WDC Brexit Study and Document Repository

Given current discussion of Brexit and the form it may take, today is probably a good day to let you know about the WDC Brexit Repository.

As I noted last year there has been much discussion of Brexit and what it will mean for Ireland, for businesses here, for different sectors, and for social and cultural interactions.  The discussion was then (October 2017), and is now, of course, taking place in the context of multiple unknowns.  Nothing can be said definitively about Brexit and how it will impact on the region and communities most affected by the border.  Some of the issues were considered in this post and in this presentation (PDF 1.2MB).

Despite the lack of information and lack of certainty, it is still important to consider possible implications and to look at data that could give us a better understanding of what might occur and what policy might be needed to mitigate or address the issues that could arise from Brexit.

The WDC has, therefore, put together a ‘Brexit repository’ which is a PDF document (1MB) containing brief summaries and links to selected Brexit studies and documents on Brexit and its potential impacts which are relevant to businesses, large and small, and to communities and organisations which may be impacted by Brexit.

The PDF will be updated quarterly as new studies are published or as we become aware of older, relevant studies.  It is not an exhaustive list but a collection of documents which may be useful.  If you have any documents or studies which you think should be added please get in touch.

And perhaps by Friday 29th March 2019 the form of Brexit and its implications will finally have become clear.

 

Helen McHenry

A National Digital Strategy needs a National Broadband Plan

The delay in the procurement process arising from the Peter Smyth enquiry has led to a vacuum emerging and a debate on the solution needed to deliver high speed broadband to all. This is being filled by discussion of the perceived benefits of alternative technologies and the potentially very large costs of a largely fibre based deployment.

What has got very little airing is that the planned Government investment (and that of some of the commercial operators), is likely to be a once in a 25 year investment at minimum. It follows various initiatives in the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment such as the National Broadband Scheme (2009-2014) and the Rural Broadband Scheme (2011), which were aimed at delivering basic broadband services, the experience of which informed Department officials and Government, of the need to deliver a long-term future proofed solution.

Meanwhile the 80 or so officials in the Department of Communications and the opinions of outside experts, brought in at various stages to inform and guide the design of the tender process, who have extensive knowledge and expertise must stay silent. These are the experts who could better inform the debate, but must stay silent, again to protect the procurement process.

Across the country life goes on and Christmas, one of the busiest retail periods is upon us. In the absence of the deployment of the NBP, the opportunity to engage in online sales is heavily restricted or prohibitive for many smaller based businesses trying to operate from regional Ireland. In a recent report, this situation was described as for businesses in small towns, not having broadband is akin to operating with one hand tied behind their back. See here.

Meanwhile the Department of An Taoiseach issued a call for Submissions to the Public Consultation to inform Ireland’s new National Digital Strategy. In its response the WDC highlighted the importance of;

1. Broadband access as an enabler. There is a significant imbalance in the equity of digital services; urban centres are generally well served but rural areas have poorer service levels and limited competition and investment. Census 2016 Summary results show that overall, 76.2 per cent of the State’s urban households had broadband compared with 61.1 per cent of households in rural areas.

2. The opportunity cost of poor infrastructure is hard to estimate but undoubtedly it can have a significant negative effect on SMEs. There are significant opportunities available to enterprises in rural and regional areas arising from easy access to the global marketplace through on-line sales. Three in four consumers say that they are more likely to purchase from a business that has an online presence1. One of the key constraints is poor internet access and 27% of SMEs without a website say it is because they do not have a good internet connection. At a regional level the same survey found that 14% of Irish SMEs rate their internet connection as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ and this figure rises to 25% in Connacht and Ulster.

3. The WDC submission also highlighted the importance of appropriate training. Adoption and application of new learning is likely to require ‘a little and often’ approach in recognition that a ‘use it or lose it’ approach applies. The focus therefore should be given to using the internet on a regular basis as well as those tasks that occur more infrequently, on an annual basis such as booking a holiday or paying motor tax on line. Those tasks (and benefits) which can be undertaken and realised on a more frequent basis will help ensure greater take-up.

But all ultimately rests on high speed broadband provision for the 540,000 premises still disconnected. The WDC submission on the Digital Strategy is available here.

 

Deirdre Frost

The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region

Today we published the second in our series of ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing employment and enterprise data for the Western Region on specific economic sectors and identifying key policy issues. The new report examines the Health & Care Sector, the Western Region’s third largest employer.

The full report ‘The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ and the two-pageWDC Insights: The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region’ which summarises the key points can be downloaded here

Health & Care is a broad sector including all those working in hospitals, nursing homes, crèches, day facilities, dental, medical and physiotherapist practices etc.  It includes professional healthcare occupations e.g. nurses, doctors, as well as clerical and administrative roles and care assistants, home carers, childminders and childcare workers.

