Survey shows 60% of creative entrepreneurs working on their own

Later today (29 October), the WDC will launch a new transnational project to support the development of the creative industries sector.

The new three-year, €2m transnational creative momentum project aims to support creative entrepreneurs through innovation and skills development, opportunities to network and collaborate across the five partner countries and improved access to international markets. The project will be run by six partner organisations based in Mid-Sweden, North East Iceland, Northern Finland, South East of Northern Ireland and West of Ireland. It is co-funded by the EU Interreg Northern Periphery & Arctic Programme.

In order to inform the development of the project’s activities, the project circulated an online survey to creative entrepreneurs based in the participating regions. The survey ran from 28 September to 18 October and there were a total of 170 responses. The preliminary results of the analysis show some very interesting findings which have implications for policy and supports aimed at developing this sector.

  • 60% of respondents indicated they worked on their own, with a further 31% working in enterprises employing fewer than five people. The survey also showed that just over half (53%) of respondents worked from their own home. The sector seems to be strongly characterised by sole traders and freelancers.
  • 45% reported being members of some form of creative network or collective.
  • 68% reported that they made some sales outside of their own country, which was higher than indicated in previous surveys. Cross-border business between Ireland and Northern Ireland seemed to be a strong element in these export sales. Of those businesses who did not export currently (44), 70% indicated a desire to export.
  • For those who did make export sales, personal sales was the most significant route, reported by 21% of respondents, 14% indicated they used their own online shop, 11% that they exhibited at galleries in other countries and 9% indicated they used retail outlets in their target market.
  • In terms of mentoring, it found that 43% had not received any mentoring, while 43% had received mentoring. A further 10% had been both a mentor and had been mentored at some stage.
  • For training needs, showcasing/presenting your work, marketing, accessing new markets and sales were the top four topics.

Further analysis on these survey results will be published over the coming weeks on and will be useful in highlighting the current issues facing entrepreneurs across this sector.

Under a creative momentum project, the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway will be undertaking a number of studies of the creative industries sector, and its value, to the partner regions.

Pauline White

County Incomes and Regional GDP 2012- WDC Report published

The WDC has just published Regional Income and Output-An Analysis of County Incomes and Regional, 2012 which examines income data for the Western Region counties and GVA figures for the regions, looking at the most recent data from the CSO County Incomes and Regional GDP and trends over time.

The headline figures are:

  • The household disposable income per person in the Western Region was €17,735 in 2012, 91.1% of the State average, which was €19,468.
  • In 2012 the highest level of disposable income in the seven Western Region counties was in Galway at €18,890.  This is 97% of the State average.  The lowest was in Donegal at €15,921 (81.8% of the State average).
  • The gap between the average household disposable income in the Western Region and the State in 2012 was 91.1%. Over the long term there has been a narrowing of the gap in disposable income with the Western Region 89.1% of the State average in 2000 and 84.3% in 1995.
  • In 2012 the GVA per person in the West region was €28,256 and €19,016 in the Border region.  These compare with a State figure of €34,308.
  • GVA in 2012 was still below that of 2007 in all regions except the West, where recovery in GVA has been strong.  It was still very significantly below that of 2007 in the Border and Midland regions.
  • The index of GVA (2012, State=100), for the Border region was 55.4 and the West region 82.4.  There has been a widening of disparities among regions since the recovery began.

Two short WDC Insights papers (each 2 pages) have also been published, one highlighting key points in relation to County Incomes and the other examining Trends in Regional GDP.

Regional Income and Output- A WDC ReportRegl income Output report image

County level data on household and per capita disposable incomes is released every year by the CSO alongside data on Gross Value Added (GVA) at a regional level.  This report provides a summary of key figures and trends. County Income data allows us to compare incomes among counties in the Western Region and to examine trends over time. The GVA data at regional level is important for tracking regional output levels and trends as well as changes among regions.

Download the report Regional Income and Output-2012 (PDF 1.5MB)

WDC Insights Trends in County Incomes in the Western RegionInsights inocme pic

This short WDC Insights highlights some of the trends in County Income in the Western  Region which were examined in the report Regional Income and Output. The county income data allows useful comparison among counties and show trends over time.

Download WDC Insights-Trends in County Incomes-Oct 2015 (PDF 0.2MB)

WDC Insights Trends in Regional Output

This WDC Insights presents key data and analysis of trends in regional GVA. This provides a measure Insights GDP pictureof the output and economic activity of each region and allows comparison among regions in Ireland and internationally and shows the relative changes among regions over time.

