Ireland’s push to increase the proportion of ECB staff is leading to calls for nationality quotas

The European Central Bank is facing calls from trade unions to introduce nationality quotas for recruitment after an Irish member of the bank’s board urged Dublin to maintain his country’s outsized presence among the bank’s staff.

Union representatives wrote to the ECB board to express their concerns after chief economist Philip Lane warned a minister in the Irish government that the country risked dilution of its share of bank staff.

He said few of his compatriots had applied to join the ECB and that many – including Lane himself – would retire over the next decade.

The letter from the Staff Committee, seen by the Financial Times, said: “It is deeply disturbing to see that a member of the Governing Council does not aim for an overall balanced representation of nationalities within the ECB, but only for the representativeness of tackled his own country/government.”

ECB employees are expected to put their national interests aside when joining the Frankfurt-based central bank, but the question of whether some countries are over-represented still raises political issues.

The Personnel Committee said: “The role played by nationality in recruitment and promotion must be monitored and made transparent through adequate statistics.”

It called for a “system that identifies a threshold below which specific efforts should be made to adopt and promote certain nationalities.” This would “ensure an appropriate balance between nationalities,” the report said. A similar system already existed at the European Commission, it added.

However, the ECB is expected to reject the commission’s request. “We do not have nationality quotas,” the bank said. “We hire colleagues based on their capabilities and merits.”

The ECB’s recruitment plans are attracting attention because around 500 of its roughly 5,100 employees will retire over the next decade, opening up an opportunity to rebalance nationalities.

Germans make up the largest share of ECB staff, accounting for almost a quarter of the total and almost a third of the managers. This share is larger than Germany’s 21 percent share of the ECB’s capital, which is based on the size of a country’s economy and population.

The figures, which sometimes raise suspicions that Germany has more influence over the ECB, partly reflect greater local recruitment by the Frankfurt-based bank, officials said.

Irish staff make up 3.3 percent of the total and 3.7 percent of managers – well above Ireland’s 1.8 percent share of the ECB’s capital.

Neale Richmond, the Irish minister responsible for financial services, said after a meeting with Lane in Frankfurt earlier this month that the ECB’s chief economist had highlighted the importance of encouraging more Irish people to apply for jobs at the bank to increase their numbers. while others retired.

“Philip made the point very clear: it is important for Irish ministers and officials to have colleagues at the ECB to answer the phone,” Richmond told the Business Post. “He wasn’t concerned per se, but he did want to make sure we work together to encourage people to work there.”

Richmond said he would try to ensure more Irish people applied for ECB posts. He said Ireland has a “unique position”, with its citizens holding several senior positions in European institutions, including Lane at the ECB, Paschal Donohoe as president of the Eurogroup and Mairead McGuinness as EU commissioner for financial services.

Several countries bailed out during the eurozone debt crisis a decade ago have disproportionate staff presence at the ECB relative to their share of capital, including Greece and Portugal, but also Ireland.

The ECB said Lane regularly encouraged people of all nationalities to apply for jobs at the bank, as he did when he gave a lecture at the Aix-Marseille School of Economics in France in March.

The central bank has a number of diversity and inclusion policies in place and takes gender and nationality diversity into account when deciding between people with equivalent qualifications for a job. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024

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