How many farmers are in the Western Region?

Agriculture has traditionally been a very important sector of Irish economy and this, along with the subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), has meant that it is also one of the most measured sectors in the economy.

We would therefore expect to have a very good idea how many farmers are in the Western Region and it can be argued that we do.  However, because there are a variety of ways in which a person farming or receiving income from farming may be defined, there is no single definitive answer.  Instead the numbers depend on what is being measured.

In this post I look at three different measures of ‘farmer’ in the Western Region (the seven counties under the WDC remit), and discuss why there is so much variation among them.  The Census of Population was held in 2016, and this provides one measures of those involved in farming, data on CAP beneficiaries for 2016 provides another measure and recently released Revenue data for 2016 provides the third statistic.

In 2016 in the Western Region there were 20,880 people whose occupation was ‘farmer’ according the Census of Population (see Fig. 1), while there were 40,709 Revenue ‘farmer’ cases (see discussion below) and 54,215 CAP Beneficiaries.

Figure 1: Three measures of ‘farmer’ numbers in the Western Region 

 

Source: CSO Census of Population, 2016, Profile 11  Employment Occupations and Industry, Table EB049; Revenue Statistics and Economic Research: The Farming Sector in Ireland: A Profile from Revenue Data Statistics Update2018, Table 5; DAFM CAP Beneficiaries 2016 database. Western Region totals are own calculations

 

There are clearly very significant differences among these three measures, so what do they mean in terms of numbers in farming?

 

The Census of Population 2016

The smallest measure of farmer numbers in the Western Region is from the Census of Population in 2016.  The number of famers in this Census is based on detailed occupational data for those who have described their main occupation as ‘farmer’.  This is one of 328 categories and nationally ‘farmer’ is the second largest occupation group accounting for 3.5% of the work force.  As noted the numbers here refer to farmers rather than those working in agriculture or in other areas who are part of the broader category of Farmers fisheries and forestry workers (22,733 people in the Western Region).

The most important thing to note for this measure of ‘farmer’ is that those categorised here are only those who consider their main occupation to be farmer.  Those with other work who farm on a part time basis or for other reasons do not consider farming to be their main occupation are not included here.  The decision as to what is their main occupation is made by the person filling in the census form.

Figure 2: Excerpt from 2016 Census of Population form

Source: CSO https://www.cso.ie/en/census/2016censusforms/

Revenue Cases: Farming

The data for Revenue cases from farming is from the Revenue Statistics and Economic Research Branch publication ‘The Farming Sector in Ireland: A Profile of Revenue Data’.  The first report was prepared in 2015 to add to the evidence available on the agricultural sector in Ireland from both an economic and taxation perspective.  Data tables in this report are updated annually with the most recent available for 2016 published in August 2018.  Both are available here.

The 2015 report provides the detailed explanation of the ‘farmer cases’ included.  There were three methods of identifying farmers on Revenue records:

  • Form 11 tax returns, filed annually by self-assessed Income Tax payers which include a check box for farmers.
  • Revenue codes its taxpayer register by NACE code and the agricultural related sectors (0-190) can be identified.
  • Through a data exchange with the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine (DAFM), Revenue receives information on the recipients of agricultural payments (such as the single farm payment). This information is linked to Revenue records.

Farmer cases are any of those which meet one of the three criteria noted above (a case may meet all three but is counted once).  The majority of farmers are self-assessed income tax payers and as such are required to file a Form 11 return of income for each tax year.  The file covers the vast majority of farmers in receipt of DAFM payments. Most are registered with Revenue as self-assessed individuals. Some cases hold PAYE registrations only, effectively employees within the farming sector. There are also a small number of incorporated farmers, registered for Corporation Tax.

In addition to information about numbers of farming cases, data is available from Revenue for both average Gross income and average Farming Income.  In 2016 nationally there were 137,109 ‘farmer’ cases with an average faming income of €21,952.  There were 40,709 ‘farmer’ cases in the Western Region with an average farming income of €13,338

 

CAP Beneficiaries

Data on CAP beneficiaries is drawn from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) database.  This provides information on all farmers or companies who received money under CAP in 2016.  This is a broad definition, including all kinds of CAP payments and the database provides the names and municipality of those who received more than €1,500 in that year.   This includes a number of companies but these must fall within the definition of active farmers (see here for a more detailed discussion of active farmer definitions).

Nationally, 133,182 received CAP payments in 2016, with a total of €1,614m received, an average payment of €12,121.  In the Western Region in the same year €525m was paid to 54,215 beneficiaries, an average payment of €9,689.

 

What do the categories tell us about farmers in the Western Region?

Clearly the three categories of ‘farmers’ discussed above are all defined differently.  The census definition is the strictest, these are people whose main occupation is farming and if they do have another occupation it is of lesser importance.  The second category includes all of those making Revenue returns in relation to farming income, but this may not be their main income source.  They may have other earnings but they are in some way involved in farming in the Region.  The final category of ‘farmer’ is the CAP beneficiaries.  In the Western Region this is the largest group, taking in all those who have received a CAP payment.  Some of these may not be making Revenue returns and may only be receiving very small payments (a significant number of CAP beneficiaries receive less than €1,500 annually).  This final, largest, group is likely to include all of those with some connection to farming and may be categorised as ‘active farmers’

In contrast, nationally there were more Revenue farming cases than there were CAP beneficiaries, in other words, more had farming income for the purposes of taxation than were in receipt of CAP payments.  The Revenue farming cases includes a variety of income sources associated with farming and so this may be part of the explanation for this.

