The stone cutting industry in Ireland is estimated to be worth €9.8bn, according to the latest annual figures.
This is up from €7.6bn in the previous financial year.
Source: RTE News channel article Ireland has the second largest stone cutting market in the world, according a new report by the StoneCutting.ie website.
According to the report, Ireland’s stone cutting production rose by 4.4 per cent last year, driven by demand for cutting for stone.
The UK followed closely with a 7.4pc rise.
Ireland also has the highest percentage of stone cutters in Europe.
However, according the Stonecutter’s Association, the industry is also heavily reliant on foreign labour, with the UK alone employing more than 4,500 people in Ireland.
The report estimates that Ireland has over 3,300 stone cutlers, who have a turnover of €1.2bn.
The report found that, on average, Irish employers spend €30 per stone cutter, but the average Irish worker makes €70 per year.
The number of stonecutters has doubled since 2011, but in some industries they are increasingly becoming the majority of workers.
The association says there is still room for improvement and that there is a need for changes in the way workers are paid for the work they do.
In the future, it is hoped that a comprehensive national wage-and-hour law will help bring stone cutting into line with other forms of work, it said.
“The current situation is unsustainable, with many workers earning significantly less than they are paid, and the situation in some other industries that rely on migrant labour,” said John McNamara, the StoneCuts’ head of policy.
“We also need to ensure that we have the best possible wage scales, which is where we should focus.”
Stonecutting is a highly skilled industry and needs to be supported by the state, the private sector and the private industry.
“This includes a national minimum wage, with a progressive national wage floor, the establishment of a national labour market for stonecutlers, and an increase in the minimum wage to at least €20 per hour by 2020.”
The Irish Government has pledged to create a national wage system to help workers earn a living.
It said it will create a “living wage” for stone cuters to ensure they are not overpaid.
“Our goal is to provide a living wage for all workers, regardless of their level of experience or skills, to ensure the livelihoods of all,” said Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Dara Murphy.
“A living wage is a basic standard to ensure all workers are supported.”