Download WDC Insights- Trends in regional GDP_Oct 2015 (PDF 0.2MB)



Helen McHenry


An Abundance of Rural Policy?

It seems that rural policies are like buses, nothing comes for a long time and then three arrive almost together. The REDZ Pilot Scheme allocations were announced by Minister of State Ann Phelan, a Town and Village Renewal Scheme was announced by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the National Ploughing Championships last week as part of the new Capital Investment Programme and finally, not a new scheme, but a reminder from Minister Coveney of the allocations for the next seven years under the Rural Development Programme.

The REDZ Pilot Scheme

Minister of State for Rural Affairs, Ann Phelan has just announced the allocation of €3.7 under the REDZ Pilot scheme to 26 pilot projects (rather than the 18 envisaged in the call for applications).

A list of the 51 projects allocated funding is available but there is no detail of the projects themselves. They are listed by REDZ title and it must be assumed that some of these projects are across two or more REDZ combining to make the 26 projects noted by Minister Phelan. There are 2 projects worth more than €200,000 (Drogheda and the Shannon Blueway) and a further 11 worth more than €100,000. Another 21 projects were allocated between €50,000 and €100,000 and 17 projects were under €50,000.

The press statement notes the aims and objectives of the REDZ pilot are to complement the objectives of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (RDP) as well as addressing the priorities identified for LEADER (poverty reduction, social inclusion and economic development of rural areas). Pending the success of the pilot initiative a call for proposals for a more extensive REDZ initiative under the LEADER elements of the RDP will take place during 2016 (see link above) and it seems €5m has been set aside for this (see below).

Rural Towns and Villages Renewal Scheme

How will the Rural Towns and Villages Renewal Scheme included in the new capital plan Building on Recovery Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021 announced by the Taoiseach at the Ploughing last week complement the REDZ scheme?  Here are the details from Building on Recovery:

The Exchequer will provide €5 million in 2016 through the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government as part of a new €30 million investment in rural towns and villages. The new scheme will support the revitalisation of rural towns and villages with the aim of improving the living and working environment in rural communities and enhancing their potential to support increased economic activity into the future.[1]

This scheme will be administered by the DECLG and operated by the local authorities (some more detail here[2]in a joint press release by Ministers Kelly and Phelan). It seems there will also be a regional development element in this scheme:

Included within this allocation is €1 million each year in 2016 and 2017 to establish a Strategic Regional Development Office in the Western Region under the Western Development Commission (WDC). This will co-ordinate the implementation of recommendations of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) in the region. This will be a pilot initiative and, if successful, could be replicated in other regions. [1].

The Rural Development Programme (2014-2020)

Finally, the Rural Development Programme (co-funded by the EU’s European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the national exchequer) will have an average spend of €313 million of EU funding annually (an aggregate sum of €2.19 billion over the 7-year Programme lifespan). The allocation for each measure was provided in a written answer to a parliamentary question by Minister Coveney and a recently published summary booklet provides detail in a format more accessible than the full programme document.

While titled the Rural Development Programme, this is effectively an agriculture support programme with one measure, LEADER, a broader rural development scheme. (The measures in the RDP are listed in the footnote below [3]).

Measure 19 ‘Support for LEADER local development’ has been allocated €250m for the programming period. Of this allocation €10m will be spent on ‘Cooperation Projects[4], €15m on the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine Artisan Foods Initiative; a €5m reserve has been allocated to the REDZ Initiative and the final €220m will be divided between the 28 sub regional areas (see full details here). Local Development strategies are being prepared under the following themes:

  • Rural Economic Development / Enterprise Development and Job Creation (incorporating Rural Tourism, Enterprise Development, Broadband, Rural Towns).
  • Social inclusion (building community capacity, training, animation and Rural Youth initiatives).
  • Rural Environment.

A new National Rural network will be established and funded under this Programme.

So where are we with Rural Policy?

It’s great that investments are being made to stimulate rural renewal and rural development. There have been many calls for it and much analysis (see CEDRA for example). Let’s hope that these schemes will be good value for money, focused on current policy objectives and, importantly, that they will achieve the most worthwhile outcomes for the people who are living in rural areas.

To return to the bus simile, we’ll have to have faith that those buses are taking rural policy where we want it to go.