Nationally, 52% of those claiming CAP payments declared their principal occupation as ‘farmer’ on the Census, compared to 39% in the Western Region indicating that, as we know, more farmers in the Western Region have main occupations other than farming and are farming part time.  Revenue farming cases are 103% of CAP beneficiaries nationally while they are 75% in the Western Region.  For both of these, it should be noted that Revenue cases may not be a complete subset of the CAP beneficiaries, in other words not all Revenue cases for farming will be CAP beneficiaries, and vice versa.  Both nationally and in the Western Region about the number of those who consider farming to be their main occupation is about half the number of Revenue cases (51%).

Farmers in Western Region Counties

The three measures of ‘farmer’ numbers discussed above are available at county level (Figure 2).  Again the highest measure in each county is CAP beneficiaries, followed by Revenue cases and as would be expected the lowest number is those who declared their principal occupation as farmers on the Census of Population in 2016.

Figure 3: Farmer numbers in Western Region counties

Source: CSO Census of Population, 2016, Profile 11  Employment Occupations and Industry, Table EB049; Revenue Statistics and Economic Research: The Farming Sector in Ireland: A Profile from Revenue Data Statistics Update2018, Table 5; DAFM CAP Beneficiaries 2016 database.

The disparity among these three measures varies among counties, as it did between figures for the State and the Western Region as discussed above.  In the Western Region those with a main occupation as ‘farmer’ (Census of Population)  as a proportion of CAP Beneficiaries was lowest in Leitrim (26%) and Mayo (35%) counties (in all Western Region counties the number of CAP beneficiaries was higher than the number of Revenue cases). Clare, has the highest number with the main occupation ‘farmer’ at half the number of CAP beneficiaries and Sligo (43%) was the next highest.

 

So, how many farmers?

So in measuring how many farmers there are in the Western Region, we need to decide what we mean by a farmer.  Is it someone who considers being a famer their main occupation? Or someone who has some farming income which is declared to the Revenue, or someone who receives a CAP payment?

In this post different farmer definitions and numbers have been discussed giving us insight into different measures and some of the sector characteristics.  In the next post on this topic different measures of income will be considered.

 

Helen McHenry

Is e-Working on the Increase?

There has been much talk recently of an increase in e-working but does the evidence support the idea that it is more prevalent?

Technology development and in particular high speed broadband enables much office based work to be conducted remotely or away from the office. This, coupled with increased journey times to work has led to a greater demand for the opportunity for staff to work remote from the office and closer to home on a one or 2 days a week basis. Companies are reportedly increasing the availability of e-working in part as a means to retain key personnel[1].

The growth in employment opportunities in the shared or gig economy is another factor driving broadband demand to support employment growth and there is evidence that work and income generation in this sector is an important feature in rural areas such as the Western Region, see here.

Regional employers also value the ability to provide remote working opportunities, for example, Shopify recently announced the addition of 100 remote working jobs in the west of Ireland due to the presence of high-speed broadband, while Pramerica, a US multinational in Letterkenny, employ at least 20 e-workers who work from a well-established hub in Gweedore, Co. Donegal. Wayfair has also recently announced their intention to add over 200 jobs to their “Virtual” workforce in the west of Ireland (https://www.idaireland.com/newsroom/wayfair).

Benefits from e-working

Analysis for the Department of Communications measured benefits arising from delivery of high speed broadband planned under the forthcoming National Broadband Plan[2];

  • found that each house could yield a benefit of €89.00 per household per annum resulting from journey time and fuel cost savings from increased e-Working as a consequence of the availability of high speed broadband. This does not include other benefits such as carbon emissions savings etc.
  • Increased productivity is also forecast, generated from improved productivity of white collar workers living in rural areas but commuting to work in urban areas. This shows the benefit to the enterprise expressed as an increase in GVA per employee of 1.53% (€1,342) per worker, working from home or remote working on a 1 day per week basis. This does not capture benefits such as increased staff retention and more satisfied employees[3].

Demand for e-working/co-working spaces/ Hubs

The success of initiatives variously called e-working spaces/ co-working spaces/ hubs also suggests e-working is on the increase. However the various terms are used to describe a variety of uses, only some of which may actually support the individual e-worker.

There are working spaces in the enterprise space some of which are funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Hubs variously classed as innovation, enterprise or community hubs, many are focussed on start ups and incubation spaces rather than providing e-working spaces for individual employees.

In the Western Region, the success of Digital hubs in County Clare, https://www.digiclare.ie/  where there are spaces in three sites across the county, Kilrush, Miltown Malbay and Feakle suggest an increased demand for e-working spaces.  Many of these types of hubs are providing high speed telecommunications access to communities that do not yet have access and are (still) awaiting the rollout of the National Broadband Plan. Initiatives such as Grow Remote suggest e-working  is an increasing phenomenon.

 The evidence on e-Working

However as the WDC pointed out in its e-working policy briefing, the evidence on e-Working in Ireland is limited and complicated by different definitions. The most comprehensive data is collected in the Census and the same question has been asked on previous Censuses. The question asked is ‘how you usually travel to work?’ with one of the answers being ‘work mainly at or from home’.

According to the Census, nationally, in 2011, 4.7% (83,326) of all those at work, stated they worked mainly at or from home. By 2016 there were 94,955 persons working ‘mainly at or from home’ in April 2016, an increase of 14%. There was a 11% increase in the numbers at work over the same period, indicating an increasing prevalence of working from home.

However, the Census definition is a very broad definition in that it includes all those that are self-employed and work from home (such as childminders, home-based GPs, farmers and sole traders across all sectors) and not just e-Workers. Moreover, the Census definition only captures those employees that work from home most of the working week and excludes those who e-Work even one or two days per week, which some studies suggest is the most common pattern of e-Working.

