Agency Workers – How Many Are There and Where do they Work?

Introduction

There is much discussion about the growth of ‘atypical’ forms of work – such as e-working, remote working, the gig, shared economy and temporary work etc.

The WDC has previously examined various aspects of atypical ways of working, identifying the extent to which it occurs in the Western Region, whether patterns differ to that elsewhere in the country, all aimed at informing labour market policy and identifying recommendations to support better employment opportunities in the Region.

The WDC Policy Briefing (No. 7) e-Working in the Western Region: A Review of the Evidence, examined the extent of e-work (also referred to as teleworking or remote working) in the Western Region, see here. Working at or from home can take different forms and this Policy Briefing examines e-working in traditional employer-employee relationships. The WDC also published case-studies of e-working in the Western Region which highlights a wide range of e-working experiences, see here.

A two page WDC Insights paper examined the gig or shared economy and how broadband and online platforms have enabled new forms of work and income generation to emerge. The paper examines the evidence on the extent to which Gig economy exists in the Western Region, download here.

In the third of the series, the WDC examined working from home. Based on Census of Population data which identifies whether people work ‘mainly at or from home’. The Census definition is self-assigned and can include those who work full-time from home or working from home on at least three days of a five day working week, see here. The WDC have suggested a change to Census 2021, to which the CSO has agreed, which will include a question asking people to list the number of days per week in which they work from home.

Agency Worker Employment

Another aspect of atypical working includes agency worker employment. Sometimes it is suggested that this type of employment is on the rise and is often less secure or more precarious than traditional employment forms.  Agency work, especially that which is temporary, is often considered insecure employment. Is it a phenomenon largely associated with periods of high unemployment and a fragile economy where employers are reluctant to recruit permanent employees or is it a feature of the business model of some companies?

Research conducted for the European Parliament found evidence of an increase in temporary employment as a consequence of the global economic crash a decade ago. The report noted, The financial crisis and its aftermath has been one driver affecting risk of precariousness in Europe. As employers and employees find themselves operating in a more competitive and uncertain context post-crisis, new hirings have increasingly taken place on the basis of temporary and marginal part-time contracts. This rise in atypical contracting has meant that job insecurity has increased significantly in some countries, such as Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Latvia and Greece, involuntary temporary work has increased significantly in Ireland, but also in Latvia and involuntary part-time working has increased significantly in Italy, Lithuania, Spain, Ireland, Latvia and Greece. The link to the full report (5.4MB) is here.

Examining more recent data at a regional level in Ireland, the CSO provide a broad regional breakdown at NUTS 3 level. In this blogpost we review the latest CSO data on agency worker employment examining trends and how the regions compare, see here for full release published in August 2019.

CSO definition

The CSO Labour Force Survey captures the levels of agency workers by asking the following question of all employees in the LFS: Do you have a contract with an employment agency that placed you in your current job and your salary? Yes or No. Responses are therefore based on self-reporting.

Nationally, in Q4 2017, there were 56,200 employees classified as agency workers, and in Q1 2019 the number had decreased to 50,400, a decrease of 5,800.

Examining trends by region, the trends are somewhat different as graph 1 below shows. Both the Northern and Western region and the Eastern and Midland region have a somewhat similar trend, albeit at different levels, unsurprising given the relative size of the numbers employed in each region.

In the Northern and Western Region, (depicted by the black line), the numbers of agency workers at the start of the period was 12,700, there was a decline to 4,300 in Q4 2018 and at the end of the period (Q1 2019) it was 7,500. It should be noted that the LFS is a survey and the results are weighted to conform to population estimates broken down by age, sex and region. Where there are smaller numbers, estimates are considered to have a wider margin of error and so should be treated with caution. In the data above, this wider margin of error has occurred where numbers fall below 7,500.

The Eastern and Midland Region (the orange line), starts with a level of agency workers of 27,000 at the end of 2017. At the end of the period the number of agency workers in the Eastern and Midland region was 22,200.