Helen McHenry


[1]  Building on Recovery Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021 P 39


[3] 3.1 Measure 1 – Knowledge transfer and information actions

3.2 Measure 2 – Advisory services, farm management and farm relief services

3.3 Measure 4 – Investments in physical assets

3.4 Measure 7 – Basic services and village renewal in rural areas- Ireland 2014 – 2020. From the title this would seem to be focused on non agricultural rural development, but in actual fact it is “a complementary measure to GLAS, intended to encourage a holistic approach which increases understanding and management of both the natural and built/cultural heritage present on individual farms. Accordingly, participation in GLAS is the prime eligibility condition.”[4]

3.5 Measure 10 – Agri-environment-climate

3.6 Measure 11 – Organic farming

3.7 Measure 13 – Payments to areas facing natural or other specific constraints

3.8 Measure 16 – Co-operation

3.9 Measure 19 – Support for LEADER local development (CLLD – community-led local development)

[4] Projects where two or more LAGS work together, these projects can be national or international with the 2014-2020 programme placing a particular emphasis on Irish cross border cooperation

Women, men and the jobs recovery

In previous posts we’ve looked at the Western Region’s Labour Market and its Sectoral Profile, but how do these patterns differ by gender? Is the current jobs recovery impacting on men and women differently?

While jobs growth is underway in the country as a whole, as well as in the Western Region (though at a lower level), this has mainly been driven by growth in male jobs. Between 2012 and 2014 male employment in the rest of the state (all counties other than the seven counties of the Western Region) increased by 5.9% compared with 1.6% growth in female employment. In the Western Region over the same period, 2.9% growth in male jobs was in contrast to a -0.4% decline in the number of women at work. Women in general do not appear to be benefiting as much as men from the upturn in the labour market, and even more so in the Western Region. Why is this?

Jobs growth in sectors important for male employment, but decline in many female dominated sectors

Much of it stems from the sectoral jobs pattern and the relative performance of male and female dominated sectors. Fig. 1 shows the percentage of male and female jobs in each sector in the Western Region. Public and local services are the main areas of employment for women. The biggest gender difference is in Health and Social Work which accounts for 22% of women’s jobs compared with 4.3% of men’s. A total of 41.1% of working women in the region work in the predominantly public sectors (Health, Education & Public Administration). For men the figure is just 12.9%. Any reduction or lack of growth in public sector jobs has a far greater impact on women’s employment.

Accommodation and Food Service, ‘Other NACE Activities’, Financial, Insurance and Real Estate, and Administrative and Support Services also account for a greater share of women’s than men’s jobs. These are all predominantly local services which have been impacted by limited domestic demand.

Industry, Agriculture, Construction, and Transport and Storage are the most male dominated sectors. Industry accounts for twice as large a share of all male jobs as female. For the others, their share of all female jobs is very low. It is notable that the knowledge services sector of Information and Communication, often seen as a key future growth area, accounts for a far higher share of male than female jobs.

Fig. 1: Percentage of employment by sector and gender in the Western Region, Q1 2014 (Source:  CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Fig. 1: Percentage of employment by sector and gender in the Western Region, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Between 2012 and 2014 half of sectors (7 of 14) experienced an increase in employment in the Western Region (Fig. 2). Industry, Agriculture, Wholesale and Retail, and Accommodation and Food Service, the four largest male employment sectors, all experienced jobs growth. This contributed to the overall 2.9% growth in male jobs between 2012 and 2014.

However jobs in Health and Education declined in the region, while they rose in the rest of the state. Combined with declines in Finance, Other Services and Public Administration (all of which are more important female employers) these sectoral declines contributed to the -0.4% decline in women’s jobs in the region. The contraction of employment in Health and Education in particular has significant implications for women’s jobs, particularly in more rural areas of the region which have higher dependence on these sectors, partly due to limited alternative professional or clerical career opportunities.

Fig. 2: Percentage change in employment by sector in the Western Region and rest of the state, Q1 2012 to Q1 2014 (Source:  CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Fig. 2: Percentage change in employment by sector in the Western Region and rest of the state, Q1 2012 to Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Lower female participation

A distinct gender pattern obvious from Fig. 3  and Fig. 4 is the higher proportion of men who are active in the labour force. The region’s male labour force participation rate is 65.2% compared with a female rate of 50.4%. The gender gap in participation rates narrowed during the recession as participation among men, particularly young men, fell very dramatically while female rates remained steady. However 2014 saw some widening of the gender gap again as the female rate declined and the male rate rose. The weaker recent female jobs performance may be contributing to declining female participation in the labour market.

