Sector Overviews

Pharma, Life Sciences & Medical Device

“Contract workers are an integral part of the landscape in Pharma and are necessary to bring in the required expertise for specific aspects of the business, e.g. batch release, and other specific projects.”
Quote from Respondent

Ireland remains a global leader in pharma, life sciences, and medical devices. Six of the top seven global diagnostics companies and nine of the world's ten largest medical device companies call Ireland home.

There are more than ninety pharmaceutical companies operating here. The pharma and medical device sector directly employ over 41,000 people and more than 80,000 people are employed indirectly. This highlights the sectors’ value in terms of employment opportunities. Ireland’s strong foundation and expertise in the pharma and medical devices sectors put us in a strong position to capitalise on expected growth.

In 2023 Ireland’s overall goods exports reached €197 billion (source: CSO). This shows a decrease from record highs in 2022 and reflects a decline in COVID-19 vaccine exports. While demand for the vaccine has reduced, employment levels in pharmaceuticals have been maintained and employment opportunities are expected to increase. Leading companies, a skilled workforce, and a supportive government ensure the sector remains a vital part of the Irish economy. 

Pharma, Life Sciences & Med Device

34% of respondents work in the Pharma, Life Science and Med Device industries, which is reflective of the size of the sector and the work practices of the industry. 91% of the work is carried out in the private sector. The percentage of male contractors in the pharma sector has dropped by 9% in 2024 when compared to the 2023 report, from 80% in 2023 to 71% in 2024.

In the Life Science sector 73% of the contractors are male, this figure is unchanged since 2023. The Med Device sector has seen an increase of 5% in the percentage of men working in the sector from 81% in 2023 to 86% in 2024, and an increase of 9% since the research began in 2021.

The distribution of female contractors across the sector has also seen some changes, the percentage of females in the pharma sector is up 9% from 20% in 2023 to 29% in 2024. Female representation in life sciences is 25% in 2024. 2% of contractors in the Life Sciences sector identify as non-binary. Med device has 14% female contractors operating in the sector. The Med Device sector has seen the biggest move in gender representation since this research started in 2021. In 2021, 23% of contractors in the sector were female. The figure is now 14% showing a drop of 9% in female contractors over the last 4 years.

Pharma, Life Sciences & Med Device Daily Rates

The average daily rates in the total Pharma sector have dropped in 2024. The daily rate for men has dropped by 3% since 2023, from €536 in 2023 to €519 in 2024, and is now below the average daily rate earned in 2022. The average daily rate for women has increased by 2% since 2023, from €489 in 2023 to €499 in 2024.

The increase in daily rates for male contractors over the past 4 years was 11%, while the increase for female contractors for the same time period was 24%. The gender pay gap still exists in the pharma sector however the gap is narrowing. In 2021 the gap was 15%, in 2024 the gap has been reduced to 5%.

48% of all contractors in the Pharma, life Sciences and Medical Device sectors have an average daily rate of €500 or more.


99% of those contracting in the pharma sector have achieved level 6 or higher on the National Framework of Qualifications. 85% have Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

Average Contract Lengths


The average contract length across the three disciplines is 14 months


Pharma contractors have the longest average contract length at 17 months


Med Device has the shortest average contract length at 12 months


Life Sciences

Medical Device

How Pharma, Life Science & Med Device Contractors Feel About Their Work

Contractors were asked about their level of satisfaction with seven key elements of their working lives. Contractors are most satisfied with the work itself, with 87% of respondents reporting satisfaction with their work. Contractors’ satisfaction rating for their current life in general scored 80%.

They report high satisfaction levels across all 7 factors: flexibility of the hours (79%), location of job (76%), remote working options (73%), Rate of pay (71%), the work itself (87%), work-life balance (69%) and with my current life in general (80%). While there has been a slight drop in all satisfaction scores since 2023, they remain highly satisfied.

The Future and Finding Work

Unsurprisingly 89% of pharma contractors believe their skills are both useful and transferable. 60% agree that they are hired primarily for having different expertise. The majority agree that they have enough autonomy to do their work their way, and two thirds report learning a lot working on their latest project.

They feel optimistic about the availability of contract roles in the future with 89% expecting the availability of contract roles to remain the same or to increase over the coming 12 months. This indicates a high level of confidence in the belief of the stability of the pharma sector by those involved in it. While 71% expressed satisfaction with their current rate of pay, 52% of pharma contractors expect their rate of pay to increase in the next 12 months.

Confidence Index

Confidence index score in relation to the contracting sector in the next 3 to 5 years differs depending on the which discipline the contractor is involved in. Overall, the confidence scores are fairly aligned and very positive. Pharma contractors have a confidence index score of +28.

Medical Device sector has a confidence index score of +31. Life Science has the highest confidence index score of +32. It’s fair to say that contractors are confident that the contracting sector in the next 3-5 years will be in a strong position. All contractors regardless of discipline are expressing less confidence in their outlook on the performance of the Irish economy in 2024.

The outlook of Pharma and Life Science contractors is more positive with scores of +28 and +32, respectively while those engaged in the Medical Device sector have the lowest confidence in the performance of the Irish economy, with a confidence index score of +9. However there has been a big shift in their outlook as to the performance of the economy since 2023 when the Medical Device contractors recorded a negative confidence index score of -5.

The Irish Economy

Confidence Index

2024 +17 +9 +24
2023 +21 -5 +13
2022 +36 +28 +41
2021 +7 +11 +8

The Contracting Sector

Confidence Index

2024 +28 +31 +32
2023 +30 +27 +40
2022 +34 +34 +38
2021 +28 +43 +21
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