In 2016 an IBEC survey of their membership found that 30% (110) of companies had a practice of e-Working/ home-working, on one or two days per week. At a regional level, 21% of companies in the West/North-West report a practice of e-Working one or two days per week, lower than the national average. The likelihood of e-Working among companies increases with company size so that 40% of companies with 500+ employees cite a practice of e-Working nationally. The trend is for continued growth in the practice with 31% of companies’ surveyed planning to increase their use of e-Working, with a forecast that 60% of office based workers will work remotely regularly by 2020, see here.

Examining e-Working in rural Ireland, a report commissioned by Vodafone, found that nearly one in four broadband users in rural Ireland use the internet at home in relation to their work (about 430,000 people) and one third have remote access to their company network for work purposes. These e-Workers report that e-Working means they can avoid commuting to work, typically about two days a week. An estimated 150,000 workers avoid commuting some or all of the time because they can connect to work remotely.

However, the same report found that a quarter of those who work from home – or nearly 100,000 adults – say their current broadband service is not sufficient to meet their requirements for e-Working, and that it limits the work-related activities they can do from home. This share rises to nearly half of those living in detached houses in the countryside. 30% report that slow and unreliable speeds currently prevent them and/or family members from working from home.

Conclusions

It is clear therefore that the incidence of e-Working is greater than the measure of ‘those working mainly at or from home’, as captured by the Census. It is also likely that the trend is generally upward.

It is also clear that the rollout of the National Broadband Plan remains a vital infrastructure investment needed to support employment growth and retention, apart from the various and widespread social benefits it can yield.

Better data is needed to capture the actual extent of e-Working. The CSO should consider revising the Census question as it currently only captures those ‘who work mainly at or from home’. Data should measure the incidence of e-Working on a one day, two days and more frequent basis. This will also provide a useful baseline for measuring trends.

[1] https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC_Policy-Briefing-no-7.pdf, https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC-Insights-Home-Based-Working-July-2017.pdf  IBEC HR Update Survey 2016, Issue 2.

[2] Indecon International Economic Consultants, July 2012. Economic / Socio-Economic Analysis of Options for

Rollout of Next Generation Broadband. http://www.dccae.gov.ie/communications/SiteCollectionDocuments/Broadband/National%20Broadband%20Plan.pdf

[3] See footnote 3. There is also an increase in productivity at the enterprise level – measured at 0.67% increase in GVA per small non-farm enterprise in the Intervention Area. This is as a result of productivity gains through improved businesses processes, online sales and owner managers having the flexibility of ‘always-on’ connectivity.

Regional Agency-Assisted Jobs 2017

In August the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation published the Annual Employment Survey (AES) for 2017.  This provides an analysis of employment in Industrial and Services companies under the remit of IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta.  This type of employment is referred to as ‘agency-assisted’.

In 2017, total permanent, full-time employment (PFT) in agency-assisted companies in Ireland was 379,810.  This was an increase of 19,369 jobs (5.4%) on 2016, continuing the growth trend in evidence since 2011.  Part-time, temporary or contract employment in agency-assisted firms also increased by 1,796 jobs in 2017 and now stands at 48,221, the highest number recorded in the 10-year period.

Combining PFT and Temporary/Part-time jobs brings total agency-assisted employment in Ireland to 428,031 in 2017.  This was 19.5% of total employment in the country in that year (average employment of 2,194,150 across the year, based on CSO’s Labour Force Survey).

The AES data includes a detailed regional breakdown of agency-assisted employment by employment type and ownership in Appendix B.

Regional agency-assisted employment

We will begin by looking at the three larger regions of the Border, Midlands & West (BMW), South & East and Dublin.  All three initially experienced declines in assisted employment but have shown strong recovery since 2012 (Fig. 1). The South & East region has consistently been the largest, though in recent years as Dublin has grown more rapidly it has narrowed the gap somewhat.  Meanwhile the gap between the BMW region and the others has widened in recent years.

Fig. 1: Total agency-assisted employment in BMW, South & East and Dublin regions, 2008-2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

To consider this in more detail, we’ll look at the BMW’s share of total agency-assisted employment in the State.  The BMW region’s share has followed a downward trend across all types of ownership (Fig. 2). For Irish-owned employment, its share fell from 27.1% in 2008 to 25.6% in 2017.  While for foreign-owned agency supported jobs, its share fell from 19.2% to 18.9% over the 10-year period though it was higher during 2011-2014.  The region has consistently accounted for a higher share of all Irish-owned employment than of foreign-owned.

Fig. 2: BMW region’s share of total national agency-assisted employment, 2008-2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

At the more detailed regional level (Fig. 3) the share of total agency-assisted employment in each region changed between 2008 and 2017.  Dublin’s share of total assisted jobs grew steadily from 34.4% in 2008 up to 37.6% in 2017.  The second largest region is the South West and its share also grew from 14.8% to 16.3%.  While the South East was third largest in 2008, by 2017 the West had moved into third position, with the South East dropping to fifth.  Only three regions – Dublin, South West and West – had a higher share of total employment in 2017 than in 2008.

Fig. 3: Percentage of total national agency-assisted employment in each region, 2008, 2012 and 2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

 

While the share of total assisted employment located in several regions declined, all regions experienced growth in their actual number of agency-assisted jobs between 2008 and 2017 (Fig. 4). Clearly the South West (36.3%), Dublin (34.6%) and West (27%) (influenced by Cork, Dublin and Galway cities) had very strong growth over the 10-year period, with the South East (5.1%) and Mid-East (7%) performing least well.  This helps to explain their deteriorating relative positions.

Looking at the most recent performance (2016-2017), Dublin, the Mid-West and South East had the strongest growth, up 6.2% in the year. While most other regions had growth of around 5% the Mid-East actually saw a decline in agency-assisted employment in the year.