Fig. 3: Economic status of Western Region’s male population aged 15 years and over, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 1. Special run)

Fig. 3: Economic status of Western Region’s male population aged 15 years and over, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 1. Special run)

Higher male unemployment but gap narrowing

Despite the stronger recent growth in male jobs, there is still a far greater number of unemployed men in the region than women – 26,200 compared with 14,400 (Fig. 3 and Fig. 4). The massive increase in unemployment from 2008 was initially concentrated among men, given the job losses in building and related sectors, before spreading more widely across the domestic economy leading to rising female job losses (though at a lower level).

The fall in unemployment since 2012 has been stronger among men than women; meaning that while the unemployment rates for both sexes have declined, the rate of decline has been stronger among men, narrowing the gender gap. In 2012 there was a 5.5 percentage point gap, which narrowed to 4.0 percentage points by 2014 when the region’s male unemployment rate was 13.3% and the female 9.3%. Unemployment continues to be higher among men but the difference is declining.

Fig. 4: Economic status of Western Region’s female population aged 15 years and over, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 1. Special run)

Fig. 4: Economic status of Western Region’s female population aged 15 years and over, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 1. Special run)

Note: The percentages refer to the share of the adult population in each category. Therefore the percentage unemployed is not the same as the unemployment rate which refers to the number unemployed as a percentage of those in the labour force and not of the entire adult population.

Greater part-time working among women

The other key feature of Fig. 3  and Fig. 4 is the far greater share and level of part-time working among women. In 2014 almost twice as many women (52,600) as men (27,500) in the region were working part-time. As a proportion of total employment this was 37.4% of all working women compared with 16.1% of working men. A key aspect is the extent to which part-time working is by choice or involuntary. If a person would prefer to be working full-time (if a full-time job were available) they are considered to be part-time underemployment. For men who are working part-time, 40% are underemployed but for women it is 27%. The extent to which women choose part-time work is very often related to greater caring responsibilities and the availability (or lack) of appropriate and affordable care provision.

For both men and women the share working part-time is higher in the Western Region than the rest of the state. In the case of women, part-time working in the region has increased since 2012 (rising from 35.3% to 37.4%) while it has remained unchanged for women in the rest of the state and declined slightly among men in the region. Not only has total female employment in the region declined since 2012, but a greater proportion of those who are working are working part-time.

This analysis raises serious questions in relation to not only the spatial pattern of the current jobs recovery but also the gender pattern. Women in the Western Region appear to be experiencing the poorest jobs recovery; compared with men and also with women living elsewhere. The concentration of female jobs in public services and the recent employment declines in these sectors in the region seems to be one of the main reasons, a trend that requires further investigation.

Pauline White

The Western Region’s Sectoral Profile

We’ve just published WDC Insights-The Western Region’s Sectoral Profile-April 2015 (PDF 0.2MB) which presents the key findings from The Western Region’s Labour Market 2004-2014-WDC Report March 2015 (PDF 2.5MB) on the region’s sectoral pattern of employment.

Understanding the sectoral pattern of jobs in the region, and recent patterns of sectoral growth and decline, is particularly important to the development of job creation, skills and enterprise policy for the region.

Sector of employment

The two largest employment sectors in the Western Region are Wholesale and Retail, and Industry with around 30% of jobs (Fig. 1).  Of the region’s top seven sectors, all (except Health) account for a greater share of jobs in the region than the rest of the state.  Agriculture and Industry (manufacturing) are considerably more important in the region.  Among the region’s smaller sectors the share working in them in the region is considerably below that in the rest of the state.

In general the Western Region’s jobs profile relies more heavily than the rest of the state on the traditional sectors (Industry, Agriculture and Construction) and local services (Wholesale and Retail, and Accommodation and Food Service) which depend on domestic spending and tourism.  The region’s sectoral jobs pattern is influenced by its largely rural nature.

Fig. 1: Percentage of employment by sector in the Western Region and rest of the state, Q1 2014 (Source:  CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Fig. 1: Percentage of employment by sector in the Western Region and rest of the state, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Western Region’s share of jobs by sector

This jobs pattern can also be seen in the region’s share of national total jobs in each sector.  In total 16.5% of all jobs in the state are located in the Western Region (Fig. 2).  Agriculture, Industry and Construction are the sectors where the region makes its largest contribution to national jobs.

