The changing face of export sector jobs

The nature of Ireland’s exporting sector – and jobs in that sector – has been changing over the past decade (or more), with an ever expanding role for international services. The shift towards a greater share of service jobs is of course evident across the entire economy, but is particularly noticeable in the exporting sector as an increasing number of new job announcements are service-based. The so-called Silicon Docks area of Dublin is where this pattern can be most clearly seen.

Is this change in the nature of export sector jobs occurring to the same extent in the Western Region? To analyse what’s happening at a regional and county level, we’ll use the Annual Employment Survey 2014 conducted by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation (special run of county data). This counts all jobs in companies which have received any assistance from Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland or Udarás na Gaeltachta (which are primarily exporting companies).

Assisted jobs – Manufacturing v Services

Comparing the broad sectoral structure of agency assisted jobs in 2005 (Fig. 1) shows how the pattern differed between the Western Region and the rest of the state. In 2005, 77.4% of assisted jobs in the Western Region were in manufacturing, with Traditional and Modern Manufacturing both having a similar share of around 30%. In the rest of the state, a lower share (66.7%) was in manufacturing. The pattern of a greater role for manufacturing in the Western Region’s export sector was firmly in place at that time.

Fig. 1: Total agency assisted jobs in each broad sector in the Western Region and Rest of the State, 2005 (DJEI, 2015, Annual Employment Survey 2014, special run)

Fig. 1: Total agency assisted jobs in each broad sector in the Western Region and Rest of the State, 2005 (DJEI, 2015, Annual Employment Survey 2014, special run)

By 2014 (Fig. 2) the pattern in the rest of the state had changed substantially with manufacturing’s share declining to 54.4% of jobs. Whereas the balance between manufacturing and services changed very little in the Western Region with manufacturing still accounting for 74.7% of export employment. The share of export service jobs only rose slightly from 22.6% to 25.3%.

Fig. 2: Total agency assisted jobs in each broad sector in the Western Region and Rest of the State, 2014 (DJEI, 2015, Annual Employment Survey 2014, special run)

Fig. 2: Total agency assisted jobs in each broad sector in the Western Region and Rest of the State, 2014 (DJEI, 2015, Annual Employment Survey 2014, special run)

In the rest of the state, in 2005 the ratio of manufacturing to international services jobs was exactly 2:1 but by 2014 it had shifted far closer to 1:1. For the Western Region however manufacturing continues to dominate export sector jobs at a rate of 3:1.

While the total share of export jobs in manufacturing in the Western Region changed little between 2005 and 2014, the composition of those jobs has changed. Modern Manufacturing has greatly increased its share of assisted jobs to 35%, while the shares of both Traditional and Primary/Agri-food manufacturing declined. The decline in Traditional Manufacturing in particular was closely tied to declining demand from construction, although more recent figures show some recovery in elements of this sector such as precision engineering.

The growing role for Modern Manufacturing indicates an improving level of technology and value in the region’s manufacturing sector which can be seen by the role of manufacturing in the region’s GVA.   In the latest GVA figures for the West region, 40.2% of its GVA came from Manufacturing – the second highest share nationally with only the South West having a higher share. In the Border it was 28.4%. See the WDC’s recent report on regional income and output.

Dominance of manufacturing in export businesses in western counties

This pattern of greater dominance of manufacturing in the export sector jobs profile is even stronger in some individual western counties (Fig. 3). In Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo over 85% of assisted jobs are in manufacturing. While its share declined slightly between 2005 and 2014 in these counties, overall there was little sign of growth in international services employment in these areas.

Donegal and Leitrim are the western counties with the lowest shares of their export sector jobs in manufacturing, but both are still above the rest of state average. The strong increase in the share of assisted jobs in manufacturing in Leitrim between 2005 and 2014 mainly resulted from a decline in international services jobs, a pattern which can also be seen to a lesser extent in Clare.

Among the western counties, Donegal and Galway showed the most significant declines in the share of jobs in manufacturing and consequent rise in the share of international services jobs between 2005 and 2014. These two counties appear to be the ones most closely following the national trend towards a greater role for international services.

Fig 3 Agency assisted jobs in manufacturing 2005-2014

Fig. 3: Total agency assisted jobs in manufacturing in western counties, 2005 and 2014 (DJEI, 2015, Annual Employment Survey 2014, special run)

Manufacturing activity remains the dominant driver of export sector jobs in the Western Region, at a rate of 3:1, with over 90% working in the sector in some counties. While the role of international services is growing, this is occurring to a far lesser extent in the Western Region.

Addressing issues of significance to the manufacturing sector, such as transport infrastructure, freight, engineering skills, energy, heat etc, must remain central to efforts to sustain and grow the region’s export base, both foreign and indigenous, within the national context of a growing focus on service sector jobs. At the same time, any barriers to the growth of the international services sector, such as high speed broadband, need to be investigated and addressed.

Pauline White