Fig. 4: Percentage change in total agency-assisted employment in each region, 2008-2017 and 2016-2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

Regional employment by type

Data is provided on two types of employment – Permanent, full-time and Temporary, part-time or contract employment (referred to as ‘Other’).  The percentage of total employment that is ‘Other’ has generally increased over the 10-year period, though with considerable volatility.  Nationally 11.3% of total employment in 2017 is ‘Other’ compared with 9.1% in 2008.

At 13.4% the West region has the highest share of Temporary/Part-time/Contract employment in 2017 and the share has been increasing since 2015.  In Dublin however, which has the next highest share (12% in 2017), it has been declining (Fig. 5). At 8.9% the Mid-East has the smallest share of ‘Other’ employment.

Fig. 5: Percentage of total agency-assisted employment that is temporary, part-time or contract employment in each region, 2008-2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

Regional employment by ownership  

The balance between foreign and Irish-owned agency assisted employment differs substantially at regional level (Fig. 6). The three regions with the largest number of agency-assisted jobs, and also the strongest growth during 2008-2017 (South West, West and Dublin) have the highest shares of foreign-owned employment at over 57% in 2017.  The Mid-West is the other region where the majority of assisted jobs are foreign-owned.

The Midlands and Border regions have the lowest shares of foreign-owned employment and therefore the largest shares of Irish-owned employment. Two-thirds of assisted jobs are in Irish companies.

Fig. 6: Percentage of total agency-assisted employment in foreign-owned and Irish-owned firms in each region, 2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

Fig. 7 shows that over the 10-year period, the South West, Dublin and West all had 40+% growth in agency-assisted foreign-owned jobs.  At 21.5% the Border also had strong growth in such jobs, though from a lower base.  In contrast, the Mid-East and Midlands both experienced a fall in foreign-owned assisted employment.

It should be noted that some of the changes in job numbers by ownership may be due to a transfer of ownership e.g. an Irish company bought by a foreign company or a foreign company becoming an Irish company through a management buy-out etc.  When a company changes ownership, jobs in that company are re-classified as Irish or foreign and the changes back-dated to previous years.

Irish-owned assisted jobs grew across all regions during 2008-2017, most strongly in the Mid-East somewhat compensating for declining foreign-owned employment.  The South West, Dublin and Midlands also had around 20% growth in Irish-owned assisted jobs with the South East and Border regions performing worst.

Irish-owned assisted employment out-performed foreign-owned in three regions (Mid-East, Midlands and Mid-West). In the case of the West, growth in foreign-owned assisted jobs was over three times greater than growth in Irish-owned assisted jobs, in Dublin and the South West it was about double.

Fig. 7: Percentage change in total agency-assisted employment in foreign-owned and Irish-owned firms in each region, 2008-2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

Over the past year (Fig. 8), all regions experienced growth in both foreign and Irish-owned assisted employment, except for foreign-owned jobs in the Mid-East. The South East (9.4%) and Dublin (7.2%) had strong growth in foreign-owned jobs with the Mid-East, Midlands and Border performing least well.  For Irish-owned jobs, the Mid-West, West and Midlands performed strongly.

In general there was less regional variation in the performance of Irish-owned assisted employment compared with foreign-owned.  Irish-owned firms out-performed foreign-owned in all regions except the South East, Dublin and South West.

Fig. 8: Percentage change in total agency-assisted employment in foreign-owned and Irish-owned firms in each region, 2016-2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

Conclusion

The strong growth trend evident in agency-assisted employment for the past number of years continued in 2017. All regions had a greater number of agency-assisted jobs in 2017 than they had in 2008.  There were considerable regional variations however, with the South West, Dublin and the West experiencing extremely strong jobs growth over the decade, substantially driven by foreign-owned companies, which led to their combined share of total assisted jobs increasing from 58.5% in 2008 to 63.5% in 2017. These three regions also have the highest shares of foreign-owned employment and two of them (West, Dublin) have the highest shares of Temporary/Part-time employment.

While all other regions have also seen growth in the numbers working in agency-assisted firms, this has been at a substantially lower level. The Mid-East and Midlands actually have fewer jobs in foreign-owned assisted firms in 2017 than they had in 2008, though growth in Irish-owned assisted jobs compensated for this, leading to overall growth.  The Border and Midlands show the highest shares of Irish-owned assisted employment and in the past year (2016-2017) Irish-owned firms out-performed foreign-owned in these two regions, as well as in the West, Mid-West and Mid-East.

While the foreign-owned sector has been a strong driver of assisted employment growth, especially in the Dublin, South West and West regions and in the initial stages of the recovery, the Irish-owned sector has responded strongly in more recent years and shows a more even geographical spread.

Pauline White

City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions- Conference Report

The Regional Studies Association Irish Branch Annual Conference was held in the Institute of Technology Sligo on Friday 7th September.  Appropriate for the location, it had the theme “City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions”.  The presentations are available here.

Figure 1: Dr Chris O’Malley from Sligo IT

The conference covered a range of themes relating to regional development and how urban areas interact with their rural regions.  It was opened by Dr Chris O’Malley from Sligo IT who discussed the role of Sligo IT in the development of industry and manufacturing in the region and the IT’s role as an integrator of national policy at regional level.  Dr Deirdre Garvey, chairperson of the Western Development Commission, welcomed delegates to the conference noting how pleased the WDC was to be sponsoring the Annual Conference.  She also welcomed the fact that the conference was taking place in the North West, given the recognition in the National Planning Framework of the specific challenges for the region and how the National Planning Framework (NPF) and Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) process highlight the distinct challenges and opportunities for our predominantly rural region.