The region’s share of all Industry jobs nationally has increased very strongly in recent years from 16% in 2007 to its current 19.5%, due to its relatively more stable jobs performance in the region.  The region’s manufacturing strength is a key national asset and a previous blog post on ‘Trends in Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Region’ highlighted the industrial sub-sectors which have driven the region’s manufacturing strength.

The three knowledge intensive services sectors are where the region accounts for its lowest shares of national jobs.  Less than 10% of all Information and Communication, and Financial, Insurance and Real Estate jobs are based in the region and its share of both has declined since 2012.  Not only does the region have low shares in these sectors but it is losing ground.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total employment in the state based in the Western Region by sector, Q1 2014 (Source:  CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Fig. 2: Percentage of total employment in the state based in the Western Region by sector, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Recent changes in employment by sector

Between 2012 and 2014 half of sectors (7 of 14) experienced jobs growth in the Western Region (Fig. 3).  Agriculture grew most strongly followed by Professional, Scientific and Technical activities next.  Growth in these sectors contributed to the region’s increasing share of self-employment.  Wholesale and Retail and Accommodation and Food Service also grew as this period coincided with an increase in overseas visitor numbers as well as consumer spending.

The Western Region experienced a far greater jobs decline than the rest of the state across many sectors, including knowledge intensive services and public services.  In the case of Information and Communication, employment fell by nearly 16% in the region but it had the fourth largest growth in the rest of the country (5.2%).  The reasons for the Western’s Region poor, and weakening, jobs performance in this high growth potential sector need to be investigated.

Fig. 3: Percentage change in employment by sector in the Western Region and rest of the state, Q1 2012 to Q1 2014 (Source:  CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Fig. 3: Percentage change in employment by sector in the Western Region and rest of the state, Q1 2012 to Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

These key aspects of the Western Region’s labour market should inform the development of the upcoming Action Plan for Jobs for the West, Border and Mid-West regions.  The region’s labour market characteristics should influence which policies are prioritised for the region and the sectors of focus for job creation strategies.

Download WDC Insights The Western Region’s Sectoral Profile and full report ‘The Western Region’s Labour Market 2004-2014’ here

Pauline White


Note: The CSO has noted concerns over the impact of the new sampling structure on the employment figures for Agriculture. 

Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 1 2004-2014, special run


WDC presents on Creative Economy to JOC

The WDC was invited to present to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation on its work in developing the Creative Economy. On Tuesday 21 April, the WDC as well as NUI Galway, Teagasc, the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland and TG4 presented on the potential for job creation, innovation and balanced economic development in the creative sector.

The WDC has worked with this sector since 2008. At that time, after the collapse of the building sector and its knock-on impacts across the domestic economy, there was a clear need to identify and support new sources of regional economic growth and job creation. The creative industries sector was in many ways an obvious choice for the region as it is mainly made up of self-employed or micro-enterprises with people quite embedded in their local area. The sector was showing strong growth internationally and could create jobs and contribute to tourism, including in rural areas.

As there was little research in Ireland at the time, the WDC commissioned Creative Sector Baseline Report 2008 (PDF 2.5MB) to investigate the size and nature of the region’s creative sector and to identify its key issues. The Creative West 2009 (PDF 1.9MB) report found that there were 4,800 businesses in the creative sector in the Western Region, employing 11,000 people and generating €534m in annual turnover, directly contributing €270m to the Gross Value Added of the regional economy.   There was limited export activity however with two-thirds not engaged in any exporting. The majority of those in the sector were self-employed with 40% working alone and almost 90% being micro-enterprises.

Quality of life and inspiration from the region’s landscape and culture were among the strongest motivators for creative people to live and work in the Western Region. They faced a number of constraints however that can be addressed by policy and enterprise supports. Chief among these are high bandwidth broadband for creative enterprises operating in rural areas, difficulties in finding and recruiting specific skills, and quite limited networking with others in the sector and wider business community.   Creative businesses often do not fit easily into the eligibility criteria for enterprise funding and may find it difficult to access finance.

The report set out a series of recommendations for developing the sector in the region which have formed the basis of the WDC’s activities to support the sector. Under Creative Edge  (a €1.2m transnational EU-funded project, 2011-2013) the WDC developed the website to provide an online showcase for creative enterprises, with over 550 now profiled on the site. The new 3-year, €2m Creative Momentum project will further develop new routes to export markets for creative enterprises, as well as providing international networking opportunities with creative enterprises from Northern Ireland, Iceland, Sweden and Finland. The WDC Micro-Loan Fund: Creative Industries  provides loans of €5,000-€25,000 to creative enterprises and to date has funded 12 creative enterprises across the Western Region.