Discussions of the Health & Care sector generally focus on provision of vital healthcare services. This ‘Regional Sectoral Profile’ however focuses on its role as a key economic sector and regional employer.

Employment & Enterprise in Health & Care

A few of the key findings from the report on employment and enterprise in the sector include:

  • 42,027 people were employed in the Health & Care sector in the Western Region in 2016. This was 12.6% of total employment in the region, higher than the 11.1% share nationally.
  • At 15.5% of all employment, Sligo has the highest share working in this sector in the country, while Leitrim (13.5%) has the second highest share nationally with Galway City and Galway County (both 13%) jointly fourth.
  • Health & Care is the largest employment sector for six out of the region’s 40 urban centres – Letterkenny, Sligo, Ballinasloe, Bearna, Strandhill and Collooney. It must be notes that this data refers to residents of the towns, although some may travel to work elsewhere and proximity to a large hospital is a key factor.
  • The number of people working in Health & Care in the Western Region grew by 14.8% between 2011 and 2016, close to double the growth of total employment in the region (7.5%). All western counties experienced far stronger growth in Health & Care jobs than in jobs generally
  • ‘Residential care & social work’ (nursing homes, crèches, home care) is the largest element of Health & Care in the Western Region accounting for 47.6% of all employment in the sector. ‘Hospital activities’ is next largest (37.2%).
  • 4% of all working women in the Western Region work in Health & Care and it is the largest employment sector for women in the region.
  • In 2016 there were 3,485 Health & Care enterprises registered in the Western Region; that was 6.4% of total enterprises in that year.
  • Sligo (7.8%) and Galway (7.6%) have the highest shares of enterprises in Health & Care across all counties in Ireland, again reinforcing the substantial role played by the sector in the region’s economy.

Key Policy Issues for the Western Region’s Health & Care Sector

As the third largest employer in the Western Region and an area showing strong jobs growth in recent years, the Health & Care sector plays a pivotal role in the regional economy, in addition to providing vital services. Therefore future trends in the sector will have significant regional implications.

Higher reliance on Health & Care in the Western Region:  Health & Care is a more significant employer in the Western Region than nationally.  It plays a critical role in providing opportunities for professional careers, especially in more rural areas where there may be fewer alternatives. It also offers jobs at lower skill levels which are important in providing employment for all sections of the labour force. However this greater reliance on the sector in the region increases its vulnerability to any jobs decline.  While the primary policy focus for Health & Care must be on the provision of quality services, the sector’s parallel role as a provider of jobs, particularly in the Western Region, should also be a factor in policy decisions.

Central role in female employment: The Health & Care sector is the largest employer of women in the Western Region and any future developments in this sector will have a far greater impact on female than male employment levels.

Key driver of job creation: Employment growth in Health & Care in the Western Region was almost twice the region’s average employment growth (2011-2016).  Its role may often be overlooked in debates on recent job creation trends, with more focus on exporting and high-tech businesses.  The role of Health & Care in job creation, as well as future growth opportunities in the sector, should be fully explored in national, regional and local economic development strategies.

An ageing population and growing demand:  Over 16% of the population of Mayo, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo are aged 65+ years.  Increased longevity means there is a growing share among the ‘older old’ (80+) with Roscommon (4.4%), Leitrim (4.3%) and Mayo (4.25) the highest in the state.  ‘Residential care & social work’ grew by almost a quarter in the Western Region (2011-2016).  Responding to the needs of an ageing population is one of the greatest challenges facing the Health & Care sector and significant job and growth opportunities exist in effectively meeting this challenge. The Western Region’s older age profile and high level of rurality means it is at the forefront of this growing demand and has an opportunity to develop new and innovative solutions such as learning from successful models across Europe.

Loss of rural GP practices: ‘Medical practice’ was the only Health & Care sub-sector which saw a decline in employment.  It is estimated that 50% of GPs in Leitrim will retire over the next five to seven years, 41% in Mayo and 38% in Roscommon.  If reported difficulties in finding GP replacements persist, this could mean that medical practices in neighbouring towns and villages may close.  The impact on the delivery of health services in rural areas of the loss of medical practices needs to be considered in Government policy, with options such as online delivery of GP services explored as part of the solution.

Skill shortages:  A number of skill shortages exist in the sector and healthcare professionals (nurses, doctors) accounted for a higher share of all employment permits (for non-EU residents) issued for the West and Border regions than nationally.  Care workers and childminders are occupations characterised by high turnover and some employers may be experiencing difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified care and childcare workers. Changing demographics, along with Government policy, will impact on the demand for Health & Care skills.  Initiatives to increase the number of people with qualifications in care, as well as to improve working conditions and increase its attractiveness as a job option, are important for the sector’s capacity to meet future needs.