The Southern region (green line), displays a different trend, starting at 16,500, rising to 20,900 in Q2 2018, dipping at the end of Q4 2018 and then rising again in Q1 2019 to 20,700. It is not clear why the trend in the Southern region is somewhat different and this will be discussed further below.

Regional Share of Agency Workers

Examining agency workers as a share and proportion of all employees, Graph 2 below shows the regional share of employees who are agency workers over the period Q4 2017 to Q1 2019.

At the end of the period, in Q1 2019, the Northern & Western Region accounts for 14.9% of all agency workers in the country, the Southern Region accounts for 41.1% and the Eastern and Midland region accounts for 44%. The respective shares have changed over the last two years, with the Northern and Western Region accounting for a decreased share (22.6% in Q4 2017 to [14.9%] in Q1 2019. The Southern Region has increased its share (from 29.4% in 2017 to 41.1% in Q1 2019.

Proportion of employees who are agency workers

Given the different sizes of each regional labour market it is important to see the extent to which agency workers as a proportion of all employees, varies across time and region. This is illustrated in Graph 3 below.

Nationally (depicted by the blue line), in Q4 2017 agency workers comprised 3% of all employees. This proportion declined to 2.6% at the start of 2019. Both the Northern and Western and Eastern and Midland regions had proportions below the national average.

The Northern and Western region, depicted by the black line, started the period with the highest proportion of employees as agency workers (4.1%), but this has since declined to 1.4% and was recorded at 2.4% in Q1 2019. The Eastern and Midland region trend (depicted by the orange line) is very similar to the national trend albeit at a lower level.

For most of the period, the proportion of employees who are agency workers is the highest in the Southern region (depicted by the green line). At the start of the period under review, Q4 2017, the rate in the Southern region is lower than the national figure – 2.8% and 3.0% respectively. However, from Q1 2018 through to the end of 2019 the proportion of employees that are agency workers is consistently higher in the Southern Region than the national average.

Conclusions

The Southern region comprises the Mid-West (Clare, Limerick & North Tipperary), the South-East (Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford) and the South-West (Cork and Kerry). In the absence of NUTS 3 regional data it is difficult to know whether there may be specific concentrations associated with a concentration in industry sectors that may be more prevalent in the Southern region.

The CSO data does provide other information on the profile of agency worker employment. For example, nationally 52% of agency workers are female. There is a sectoral concentration within the Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Industry and Construction sectors where a quarter of all agency employees are employed. There is also a high concentration of agency workers in the Human health and social work activities sector, see here for full release.

Discussions with the CSO indicate it is difficult to ascertain why there is a relatively high share in the Southern region. The CSO point out that the LFS is a survey, the margin of error of the estimates can be greater with smaller cell sizes. More trend data will be needed to see if it is a more established trend and a particularly stronger feature of employment in the Southern Region or if it becomes a stronger feature of employment when economic growth is not as strong.

However, the availability of these data does allow us to monitor trends and helps us build a picture of the range and types of employment, all of which is critical to formulating and improving employment policy.

 

 

Deirdre Frost

Low carbon transition for Western Region homes- what’s the base line?

One of the most important elements of the transition to a low carbon rural region will be emissions reduction from homes in the Western Region by improving energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy sources for heating in particular (as discussed in the last blog post on this topic the focus of current WDC work on the transition is on rural dwellers).  The government, in the Climate Action Plan 2019, has set very ambitious targets for improving energy efficiency (retrofitting 500,000 buildings to a much higher level of efficiency (BER B2 or cost optimal or carbon equivalent) and moving to more renewable heat sources (with a target to install 600,000 heat pumps  (of which 400,000 will be in existing buildings).  In order to understand how what needs to be done to meet these targets we need to know where we are starting from.  This post sets out, in detail, some of the baseline information on homes in the Western Region.  Knowing the current situation means that we can better understand what we need to do to make the transition possible and ways to make it happen.