These addresses were followed by a very interesting session on the history of Irish planning over the last 50 years.  Dr Proinnsias Breathnach (Maynooth University) presented on regional development policy following the 1968 Buchanan report and its impact on industry locations and spatial development.  Dr Breathnach also presented the paper by Prof. Jim Walsh (Maynooth University) who was unable to attend the conference.  He examined the influence of both the Buchanan report and the 2002 National Spatial Strategy, considered the learnings from these and the factors which will influence the success of the National Planning Framework process.  Finally in this session, Prof. Des McCafferty (University of Limerick) presented on the structural and spatial evolution of the Irish urban hierarchy since Buchanan, and examined urban population data over time and the distribution of population across the settlement hierarchy.  He noted that it was important to understand changes projected by the NPF in the context of historic trends

Figure 2: Dr Proinnsias Breathnach (Maynooth University), Prof. Des McCafferty (University of Limerick) and Deirdre Frost (WDC)

After coffee the session on Regional Strategy and Planning covered a broad range of topics.  Louis Nuachi (DIT) presented on the importance of social and cultural objectives in town planning using a case study of planning in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.  David Minton, the CEO of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) discussed issues for the development of the North and West in the RSES, some of the historic development of the region and a number of the challenges in developing a region wide approach.  Finally in that session, John Nugent (IDA) discussed the IDA role in attracting Foreign Direct Investment to the region and some of the important factors which influence the location of FDI, including the importance of having a strong indigenous sector already in place and the ways the indigenous and foreign sectors are mutually beneficial.

After lunch international perspectives were provided by Dr Andrew Copus from the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen and Professor Mark Partridge, the C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University.

Dr Copus paper  The Scottish City Region Deals – A rural development perspective noted that optimistic assumptions about how a wider functional region benefits from city investments, are commonplace and generally unquestioned, despite meagre evidence of such impacts.   He discussed the two strands of ideas on policy for urban rural development that of polycentricity and rural urban co-operation (theories which are stronger in EU countries and in OECD work), and City Regions (which have tended to have more focus in the UK).  He highlighted the importance of defining what is meant by rural when considering the impact of such regional policies and  he discussed the development and implementation of regional policy by the Scottish and UK governments in Scotland.

He noted that in general in these deals the dominant rationale relates more to “Smart Specialisation” than to any kind of urban rural cooperation, interaction or spread effect concept, but the way growth deals developing for rural areas of Scotland will fit into the Post Brexit rural development landscape remains to be seen.

Figure 3: Audience at the conference

Prof. Mark Partridge’s paper Is there a future for Rural in an Urbanizing World and Should We Care? noted how rural areas have received increased attention with the rise of right-wing populist parties in Western countries, in which a strong part of their support is rural based. Thus, bridging this rural-urban economic divide takes on added importance in not only improving the individual livelihoods of rural residents but in increasing social cohesion.

He discussed the background of rural and peripheral economic growth, noting the United States is a good place to examine these due its spatial heterogeneity.   He showed that, contrary to public perceptions, in the US urban areas do not entirely dominate rural areas in terms of growth.  Rural US counties with greater shares of knowledge workers grow faster than metro areas (even metros with knowledge workers).

He had some clear suggestions for regional policy, noting that governance should shift from separate farm/rural/urban policies to a regional policy though a key issue is to get all actors to participate and believe their input is valued. In rural development it is important to leverage local social capital and networks to promote good governance and to treat all businesses alike and avoid “picking winners.  Rural communities should be attractive to knowledge workers and commuters, while quality of life, pleasant environment, sustainable development; good public services such as schools are important to attract return migrants.  Building local entrepreneurship is key too and business retention and expansion is better than tax incentives for outside investment.

Figure 4: Dr Chris Van Egeraat (Maynooth University)

In the final session ‘Understanding Regional and Urban Dynamics’ I gave a presentation on what regional accounts can tell up about our regional economies and discussed some of the issues associated with the regional data and the widening of disparities among regions.  Dr Chris Van Egeraat (Maynooth University) presented a paper, written with Dr Justin Doran (UCC) which used a similar method to Prof. Partridge to estimate trickle down effects of Irish Urban centres and how they influence the population in their wider regions.  Finally Prof. Edgar Morgenroth (DCU) presented on the impacts of improvements in transport accessibility across Ireland highlighting some of the changes in accessibility over time and noted that despite these changes human capital is the most important factor influencing an area’s development.

While the conference had smaller attendance than previous years there was good audience participation and discussion of the themes.  The conference papers are now available on the WDC website here and will shortly be available on the RSA website.

 

Helen McHenry

Enterprise in the Western Region 2016

Earlier this week we published our latest 2-page WDC Insights publication.  ‘Enterprise in the Western Region 2016’ analyses the latest data from the CSO’s Business Demography which measures active enterprises in 2016.  This data assigns enterprises to the county where they are registered with Revenue, so if they have multiple locations (e.g. banks, chain stores) they are only counted as one enterprise in whichever county they are headquartered (often Dublin).   Therefore the county data presented here measures businesses which are registered in the Western Region.

In 2016 there were 51,624 total enterprises registered in the Western Region.

To examine the size of enterprises, we can only consider ‘business economy’ enterprises which are a subset of total enterprises (excluding Education, Health, Arts & Entertainment and Other Services).  There were 42,737 ‘business economy’ enterprises in the Western Region in 2016 and 92.7% were micro-enterprises.  Roscommon (94.6%) and Leitrim (94.4%) have the highest shares of micro-enterprises in the state.