Download the full report ‘The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ and the two-pageWDC Insights: The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region’ which summarises the key points, here

 

Energy and Climate Action in the Western Region- what is the way forward?

The Western Development Commission (WDC) recently made a submission to the Initial Consultation on Ireland’s National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (NECP).  This consultation was based on the template for the draft plan which Ireland is required to complete by the end of the year. The draft plan, once completed, will itself be the subject of a separate consultation process.  The WDC response focused on areas on which we work and on issues of key importance to the Region including rural issues, renewable energy and biomass use and electricity and natural gas transmission infrastructure.  The full WDC submission is available here.

Rural Issues

The Western Region (the area under the WDC remit) is very rural. Using the CSO definition 64.7% in of the population live outside of towns of 1,500 or more. Using the definition in Ireland 2040 the National Planning Framework 80% of people in Western Region live outside of towns of 10,000. Thus WDC work has a particular focus on the needs of, and opportunities for, more rural and peripheral areas.

Not only is the Western Region is very rural, it is important to also remember in regard to this Plan, that Ireland is one of the more rural members of the EU. It is critical, therefore, that the NECP takes this pattern of living into account and addresses the opportunities it provides as well as the challenges. Climate action for rural areas is not often discussed in policy and there is no significant body of work (internationally or nationally) on climate change and emissions issues for rural areas in developed countries and yet there are important differences in energy use patterns and emissions, in rural areas. While it is often acknowledged that rural dwellers have higher individual emissions the ways of addressing these are not usually explored partly because emissions reductions may be more difficult to achieve in rural areas and partly because the focus is usually on larger populations and ways to reduce the emissions of individuals living in more densely populated areas.

It should be remembered that, as in other policy areas, urban/rural is a rather simplistic division, which ignores the ‘suburban’ and the differences between rural towns and the open countryside which all have distinctive emission patterns. It is also important to be aware that people’s carbon footprints are closely linked to their incomes and consumption patterns and so do not necessarily relate directly to their location (urban or rural). In fact research in Finland[1] has highlighted higher emissions from urban dwellers based on their higher consumptions patterns. Nonetheless, despite the difficulties with a simple urban/rural dichotomy, there are of course concerns specific to rural dwellers emissions that deserve consideration.

Electricity, heat and transport are the three forms of energy use and therefore the source of emissions, for residential and commercial users and so the different urban and rural use patterns for each of these should be considered.  For more discussion of rural dwellers and climate mitigation see this post.

The WDC believes that it is essential that part of the NECP should have a specific focus on issues for rural areas, and actions to ensure that rural areas are in a position to benefit from a move to a low carbon economy (and there are many opportunities for them to do so) and that rural dwellers make a fair contribution to national goals for renewable energy and to actions to mitigate climate change.

Renewable Energy and Biomass

The WDC has been active in developing measures to promote the use of energy (in particular heat) from biomass, assessing biomass availability and the development of supply chains for its local use. Our experience has shown that strategic policy interventions must recognise the wider market environment in order to design and deliver effective, value for money policy and identify actions which result in sustainable market growth.

The WDC has shown that the renewable heat market has the potential to create considerable levels of employment across the Western Region and to provide long-term stable markets for low value wood fuels which can compete with fossil fuels and stabilise energy prices for end users (see here for WDC work on renewable energy).

An OECD report Linking Renewable Energy to Rural Development contains a useful examination of policy options and actions in fifteen OECD regions. It shows how bioenergy can provide greater local and national economic benefits than other renewable energies  and notes that bioenergy policy interventions are typically most effective when delivered at a regional and/or local level where they can be tailored to local resources and conditions.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is one of the most important areas to be addressed in our NECP and this will require strategies for public, private and domestic users. The WDC believes that the public sector should be a model for energy efficiency and for use of renewable energy in heat and transport. In doing so, as well as providing examples and participating in pilot actions, the public sector will be an important customer for businesses in the developing renewable energy or climate action sectors. Given the difficulties of matching supply and demand at local levels in emerging renewable heat markets, public sector investment in energy efficiency and making use of renewable energy in day to day activities will help to stimulate the development of businesses and allow  supply chains to develop securely.

The WDC also believes that it is very important to ensure that local communities are in a position to participate in energy efficiency and renewable energy development projects. Given that a complex mix of policy instruments will be required to incentivise and empower people to achieve 2030 targets, it should be remembered that the SEAI Better Energy Community Programme has delivered almost 10% of the overall Irish energy efficiency target. If there was a suite of additional community supports in addition to the grant aid even more could be delivered. Community groups often lack time, technical expertise, access to finance and financial expertise, bargaining skills, equipment and capacity to complete lengthy grant application documents.