Nationally the Action Plan for Jobs identified the creative sector as one of the key sectoral opportunities for economic growth and job creation in Ireland. As the new Action Plan for Jobs – Regional process develops, it is important that the potential of the creative industries to contribute to sustainable job creation and enterprise growth at a regional level be recognised and the sector supported. Under the Creative Edge project the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway developed the Creative Edge Policy Toolkit which set out a number of recommendations on policy actions that could be taken to support the sector’s growth. This could provide a useful input.

The Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA)  has also identified creative industries as a key growth sector for rural economic diversification and recommended the development of a coordinated strategy for the sector that places specific focus on its potential to contribute to the rural economy. Such a coordinated strategy however needs to be worked out through sector-specific policies and actions in the areas of enterprise support, job creation, culture, skills development and regional economic development to make a meaningful contribution.

A full transcript of the discussion at the JOC can be found here

Pauline White

Farmers in the West are getting older

The age profile of farmers in the Western Region is changing. Farmers are getting older and by 2010 for each farmer under 35 there were more than 10 farmers over 55 years of age. This changing age profile has implications for the type and amount of output from farms in the West.

The most recent Census of Agriculture[1] (2010) shows that more than half (56%) of the farmers in the Western Region (31,467) were over the age of 55, with 30% of these over 65 years of age (see Fig. 1). There is a higher proportion of farms in the older age categories now than in the last two decades. In 1991 50% of Western Region farmers were over 55, but by 2000 this had fallen to 44% before increasing again in 2010. While the number of Western Region farmers past retirement age is significant (16,838) the age profile of farmers in the region is similar to that in the EU where 30% of farmers are over 65 and only 10% under 35.

Figure 1: Farmers in the Western Region by Age Category, 2010

pie age fers2 15.04.15


There were only 2,999 (5%) farmers aged under 35 in the Western Region in 2010 and fewer younger farmers now than in either 2000, or 1991 (the previous agricultural censuses) when farmers under 35 made up 11% of farmers in the region (Fig. 2).


Figure 2: Age Categories of Farmers in Western Region 1991 to 2010

 combi bar age fers15.04.15

Farmers in the Western Region have tended to be older than those in the rest of Ireland (in 1991 43% of farmers in the rest of Ireland were over 55 compared to 50% in the Western Region) but the pattern of change is very similar with fewer farmers in the Rest of Ireland in older age categories in 2000 (37% in Rest of Ireland, 44% in Western Region) and in 2010 when 48% in the Rest of Ireland were aged 55 years and older and 56% in the Western Region.

As mentioned in a previous post, much of the structural change in agriculture occurred between 1991 and 2000, and this was associated with older farmers leaving agriculture and increased opportunity for younger famers to take over farm holdings. There has been less change in farm numbers and size since then and numbers in the older age categories have again increased.

Improved efficiency and productivity on farm tends to be associated with younger farmers with older farmers less likely to invest in their farms. With almost of a third of Western Region famers over the retirement age there are significant implications for the development of agriculture in the region.


Helen McHenry

[1] CSO, 2010 Census of Agriculture 2010

Regions and Recovery?

Discussion of regional performance and the spread of growth are back on the agenda with the preparation of the Regional Action Plan for Jobs and the new National Planning Framework.   The recent CSO publication of the 2012 data on County Incomes and Regional GDP[1] provides some insight into regional performance.

On county incomes the CSO note that of the eight regional authority areas, the Dublin region had the highest average disposable income per person in 2012. At €22,011 it was 13% higher than the State figure of €19,468. Of the remaining seven regions, only the Mid West, at €19,701, had an average disposable income per person 1.2% higher than the State average. The Border region with €17,126 and Midland region with €17,288 fared worst among the eight regions at approximately 12% each below the State average.

The gap between the maximum and minimum value of disposable income per person per region increased from €4,325 in 2011 (revised) to €4,885 in 2012, with Dublin regional incomes increasing by €400 and those of the lowest region, the Midland region in 2011 and now the Border region in 2012, decreasing by €160.