Between 2008 and 2016 there was a 4.3% decline in the number of ‘business economy’ enterprises in the Western Region, compared with 3.9% growth in the rest of the state (all other counties) (Fig. 1).  Donegal, Mayo and Roscommon suffered the largest declines in enterprise numbers over the period.

The 2016 data confirms an ongoing recovery in enterprise numbers that began in 2014, with all counties experiencing an increase over that two-year period, Clare and Donegal most strongly.  Although all western counties (and all but seven counties nationally) still had fewer enterprises in 2016 than they had in 2008.

Fig. 1: Percentage change in ‘business economy’ enterprises in western counties, Western Region and rest of state, 2008-2016 and 2014-2016.  Source: CSO, Business Demography 2016

Compared with the rest of the state, the Western Region has a higher share of enterprises in traditional sectors, as well as local and public services (Fig. 2).  With 1 in 5 enterprises in the region involved in Construction, it is the region’s largest enterprise sector and plays a larger role in the region’s enterprise profile. Accommodation & Food Service is another area where the region has a significantly greater share of enterprises, an indication of the important role of tourism.

The knowledge intensive services sectors are of less significance to the region’s enterprise profile, with lower shares in Professional Services, Information & Communications and Financial Services.

The relative importance of sectors to the enterprise profile of individual western counties varies, although Construction and Wholesale & Retail are the two largest for all counties, with either Professional Services or Accommodation & Food Service third.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total enterprises in each sector in the Western Region and rest of state, 2016. Source: CSO, Business Demography 2016

As noted above, the period 2014-2016 showed growth in enterprise numbers. At a sectoral level, there was growth in all sectors in the region except for a small decline in Transportation & Storage.  The largest percentage growth, albeit from a low base, was in Financial Services with an increase of 15% in the number of enterprises registered in the region, followed by Real Estate (11.5%) and Administrative Services (8%).

For these three sectors, the growth in the region was higher than in the rest of the state, with the number of Financial Services firms actually declining elsewhere in that time. The region also experienced stronger growth than the rest of the state in Industry, Education, Professional Services and Arts & Entertainment.

The CSO also produces data for a composite ‘ICT’ sector which combines elements of ICT hardware manufacturing with IT services, the number of ICT enterprises in the Western Region increased by 11.4% between 2014 and 2016 compared with 9.8% growth in the rest of the state.

The profile of the Western Region’s enterprise base contributes to a number of the issues and challenges faced by the region’s SMEs which the WDC highlighted in its recent submission to the Seanad’s public consultation on SMEs in Ireland. See the blog post here.

Download ‘Enterprise in the Western Region 2016’ here.

Issues for the Western Region’s SMEs

The WDC recently made a submission to the Seanad Public Consultation Committee on the important topic of Small and Medium Sized Businesses in Ireland.

In our submission we highlighted that the Western Region is a predominantly rural region with 65% of the population living in rural areas (outside centres of 1,500).  Trends in the location of FDI investments, especially in the period of the recovery, have shown increasing concentration in Ireland’s cities and their hinterlands, although this year has seen greater distribution (e.g. to Sligo) as Dublin’s cost of living and housing shortages drive multinationals to seek other locations. Regardless of this however, FDI is only one element of job and enterprise growth and is not the solution for the vast majority of the Western Region.  Therefore supporting the start-up, expansion and viability of Irish indigenous SMEs is at the core of both the region and Ireland’s future growth.

Indeed the important role of SMEs in regional development will be among the topics discussed at this Friday’s Regional Studies Association Annual Conference at IT Sligo, on the theme City-Led Development & Peripheral Regions.  International keynote speakers Professor Mark Partridge (US) and Dr Andrew Copus (Scotland) will be joined by academics and policymakers from Ireland to consider how (or indeed if) a ‘city-region’ regional policy approach can really bring benefits for peripheral regions and rural areas. Register now

SMEs in the Western Region

In 2016 there were 51,574 SMEs (under 250 persons) registered in the seven-county Western Region, and only 50 larger enterprises.[1]  Next week the WDC will publish a new WDC Insights publication examining enterprise data for the Western Region.

In our submission, we noted that SMEs located in the Western Region, including those in small and medium-sized towns, villages and rural areas, face some specific challenges:

  • Small local markets and distance from larger markets;
  • Poor transport connectivity (for staff and freight) with no motorway in the Western Region north of Tuam and often poor quality local and regional roads linking to primary and secondary routes;
  • Weaker broadband infrastructure (access and speed) constraining online operations;
  • Poor mobile phone coverage for voice calls and data;
  • Difficulties in identifying and recruiting suitably qualified staff, especially at senior managerial and technical levels;
  • Lack of regional seed and early stage venture capital funders;
  • Declining populations in some areas, especially in the economically active (and higher spending) age categories;
  • Reduced activity and footfall in smaller town centres with the growth of online retail and improved transport access to larger urban centres offering greater retail and service choice;
  • Isolation and lack of networking opportunities;
  • For SMEs based around Galway city, traffic congestion can be a major constraint;
  • SMEs in Border counties and throughout the Western Region currently face uncertainty regarding the implications of BREXIT. After March 2019 there may be very significant impacts on their businesses.  These smaller businesses are most vulnerable, lacking staff and resources to change and develop in response to changes in their commercial relationships with the UK.

The submission then goes on to set out some specific policy recommendations on access to finance, recruitment and retention of suitably qualified staff and infrastructure.

Read the full submission here.

Pauline White

 

[1] CSO (2018), Business Demography 2016

City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions- join the debate!

The theme of this year’s Regional Studies Association Irish Branch Annual Conference, to be held in the Institute of Technology Sligo on Friday 7th September, is “City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions”.

The conference will examine how urban areas interact with their rural regions and whether the development of the city or urban area leads to wider development.