Energy Infrastructure

Electricity transmission

The WDC believes that it is important that we make the most of our opportunities to generate electricity where the best resource is available. For this it is essential that there is investment in transmission infrastructure in areas which have the greatest potential resources.

The WDC recently commissioned a study[2] of current and future needs for electricity transmission infrastructure in the Region.  The Western Region has a significant capacity of connected renewable generation. By 2020 there could be approximately 1,760MW of renewable generation connected in the WDC region, consisting of 1,595MW of wind generation and 165MW of hydro generation. The Western Region is currently producing enough renewable generation to meet 100% of its own demand. By 2020 it will be a net exporter of renewable energy, providing approximately 15% of the total national demand and making a significant contribution to the 2020 RES-E targets.

The Western Region has some of the best resources for on shore wind in Europe, and in the future, as technology improves, for offshore energy generation. It is therefore important to the Region and to Ireland, as well as the rest of the EU, that there is development of significant electricity transmission infrastructure projects in Donegal and North Mayo[3] in order to make the best use of this resource. While there are opportunities to use smart grid technologies to maximise the use of existing transmission infrastructure, further investment in new infrastructure is also needed. Developing electricity transmission infrastructure is a slow process, so it is important that the NECP has clear objectives in this area which can then feed into any new Grid Development Strategy so that EirGrid can develop a transmission grid fit for a low carbon economy in the long term.

Gas transmission

A significant part of the north west of Ireland does not have access to the natural gas transmission grid. As has been discussed by the WDC elsewhere, the development of the gas grid can give rise to significant savings for both commercial and domestic users (see Why invest in gas? Benefits of natural gas infrastructure for the north west). As a lower emission fossil fuel natural gas can also contribute to a reduction in emissions by users who connect and, in the future with the development of renewable gas, there will be further opportunities to lower emissions through its use in place of natural gas.

In addition, a high level study commissioned by government (conducted by KPMG) last year into the Irish National Gas Network examined issues relating to the wider economic costs and benefits of potential extensions to the Irish natural gas network, including decarbonisation, air quality, climate and emissions and regional and rural development benefits. The findings of this study have not yet been published but they should feed in to the NECP. The WDC believes that further focus on the use of natural gas as a transition fuel and on the development of gas transmission in the north west should form a key part of the NECP.

Conclusion

In this post I have outlined some of the key points in the WDC submission to the NECP Initial Consultation.  The WDC believes that the renewable energy and climate action have the potential to create considerable employment across the Western Region and to provide long term stable markets for many low value biological outputs, as well as ensuring that much of the money spent on energy remains in Ireland.  However, in order to make this happen we suggest that high level targets in the NECP should be translated into a regional and local context so they can drive the delivery of a thriving low carbon economy and spread the benefits throughout the country.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] Heinonen J and S Junnila, 2011 A Carbon Consumption Comparison of Rural and Urban Lifestyles Sustainability 2011, 3, 1234-1249;

[2] This study was conducted for the WDC by MullanGrid and will be available shortly.

[3] In addition to the North Connacht Project which is currently planned in North Mayo and which is unlikely to have any spare capacity by the time it is commissioned

SMEs in Ireland: What are the issues?

Earlier this year the WDC made a submission to the Seanad Public Consultation Committee. They are currently investigating the issue of Small and Medium Sized Businesses in Ireland.  Last Tuesday we were among 15 individuals and organisations invited to address a public hearing of the Seanad on the topic.  A video of the hearings is available here (the WDC’s contribution begins at 3:48) and the final report will be published by the Seanad early next year.

The inputs to the public hearing covered the owner, national and regional perspectives on SMEs in Ireland.  Over the course of five hours a very broad range of topics and issues relevant to the operation and future of SMEs in Ireland was discussed, here are just a few of the themes which emerged.

Incentivising entrepreneurship:  How can we make it more attractive for people to choose to establish their own business?  It was suggested the idea should be encouraged at primary school level, before children enter the ‘points race’, by adding entrepreneurship to the list of potential career choices.  It was also noted that some entrepreneurship, especially in rural areas, may ‘grow from the ashes’ as a result of the closure of a large business and limited alternative employment.  Reducing personal risk as a barrier to entrepreneurship was raised in terms of social insurance, as well as the issue of the rate of capital gains tax acting as a disincentive.

Varied forms of entrepreneurship: It was proposed that more varied forms of entrepreneurship and ownership models, including co-operatives and social enterprise, should be encouraged.  With a more socially conscious generation of young people, it was recognised there could be more demand to buy from socially and environmentally conscious local businesses.  It was suggested that this could support succession planning for family-run businesses with more options for buy-outs by worker co-operatives.