Dublin remains the only region with higher per capita disposable income than the State average during the entire 2003-2012 period while the Midland, Border and West regions have consistently earned less than the State average. For the same period (2003-2012) the CSO note that divergence between the regional authority areas was at its lowest in 2010, with a difference between maximum and minimum disposable incomes of €3,467, but has widened in 2011 and 2012.

county incomes 2012

Source: CSO County incomes and regional GDP 2012

The CSO also published the Regional Gross Value Added (GVA) figures for 2012 and the chart below of GVA per person at Basic Prices, 2003 to 2012, shows the growth in all regions in the period up to 2007 and the effect of the financial crash on all regions. Since then (to 2012) there was continued decline or stagnation in regional output in the Border, Midland and Mid East regions, while GVA growth in the Dublin and the West resumed in 2010.

GVA per person at Basic Prices, 2003 to 2012

Regl GVA per person 03-12

Source: CSO County incomes and regional GDP 2012, Table 9

GVA per person showed considerable variation among the eight regions, with the highest in Dublin €51,839 (151% of the state average) and the lowest in the Midland region (€18,638, 54% of the state average). In the West, GVA per person was €28,256 (82% of the state average) and in the Border region it was €19,016 in 2012, 55% of the state average. Clearly the structure of regional economies is important here. The WDC will produce further more detailed analysis of this CSO data in the coming weeks.

Also last week, as part of its quarterly economic bulletin, the Nevin Institute for Economic Research noted that “concerns persist that the recovery has yet to spread across the country – a phenomenon typified by weak or limited employment growth in regions outside Dublin and its hinterland.[2]

They also considered the meaning of this trend:

“It is not yet clear whether the regional trend represents A) a structural shift in the Irish economy towards the Greater Dublin Area with stagnation or decline persisting into the future in the western half of the country, or, alternatively, B) represents a temporary phenomenon whereby the economy recovery currently taking hold in Dublin gradually extends out to other regions.”  NERI Quarterly Economic Observer (QEO) Spring 2015 Pg 9

While the recovery is underway, it is happening earliest and fastest in Dublin, and while economic growth is very welcome it needs to spread beyond Dublin and other big urban centres. As the WDC noted in its 2010 Policy Briefing “Why care about regions?” the impact of growth in all regions is significant for the national economy as a whole. Lagging regions generate an important part of national economic output and where there are underused resources in lagging regions mobilising them will add to overall national economic growth.

Bringing about convergence is less important than improving the performance of all regions. In order to promote regional growth, policymakers need to develop a comprehensive regional policy which not only links regions through infrastructural investments, but also fosters human capital, and facilitates innovation.  If regional strengths and areas of comparative advantage are taken into account in the implementation of national enterprise policy, it is likely to be far more effective. Hopefully this will be the case in the forthcoming Regional Action Plans for Jobs

 Truly national growth involves growth in all regions. If regional policy is effective it will result in a country with better options for all.


Helen McHenry


[1] CSO County incomes and regional GDP 2012

[2] NERI Quarterly Economic Observer (QEO) Spring 2015, Pg 1,

International Air Access and the Western Region

Direct international air access is essential to the economy of the Western Region. For enterprises, quality transport links between producers, consumers and suppliers are needed to trade efficiently. Without good international connections, companies in the Region are at a competitive disadvantage compared to others, both within and outside Ireland. Additionally, the ability of the Region to attract new investment is hampered.

Air is the preferred form of travel for most tourists, with 82% of overseas visitors to the West arriving in Ireland by air. The value of direct international air access in supporting regional tourism is significant. Data suggests that those arriving into a Western airport are more valuable as they spend more time in the area. The Western region’s airports offer essential access for incoming visitors, linking into the 2,500 km Wild Atlantic Way route. Ireland West Airport Knock and Donegal airport are the main access points to the Western and Northern sections; Shannon airport to the Southern part.

Connectivity is vital for industry and tourism in the West of Ireland. Shannon airport is the only airport on the Western seaboard with hub connectivity via London Heathrow, although Ireland West Airport Knock has connections to other London airports. There are no other direct links from Shannon or Ireland West Airport to other European hubs. In the event of a decision to sell its shareholding, it is critical that the Government ensures that Shannon and Ireland West Airport maintain existing levels of connectivity to Europe and the US.

The two international airports located in the Western Region; Shannon and Ireland West Airport Knock, along with Donegal regional airport are critical elements of the transport infrastructure of the Western Region. The WDC has previously made a submission to the Department of Transport see here, setting out its views on the formulation of the forthcoming National Aviation Policy, expected later this year.