Two international experts, Dr Andrew Copus from the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen and Professor Mark Partridge, the C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University, have been invited to present other countries’ experience on this theme and to stimulate debate about the reality of city led development.

Andrew’s paper  The Scottish City Region Deals – A rural development perspective. considers how urban-rural interaction is a long-established element of the “theory of change” associated with regional development policy. Optimistic assumptions about wider functional region benefits of city investments, are commonplace and generally unquestioned, despite meagre evidence of such impacts. A summary history of urban-rural concepts in the European policy discourse, will be followed by a brief account of rural/regional policy in Scotland. Against this background the origin and evolution of Scotland’s City Region Deals, and Regional Partnerships, will be described. The presentation will conclude with some reflections on the how these evolving arrangements fit into an already cluttered policy landscape, their compatibility with rural policy “mainstreaming”, and the likely benefits for rural Scotland.

Mark’s paper Is there a future for Rural in an Urbanizing World and Should We Care? examines how rural areas have received increased attention with the rise of right-wing populist parties in Western countries, in which a strong part of their support is rural based. While the underlying reasons are complex and unique to each country, one common feature is that rural areas have typically faced recent economic decline, creating anxiety, and in some cases, anger of rural residents directed at their urban counterparts. Thus, bridging this rural-urban economic divide takes on added importance in not only improving the individual livelihoods of rural residents but in increasing social cohesion. One way to bridge this economic gap is to improve rural-urban economic linkages through an urban-led economic strategy. For example, urban growth can create commuting and market opportunities for rural residents and firms if there is sufficient connectivity. While such a process has strong theoretical advantages it also requires rural areas to more carefully think about quality of life to attract and retain residents who would otherwise relocate to urban areas.

The issues in Ireland are examined in other presentations and it is to be hoped that the conference will provide useful input to the discussion about regional development in Ireland as the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies of Project Ireland 2040 are drafted. The draft conference programme is below.

Detailed Conference Information can be accessed here (including speaker bios, directions, and accommodation). 

Register here for the conference (€70 including lunch) and come along and join in the debate.

 

Helen McHenry

Travelling from the Western Region to work in Dublin. How has it changed and Why?

The Western Development Commission (WDC) recently published a report on Travel to Work patterns in the Western Region. Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments (2018) is available for download here.

The report draws on Census 2016 POWCAR data to examine the travel to work patterns in centres with a population greater than 1,000 across the Western Region. The analysis, undertaken by the All Island Research Observatory (AIRO), contains a detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region, namely: Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon.

Travelling to Dublin City for Work

Of particular interest is the place of work of residents living in the Western Region and how this has changed in the last 10 years when the WDC conducted the same analysis based on Census 2006 data. In this blogpost we examine the numbers travelling to work in Dublin city from these seven centres and the extent to which this has changed over the last decade.

From the analysis of 2006 Census of Population data and accompanying report, (published in 2009), see here , the numbers travelling to work in Dublin city from each of the catchments in the Western Region ranged from 73 (Roscommon) to 411 in the Galway city labour catchment. These figures represented 1.0% and 0.63% of the total catchment size respectively, see Table 1 below.

Table 1. Numbers travelling to Dublin city from labour catchments in Western Region, Size of catchment and Share of catchment travelling to work in Dublin, 2006 and 2016.

Examining the same data 10 years on there is quite an obvious change. Though both periods are similar in that they are characterised by strong employment and economic growth, across each of the catchments there is a considerable increase in the numbers travelling to work in Dublin city. It is also notable that while the relative population size of each of the catchments all increased, the rate of increase is not that significant. Therefore the share of the total in each catchment travelling to work in Dublin city is much greater in 2016 than it had been in 2006, now ranging from 1% in Letterkenny to 3.5% in Carrick-on-Shannon.

So the numbers and the share of all resident workers in each catchment travelling to work in Dublin has all increased considerably and has generally doubled or in some cases nearly trebled (for example Ennis and Roscommon).

So what are the factors behind this change?

  • Improved transport between Dublin and the regions is also important; the example of Carrick-on- Shannon and Letterkenny applies here. The improved road and motorway networks serving Limerick (Ennis), Galway and to a lesser extent Sligo as well as intercity rail services, all make journey times quicker.
  • Better job opportunities and the relative the lack of opportunities in the regions is another key factor. There is no doubt that especially for more senior or more specialised positions, most of these are located in Dublin. For those living in the Region and who want to progress up the career ladder, work in Dublin may be the only option.
  • The economic crash between 2006 and 2016 and ensuing high unemployment, may have forced people living in the Western Region to take up positions in the Capital, ‘in the short-term’, but the short-term has turned into the long-term, especially in the absence of good opportunities closer to home.
  • It is also possible that many of these positions, while based in Dublin, allow for some degree of flexibility and working from home for a day or two during the week. This can make the long commute on the alternate days more manageable for some. There is a range of data attempting to measure the incidence of e-working or teleworking and most suggest that it is on the increase. It is also likely to be a factor in retaining key personnel during periods of skills shortages and low unemployment. See WDC publications on e-working here, the Gig economy here and Home-based working here.
  • Finally, geography is an important factor in the relative differences. It is no surprise that the share of the total catchment working in Dublin from Carrick-on-Shannon (3.5%) is much higher than Letterkenny, given its relative proximity.

Accessibility to Jobs

Recent research by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, National Road Network Indicators 2017, see here, shows the changes that have occurred in the road network between 2006 and 2017 and how this has influenced accessibility to jobs, see Page A1 showing the impact of the improved road network linking Dublin and the regions.