Attracting skills and management capacity:  As the labour market tightens, SMEs increasingly have to compete for employees with large multinationals. SMEs can lose trained staff to FDI companies paying higher salaries and this particularly restricts the development of management capacity as SMEs find it difficult to compete with FDI companies on salaries for high level management roles.  But a strong management team is central to SME success and can also help with succession through a management buy-out.  Incentives to retain staff, such as the Keep scheme, were seen as important to tackle this.  The diaspora was also highlighted as a potential source of key skills for SMEs and a number of initiatives to attract people back to rural, regional and Gaeltacht locations were outlined. For counties in the Greater Dublin Area, promoting ‘reverse commuting’ with SMEs encouraged to establish in commuter towns to take advantage of the pool of talent currently commuting into Dublin, was highlighted.

Education and training: To meet the skill requirements of SMEs there was a need for them to identify their current and future skills needs. EI are currently running ‘spotlight on skills’ workshops for companies which aim to help with this.  Close collaboration between SMEs in a region and local education providers (ETBs, IoTs, Universities) is critical to providing the pipeline of skills needed for future jobs as well as facilitating accredited lifelong learning to upskill current staff.  Increasing the range of sectors covered by apprenticeships and making the apprenticeship path more attractive were also raised.

Costs and regulatory burden:  The rising cost of utilities and insurance and the impact this is having on SMEs.  For example a number of key insurers have left the insurance market for retail businesses in Ireland and there is uncertainty how UK insurers providing cover in Ireland will be impacted by Brexit.  Initiatives to spread costs more evenly, such as the timing of Revenue payments, could help with SME cash flow.  The Government was urged to ‘think small first’ when developing new regulations and to take into consideration the cumulative impact of numerous regulations on small businesses, rather than looking at the impact of one regulation in isolation from others.

Procurement: The potential for public procurement as a market for SMEs.  The ‘bundling’ of contracts could put some public projects out of reach of SMEs and it was felt that, as far as possible within EU tendering guidelines, SMEs should be facilitated to access public procurement

Broadband and remote working: SMEs will not be able to connect with their markets in the absence of high-speed broadband across the country.  The lack of high-speed broadband in some rural and regional locations is a critical issue and has in fact led to the relocation of some companies.  It was noted that 4G /5G mobile technology was not sufficient the needs of SMEs and fibre broadband was the most future proofed technology.  Broadband could also facilitate remote working for employees and entrepreneurs.  The provision of digital hubs and innovation centres could facilitate networking and social interaction. It was noted that there needed to be a culture change in terms of remote working.

Scale and performance:  Recent Irish economic growth has mainly been driven by FDI and Irish SMEs are not performing as well in terms of exports or innovation.  It was felt that they were not living up to their potential, as research by the Enterprise Research Centre has shown that Irish micro-enterprises have greater growth ambition, digital adoption and use of innovation than their UK or US counterparts. Growing the scale of Irish SMEs and diversifying their markets, especially beyond the UK, were seen as priorities for improved performance.  It was also noted that some SMEs may be caught in the ‘middle’, too large for LEOs but not exporting so not within EI’s remit.  Brexit makes it difficult for any SME to plan and it was suggested that some companies may need more direct support to adapt to the Brexit impact.

Investment and finance:  There is a need for more investment in SMEs, who currently largely rely on short-term debt financing rather than longer term equity investment.  Investors need to be incentivised more to make equity investments in SMEs, while SME owners should be encouraged to be more open to equity investment.  While new, high-tech companies were very open to the idea, more established SMEs may be reluctant to seek such investment.  It was also noted there was a lack of private sector early stage and venture capital funding in the regions.  In relation to lending to SMEs, a Local Public Banking model, similar to that in Germany, was proposed.  Based on relationship banking, these local public banks could provide loans to SMEs and would operate on a non-profit basis.

The ultimate outcome of the consultation will be a strategy proposal document on SMEs in Ireland which the Seanad will publish early next week and propose to the relevant Government Minister.  It is hoped this will place a renewed focus on the role and importance of indigenous SMEs to the Irish economy and regional development.

Pauline White

Payments and income from farming in the Western Region

As discussed in the last blog post on farmers in the Western Region, agriculture is an important sector of Irish economy and particularly important to the rural economy and society.  In this post different measures of payments and income are examined using three different sources.  Data on CAP beneficiaries is available at county level, showing how much is received in each county, while the recently published Revenue data for 2016 provides information on average Farming Income and Gross Income for the ‘farming cases’.  Finally, the National Farm Survey, conducted by Teagasc, provides detailed information on farming income.

Each of these sources is measuring different things for different purposes so it is useful to compare them to add to our understanding of farming in the Western Region.