Deirdre Frost

Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Counties

The WDC published its report on ‘Trends in Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Region’ last week. This included an analysis of data for each of the seven western counties. The main findings for the western counties are:

  •  Galway: In 2013, there were 23,650 people working in agency assisted jobs. Galway has the third highest share in Ireland of agency assisted jobs as a share of total jobs at 23.5%. Over 60% of agency assisted jobs in Galway are in foreign owned companies (2013), this is the highest level for the past ten years. Since 2010 employment in assisted foreign owned companies grew by 19% while in Irish owned it only grew 3%. Modern Manufacturing, which includes medical devices and ICT, is Galway’s largest sector and in 2013 reached its highest level with 8,750 permanent full-time jobs.
  • Clare: In 2013, there were 9,250 people working in agency assisted jobs. Clare has the fifth highest share in Ireland of agency assisted jobs as a share of total jobs at 20.3%. Just over 40% of agency assisted jobs in Clare are in foreign owned companies (2013); this is considerably lower than ten years ago. Since 2010 jobs in assisted Irish owned companies in Clare have remained relatively stable, while foreign owned have continued to decline, with some slight recovery in 2013. Traditional Manufacturing is Clare’s largest sector and has grown since 2011, as has Modern Manufacturing. Assisted jobs in the international services sectors are declining however, which has meant that total assisted jobs have not grown.
  • Mayo: In 2013, there were 8,310 people working in agency assisted jobs. The total number in Mayo is close to the 2006/2007 peak and a higher share are now in permanent full-time jobs. Mayo had the second highest growth in agency assisted jobs in the Western Region in 2013 at 4.9%. There was stronger growth in foreign owned companies (6.1%) than Irish owned (2.7%) in that year. Assisted jobs in Mayo are almost evenly divided between foreign and Irish companies. Mayo’s largest assisted employment sector is Modern Manufacturing, which includes medical devices and chemicals, with almost 3,000 permanent full-time jobs. This is its highest level in the past ten years.
  • Donegal: In 2013, there were 7,850 people working in agency assisted jobs. The biggest change in the county over the past ten years is the rise in the share that are permanent full-time from 78% to 86.3% (2004-2013). The total number of agency assisted jobs in Donegal was up 4.4% in 2013. Donegal has the lowest share of its assisted jobs in foreign owned companies in the Western Region at 38.1%, although this is the county’s highest share of the past ten years. While assisted jobs in foreign owned companies have been growing since 2010, those in Irish owned companies showed their first increase since 2007 in 2013. Information and Communications is the assisted sector with the strongest recent jobs growth, up 30.9% between 2010 and 2013.
  • Sligo: In 2013, there were 3,880 people working in agency assisted jobs. 15.3% of total jobs in the county were agency assisted, which is below the state average (19.3%). Of total agency assisted jobs, 12.5% are temporary/part-time. This is below the Western Region average but the highest level in Sligo between 2004 and 2013. Some 55.6% of assisted jobs in Sligo are in foreign owned companies; lower than a decade earlier. Irish owned assisted employment has grown steadily since 2011 and was up 4.8% in 2013. Sligo’s second largest assisted sector – Traditional Manufacturing – has had the strongest recent growth, up a fifth (21.5%) between 2010 and 2013.
  • Roscommon: In 2013, there were 2,360 people working in agency assisted jobs. Roscommon had the highest growth in such jobs in the Western Region in 2013 at 6%. This growth was driven by Irish owned companies. 2013 was the first year that agency assisted jobs grew in Roscommon since 2007; later than in most other counties. In a national context, the county has a low share of agency assisted jobs. Agency assisted jobs in Roscommon are very concentrated in manufacturing. At 51.2%, the share of Roscommon’s agency assisted jobs that are in the Modern Manufacturing sector, which includes medical devices and pharma, is the second highest in Ireland. The sector showed strong growth in 2013 (6.6%), with Traditional Manufacturing also increasing (10.1%).
  • Leitrim: In 2013, there were 1,310 people working in agency assisted jobs. Leitrim has the highest share of its agency assisted jobs in foreign owned companies (62.9%) in the region and is third highest nationally. Despite this, agency assisted jobs in Leitrim declined in each year between 2004 and 2013. All other western counties, except Clare, have seen some recovery since 2010. While total numbers are declining, Irish owned assisted jobs in Leitrim have begun to recover, up 8.4% in 2013. International Services was Leitrim’s largest agency assisted sector for most of the ten years. In 2012 it was surpassed by Traditional Manufacturing which is now the largest. However, the Modern Manufacturing sector has performed best in recent years with permanent full-time jobs up 8.3% in 2013.

Download the two page WDC Insights, full report and 7 county profiles here