The report notes that A significant proportion of the road capital spend from 2013 to 2017 was within the West of the country and this has resulted in improved employment accessibility for these areas. This is to be welcomed but the report also notes that despite this peripheral areas in the North-West, West and South-West and South-East still tend to suffer from poor accessibility to jobs.

It is also worth noting that the decline in accessibility on routes into Dublin, due to ongoing traffic growth, are in part caused by the increased numbers of people from the Western Region travelling to the city to work.

To counter this, to help ease congestion and improve accessibility into Dublin, regional growth needs to be supported and accessibility within the Regions needs to be improved. This will improve interregional mobility, enhance labour catchments and supply in the Regions and make it more attractive to do business there.

Project Ireland 2040

The Project Ireland 2040 National Development Plan 2018-2017 commits to Enhanced Regional Accessibility as National Strategic Outcome 2. This recognises the importance of travel catchments and urban centres and their regions. From a Western perspective it is also welcome that it acknowledges the need to invest in transport to the North West which has been comparatively neglected until recently.

From an interregional perspective, the commitment to deliver the Atlantic Corridor, linking Cork, Limerick, Galway and Sligo is very important. Enhancing this network will improve travel to work times within the region, helping to improve accessibility and improving job prospects for residents within the Region. It will also hopefully make the region more attractive for new job creation. While the Plan notes that the Atlantic Corridor will be delivered progressively, it is hoped that it will be completed as timely as possible, both for those commuters who wish to find work closer to home and to realise the wider objectives of regional growth under Project Ireland 2040.

A Snapshot of the Western Region – WDC publishes a series of county infographics

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published a series of eight infographics showing of key statistics for the Western Region and each of its seven counties.  The data is from the CSO’s Census of Population in 2016 with analysis by the WDC.

 

The infographic shows

  • The population of the county
  • The percentage living in rural areas.
  • The percentage of the working age population is in the labour force
  • Average time to travel to work in minutes

There is a different infographic for each county and there is also one for the Western Region.   The Region’s infographic  shows the Western Region population growth since the last Census in 2011 (1.0%) and the growth over the last ten years (8.7%).

The Region has more females (50.4%) than males and that 15% of the population are over 65 and more than a fifth are under 15 (21.1%).

Infographics are an entertaining way to provide information about the Region and its counties.  They show important county characteristics and information in an accessible and lively way.  We hope they will be used in schools and in workplaces and anywhere that people want to know more about the places where they live or are visiting.

There is a good mix of statistics highlighted on the infographics, showing access to broadband in the Western Region (64%) and also that most of the population consider themselves to be in very good health (57.6%).

The infographics also give information about work and education.  In the Western Region the average time taken to travel to work is 24.8 minutes.  59% of the working age population is in the work force and 39% have a third level qualification.  Two employment sectors are also shown.  Almost 14% of the Region’s workers are in Industry and 6.8% working in agriculture.

You can download the infographics for the Western Region and for the seven counties here:  https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

 

Helen McHenry

Creating Stronger Rural Economies and Communities- A Forum

The Rural and Regional strand of Project Ireland 2040 was launched in Westport last Friday (13 July 2018) at a Forum held in the Town Hall Theatre.  The focus was on the National Strategic Outcome 3 in Project Ireland 2040 ‘Strengthened Rural Economies and Communities’.

The Forum, themed “Creating Stronger Rural Economies and Communities”, was co-hosted by the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and featured panel discussions and a keynote address from An Taoiseach .  The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D. also spoke at the event as did Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring T.D.  Minister of State Sean Kyne T.D. was also in attendance and participated in the event.

The speeches highlighted the recently launched €1 billion Regeneration & Development Fund which was a key commitment in Project Ireland 2040.  The Fund is to support collaborative, innovative and transformative projects across both public and private sector bodies and successful projects will leverage additional funding to maximise their impact in communities.

The Forum was structured around two panel discussions on the themes of creating stronger rural communities and creating stronger rural economies.

Creating Stronger Rural Communities

The first “How do we create stronger rural communities?” included An Taoiseach Leo Vardakar on the Panel along with Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring T.D.  Also on the panel were Dr Maura Farrell from NUI Galway and the designated researcher for the National Rural Network (NRN), Ms Anna Marie Delaney the Chief Executive of Offaly County Council and Ms Irene Kavanagh from Kerry Social Farming.

The discussion was largely focussed on the farm family and farm diversification although Minister Ring also stressed the significant investments made under the Town and Village Renewal scheme and the benefits of investment in Digital and Food Hubs in rural towns under that Programme.

Creating Stronger Rural Economies

The second Panel discussion “How do we create stronger rural economies?” was preceded by a short presentation from Minister of State Sean Kyne T.D. and the panel members were three rural entrepreneurs. Mr Colman Keohane from Keohane Seafoods in Co Cork, Ms Evelyn O’Toole founder and CEO of CLS in Co. Galway and Ms Natalie Keane, from Bean and Goose , artisan chocolate company from Co. Wexford.  The panel also included Enterprise Ireland’s Manager for Regions & Entrepreneurship, Mark Christal.

The entrepreneurs told stories of their business set up and development and there was lively discussion of the positives and negatives for small business in rural Ireland.

 

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D. closed the Forum with thoughtful comments on the need to reimagine a rural Ireland that is fit for purpose today.  He noted that for rural Ireland to thrive it needs young people and they will want good quality of life, good jobs and connectivity in order to remain in rural Ireland.  He emphasised that, in thinking of the future for rural Ireland the focus should not just be on what worked before.  We need to consider the current context and develop a rural Ireland that works for now.

Attendees also received a publication “Strengthening Rural Economies and Communities’ which includes descriptions of schemes and policies which impact on rural Ireland and a number of case studies of businesses, farms and communities which have benefited from the schemes.

 

 

Helen McHenry