 

Payments from the CAP.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) contributes a significant amount to the local economy.  In 2016 more than €525m was received from the CAP by the 54,215 beneficiaries in the Western Region (Table 1) with an average of €9,689 per recipient in the Western Region.

Table 1: CAP beneficiaries in the Western Region in 2016

Source: DAFM CAP Beneficiaries Database

Galway (€ 135m) and Mayo (€105m) had the highest receipts and also had the highest numbers of recipients, while Leitrim (€35m) and Sligo (€37m) had the lowest total receipts.  However, when the average receipt is considered (Figure 1) the pattern is different.

Figure 1: Average received by CAP beneficiaries in the Western Region

Source: DAFM CAP Beneficiaries Database 2016

Average receipts in 2016 were highest in Clare (€10,945), Galway (€10,292), and Roscommon (€10,050), but these were still among the lowest in the country (Clare has the 17th highest average receipt, and average receipts in Galway and Roscommon were 20th and 21st of the 26 counties). The four lowest average payments in the country were in the Western Region with Sligo the lowest in the country.  In contrast, the highest average receipts were in Dublin (€19,062 and which has a very small number of beneficiaries (867)) and in the South East with €17,806 the average in Waterford, €17,205 the average in Kilkenny and €16,194 the average in Carlow.

The very significant different in receipts between the Western Region and the South East reflect both farm size, and the enterprise type.

 

Farm Incomes- Revenue Data

In addition to information about numbers of farming cases, data is available from Revenue for both average Gross income and average Farming Income.   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’ available here.

In 2016 nationally there were 137,109 ‘farmer’ cases with an average Farming Income of €21,952.  There were 40,709 ‘farmer’ cases in the Western Region with an average Farming Income of €13,338.  Data for each of the Western Region counties is shown in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Average Farm Income by county- Revenue data

Source: The farming sector in Ireland: A profile from Revenue data, 2016 data, published 2018

The lowest average Farm Income is in Leitrim (€10,679), while the highest was in Clare (€16,701), but the seven Western Region counties are the seven counties with the lowest average Farm Income nationally.  Waterford has the highest average Farm Income (€35,026), followed by Kilkenny (€32,408) and Kildare (€32,292)

Interestingly, for farmer cases the Revenue also provides information about the average Gross income.  This includes income from other sources (the two most significant of these are PAYE income from employment and income from other business sources). It therefore includes income from off farm work.  It should be remembered that where couples are jointly assessed this includes the earnings of both.

Figure 3: Average Gross Income and average Farm Income in Western Region counties –revenue data

Source: The farming sector in Ireland: A profile from Revenue data, 2016 data, published 2018

Non farm income is very significant in the Western Region, accounting for most of the income in the farming cases in the Western Region indicating the importance of off farm employment in farming households.

The National Farm Survey

The final source of data on farm income is the National Farm Survey (NFS) which has been conducted by Teagasc on an annual basis since 1972.  The survey is operated as part of the Farm Accountancy Data Network of the EU and fulfils Ireland’s statutory obligation to provide data on farm output, costs and income to the European Commission. A random, nationally representative sample is selected annually in conjunction with the Central Statistics Office (CSO).  In 2016 the sample of 861 farms which represented 84,736 farms nationally.  Pig and Poultry farms are not included in the survey.

Data from the NFS is not available at county level, but Figure 4 below shows the Family Farm Income[1] for 2016 for each of the NUTS 3 regions.

Figure 4: National Farm Survey Family Farm Income by Region, 2016

Source: Teagasc, 2017, National Farm Survey 2016

The Border and the West regions, which account for six of the seven Western Region counties have the lowest Family Farm Income in 2016.  Clare is part of the Mid West region.

Comparing the data.

As Family Farm Income from the National Farm Survey is not available at county level, it is useful to compare the data on CAP beneficiaries and from Revenue tax cases at regional level.  Figure 5 shows the three different payment and income measures for the NUTS 3 regions.

In most regions, except the Border (and it should be noted the NFS does not include pigs and poultry which are concentrated in the Region) the Family Farm Income is the highest figure, while the average Farm Income for Revenue is lower.  As expected, given that it is only one of the elements of farm income, CAP receipts are lower than either income figure.

Figure 5: DAFM receipts, Revenue average Farm Income and NFS Family Farm Income 2016 by Region

Source: Teagasc National Farm Survey, 2016; The farming sector in Ireland: A profile from Revenue data, 2016 data, published 2018; DAFM CAP Beneficiaries Database2016

 

In the Border, Midland and the West Region in particular, the CAP receipts are a higher proportion of income figures, indicating the greater contribution of the subsidies to income in these regions.

