Papermakers in Ireland employ some 30,000 people, employing more than 10,000 of them in Cork and Limerick.
The country is among the top producers of papermaking in Europe, having been a staple in the Irish economy for almost two centuries.
With a population of some 11 million, there are around 30,500 papermakers in Cork alone, according to a 2014 survey.
In Limerick, papermakers employ more than 20,000 and employ more in Cork, the most, with a population between 6.7 million and 8.5 million.
They employ the majority of papermakers from Dublin, which has more than 5,500 people working in the papermaking sector.
In Dublin, more than 30,400 papermakers, representing the largest group of papermaker in the city, are employed in Cork.
The papermaking industries have struggled over the years, with the Cork papermakers’ union blaming the decline of the industry on competition from other forms of manufacturing, such as steel and glass, and a general decline in quality.
While there has been an increase in papermaking jobs in the past few years, the figures for Cork and Dublin do not reflect this trend.
According to a 2015 survey, only 4% of Cork papermaker jobs are currently filled by papermakers and they represent less than 1% of all papermakers.
The Cork papermaking union said this was down to the lack of investment in its papermaking plants, which are not linked to any of the major unions in the country.
The union also pointed out that the government has not invested in the industry in the same way it has in other sectors.
“The industry has suffered in the recent years because of this and we are in the process of trying to reverse this trend,” the union said.
The number of Cork and other papermakers employed by Cork-based companies in Cork increased by 20% in the year to March 2017, from 8,500 to 10,200.
The figures also show the number of paperworkers employed by Limerick-based papermakers dropped by 9% to 2,300 from 4,600.
There are some 30 papermakers across the two cities, with Cork being the largest employer in Limerick at 7,600 and Limington the second largest at 6,500.
The unions are seeking to improve the quality of the paper industry and make it more competitive, but said the government should also invest in paper production in the wider economy.
They also highlighted the need for the government to fund the growth of the sector in the medium to long term.
The report from the Cork and Irish Papermakers’ Union said that over the next five years, there was a need for investment in paper manufacturing and that a focus on a new national strategy was necessary.
The survey also highlighted how the Cork-Limerick papermaking area had become one of the largest papermaking areas in Europe and that the papermakers were struggling with the effects of climate change and rising electricity prices.
“These problems can only be solved through the government’s involvement in the growth and diversification of paper making in the Cork area,” the report said.