independent of political parties and the government. The right to strike, except for police and military personnel, is exercised in both the public and private sectors. Employers are legally prohibited from discriminating against those who participate in union activity. Collective bargaining is used to determine wages and other conditions of employment.
Children under age 16 are legally prohibited from engaging in regular, full-time work. Under certain restrictions, some part-time or educational work may be given to 14 and 15 year olds. Violations of child labor laws are not common. The standard workweek is 39 hours, and the legal limit on industrial work is nine hours per day and 48 hours per week. A national minimum wage of $5.45 went into effect in 2001.