Conclusions

While these three different measures are derived from different sources they are all consistent.  The West and Border have lowest income and lowest average CAP benefit as well as lower taxable income from farming.  The pattern of farming is different in these regions, with different enterprise types, smaller farm sizes and greater reliance on off farm income.  Yet farming in these regions is integral to their rural economy, the rural landscape and CAP payments and their multipliers make a significant contribution the local economy.  These are all important considerations when negotiating the next CAP.

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] Family Farm Income represents the return from farming for the farm family to their labour, land and capital. It does not include non-farm income.  See here for more information.

How important is Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region?

The WDC recently published the first in a series of ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing specific economic sectors in the Western Region and identifying key policy issues.  The first sector examined is Wholesale & Retail.  Two publications are available:

  • WDC Insights: Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region (2-page summary)
  • Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile (full report)

Download both here

Wholesale & Retail Employment in the Western Region

42,510 people were employed in the Wholesale & Retail sector in the Western Region in 2016. At 12.7% of total employment, it is the region’s second largest employment sector, after Industry.  It is somewhat less important in the region than nationally (Fig. 1).  At 13.3% of all employment, it is Ireland’s largest employer.

Among western counties, Wholesale & Retail is most significant in Mayo (14.4%) and least so in Clare (11.2%).  Two other largely rural counties (Roscommon and Donegal) had the next highest shares working in the sector in the region.  Wholesale & Retail accounted for a higher share of total employment in 2016 than a decade earlier in all western counties (except Donegal) and most notably in the most rural counties.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector in Western Region and state, 2006, 2011 and 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011; CSO, Census 2006: Volume 7 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table C0713

52.3% of people at work in the Wholesale & Retail sector in the Western Region are male, similar to the national average.  Males make up the majority in all western counties (at 55.2% Sligo has the greatest male majority) except Clare (50.8% female) and Galway city (50.9% female).

Wholesale & Retail Employment in western towns

Wholesale & Retail is the largest employment sector for 16 out of the region’s 40 urban centres.  There is no clearly discernible pattern in the relative importance (as a percentage of total employment) of the sector across the 40 towns, ranked by descending size (Fig. 2). Factors such as location, distance from larger urban centres, diversity of its economic profile and alternative job options combine with a town’s size to determine the role played by the sector.

Boyle (20.2%), Ballina (20%) and Castlebar (19.1%) have the highest shares working in Wholesale & Retail in the region. These, and other towns with a high share, are important rural service centres located quite some distance from larger centres and serving wide rural hinterlands.  The sector is least important for Strandhill, Newmarket-on-Fergus and Moycullen; all are towns located close to large urban centres which are likely their main retail centre.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector in towns in the Western Region, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Self-employment in Wholesale & Retail

The Western Region is characterised by greater self-employment in Wholesale & Retail than the national average (15.5% of total employment in the sector is self-employment compared with 12.7% in the state).  Every western county, except Galway City, also has an above average share of self-employment, meaning the sector in the region is characterised by more family or owner/ manager run businesses, likely smaller in scale.

The share of self-employment declined in all western counties (except Sligo) between 2011 and 2016. This indicates a changing composition of the sector with fewer family or owner/manager run Wholesale & Retail businesses and the expansion of multiples and chain stores with a growing share of those working in the sector being employees.

Employment in Wholesale & Retail sub-sectors

Census data on employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector is sub-divided into 17 separate activities.  For ease of presentation here these are grouped into five broad areas: Motor trades; Wholesale; Food/beverage retail; Clothing/footwear retail; and All other retail.[1]

In 2016, the largest sub-sector in the Western Region was ‘Food/beverage retail’ (Fig. 3) accounting for 27.7% of all employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector. The largest element of this is supermarkets.  The next largest sub-sector is ‘All other retail’ (e.g. furniture, computers, petrol stations etc.) followed by ‘Wholesale’.  The relative importance of the five sub-sectors differs across counties. Generally, ‘Food/beverage retail’ is the largest with close to 30% working in this sub-sector in Clare and Leitrim.  Two exceptions are Galway City and Roscommon where ‘All other retail’ is bigger.

Fig. 3: Percentage of total Wholesale & Retail employment in each sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

The sub-sectors have performed differently over time. For the Western Region, ‘Motor trades’ saw the most significant jobs growth between 2011 and 2016 reflecting strong recent growth in car sales and recovery from substantial job losses during the recession. ‘Clothing/footwear retail’ was the only other area to show some growth with the other three sub-sectors declining in the region.  This is in contrast to the national picture where all sub-sectors grew except ‘Food/beverage retail’.

Key Policy Issues

Wholesale & Retail plays a critical role in the regional and rural economy as it is more widely dispersed than many other sectors. It is a highly visible sector and its performance has a major impact on the viability and vibrancy of towns.  It also provides important job options for people with lower skill levels and younger people.  There has been growing policy interest in this sector in the past number of years. Some of the key policy issues include:

  • Increased consumer mobility & rural areas: The trend of travelling to large urban centres to avail of wider retail choice presents opportunities for the region’s largest centres but may have negative consequences for small and medium-sized rural towns.
  • Town centre renewal: Towns are trying to adapt to their changing role. Retail is just one of the services they provide and for many it is declining in relative importance.  Taking a broad approach to town centre renewal is critical to making towns more attractive retail and service destinations.
  • Growth of online sales: Online sales continue to grow but the majority of spending leaks out of Ireland. While online can be seen as a threat to traditional retail, it also presents an opportunity to expand beyond local markets.
  • Declining self-employment: While self-employment remains higher in the region than elsewhere, it is declining. Fewer family or owner/manager run enterprises impacts on the local distinctiveness of the retail offering of individual towns.
  • Quality of employment and skills development: While Wholesale & Retail offers many high quality jobs, it also employs a lot of younger and lower skilled workers. Improving the quality and security of jobs in this sector is important for worker rights and also for the sector’s ability to adapt to emerging trends.

Opportunities exist to grow online activity and to restructure the retail and service offering of towns to meet changing consumer needs.  However, grasping these opportunities will depend on proactive policy to support the sector, a willingness to adapt among retailers, increased capacity for businesses to compete with larger national or global retailers and a collaborative approach to help towns adapt to their changing function.

More detailed analysis and discussion of these policy issues are available in ‘Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

Pauline White

[1] Appendix 1 of the report provides data for all 17 activities.

Smaller Labour catchments across the Western Region

Analysis of Census of Population 2016 shows that at a Western Region level, the total number of jobs located within the Western Region was 242,712. The Census also reports that the total resident ‘at work’ population within the Western Region is higher, at 260,261 showing that more commute to work outside the Region than travel into the Region for work.

The Western Development Commission (WDC) recently published Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments (2018). This provides a detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region, based on travel to work patterns,  namely: Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon and is available for download here.

Where do people work?

The WDC analysis shows the place of work and where people live and changes over time. For example, a previous blogpost based on the report’s analysis identified the growth in numbers travelling to work in Dublin see here. The numbers and the share of all resident workers in each catchment travelling to work in Dublin has increased considerably – generally doubled or in some cases nearly trebled (for example Ennis and Roscommon).

Rural Employment

Travel catchment data highlights the potential labour supply available in each centre. The analysis of the seven labour catchments in the Western Region has highlighted the importance of rural areas (centres with less than 1,000 persons) as employment locations. For example, depending on the location of the county town and the proximity of nearby urban areas, a large proportion of residents are in fact employed in rural areas. In general, this rate is in excess of 22% with the exception being in the Sligo town labour catchment where only approximately 17% are employed in rural areas. Interestingly, the Ennis labour catchment has the highest level of rural employment with 26.9% employed in the Clare rural area, reflecting the low number of urban settlements (>1,000 population) within Clare.

Falling unemployment.. but?

With recent economic growth, unemployment levels have been falling and there is much talk of tightening labour markets and skill shortages. This is particularly true in some sectors and some locations, particularly Dublin and other large centres. However, to what extent is this happening in smaller centres across the West and North west?  The latest Labour Force Survey from the CSO (Q2 2018, Table 9) shows that nationally the unemployment rate is 6.0%, but in the West region it is 6.7% and in the Border region it is 6.6%.

Smaller labour catchments

Beyond the seven principal centres and the rural areas, there are many small towns which are also significant employment locations. The WDC is now undertaking analysis of the labour supply of these smaller centres. Each of the labour catchments identified are not based on town or county administrative boundaries, but on people’s travel to work patterns.

The town labour catchments show the geographical area from which a town draws most of its labour supply; each catchment is based on the inclusions of Electoral Divisions (EDs) that are assigned to a town, based on maximum commuting to work flows.

All the town labour catchments have significantly more people at work than the Census population at work for that town and have therefore access to a larger labour supply than normal Census definitions would indicate.

Potential Labour Supply

At a regional and local level, the identification of the key employment centres in the Western Region and the potential labour supply available for future growth should provide important insights for policy­makers, nationally, regionally and locally.

These data will help inform various national, regional and local plans, some with longer term time horizons such as Project Ireland 2040 and the Regional Economic and Spatial Strategies and other plans with shorter time frames such as County Development Plans and Local Area Plans

The 26 smaller Labour catchments in the Western Region are currently being analysed and a short report on each town catchment (see table below for complete list) will be available on www.wdc.ie in late 2018, early 2019.

Deirdre Frost

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.