Homes in the Western Region

To understand the challenge it is first useful to look at the number and types of homes in the seven county Western Region.  According to Census 2016 there were 303,081 ‘permanent housing units’, that is all permanent residents excluding caravans, mobile homes and other temporary structures, (these accounted for 987 residences in 2016).  While newer homes have been built since the Census in 2016, the numbers are relatively small and those homes are not the focus of the efficiency and energy upgrades envisaged in the Climate Action Plan, so the Census remains the key data source.  The Western Region, in 2016, accounted for 17.98% of the permanent homes in Ireland which is in line with the share of the population living in the region (17.4%).

Galway county had the largest number of homes (62,729) and when combined with Galway city (as it is in some data discussed below) it has significantly more homes (91,556) than other Western Region counties.  Leitrim, the smallest Western Region county, had 12,404 homes (see Figure 1 below).

 

Figure 1: Permanent homes by county in the Western Region, 2016

Source: CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1002

 

The types of homes in the Region are also important, given that different types have different levels of energy efficiency and can have different options for switching to more renewable energy sources. For example, terraced houses will have lower heat loss than detached houses while flats and apartments are more suited to a central or district heating systems than more dispersed housing.  Figure 2 shows the significance of different housing types in the region and state.

 

Figure 2: Type of permanent housing units in the Western Region, 2016

Source: CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1002

Clearly, with the exception of Galway city, detached houses are the most common housing type in the region (64% of all homes in the region compared to 37% of homes in the rest of the state).  As would be expected the more rural counties have an even higher proportion of detached homes (Leitrim 73%, Roscommon 74%).  Counties with a higher urban population (Clare 59%, Sligo 57%) have a smaller proportion of detached homes but all are still above the state average (42%.  As noted above this has implications for the types of changes we need to make in relation to efficiency and heat sources.

The age of homes in the region is also important to planning the transition.  Figure 3 shows when homes in the different counties were built.  Significant house building in all counties between 2001 and 2010 is very apparent, with more than 30% of homes in Galway County (32%), Leitrim (35%), Roscommon (31%) and Donegal (31%) built in that period, while all other Western Region counties also have a higher proportion of homes built in that period than the rest of the state (25%).  Homes built in the different periods have different requirements for energy efficiency upgrades, and will face different costs and challenges.  The oldest homes will often face the most significant challenges, though it should also be recognised that they are not necessarily the least efficient.  More than a quarter of homes in Leitrim (26%) were built before 1960 while only 17% of those in Donegal were. In Galway City only 10% of homes were built before 1960.

 

Figure 3: Age of homes in the Western Region, 2016

Source: CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1005

 

While there will be different requirements for transforming homes from different eras, given the more recent improvement in building standards it is generally assumed that homes built  after 2010 will require least upgrading and therefore the focus of the SEAI grants, for example for heat pump  installation, is on homes built before 2011.  Figure 4 shows the proportions of homes in the Western Region built before and after 2011 (excluding those not stated).  In most counties, and in the State, only 2% of homes were built from 2011 onward (the exceptions are Galway City (1%) and Galway County (3%).

Figure 4: Number of Homes built pre and post 2011 in the Western Region, 2016

Source: CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1005

 

Evidently there is a very significant amount of work ahead with almost 98% of homes likely to require energy efficiency upgrades and fuel switching to complete a move to a low carbon economy. There are of course some pre 2011 exceptions such as the small number of homes which were built to higher efficiency standards than required or which have completed the process already).

 

Efficiency of Homes: Building Energy ratings (BER)

A Building Energy Rating (BER) certificate indicates a building’s energy performance rates on a scale of A-G. A-rated homes are the most energy efficient and G-rated are the least energy efficient.  It is calculated through energy use for space and hot water heating, ventilation, and lighting.  Figure 5 shows the different energy ratings given to buildings covered in each county up to 2018.  In all counties more than 90% of homes achieve a B3 rating or less.  While this data is very useful, in most areas fewer than a third of homes (often considerably fewer) have had a BER assessment[1] and so it is not clear if the homes which have been assessed accurately reflect the housing stock.

Figure 5: Percentage of rated buildings in each BER class for Western Region counties, 2019

Source: CSO, 2019, Domestic Building Energy Rating Table EBA02

 

The Climate Action Plan focus is on improving homes to a BER rating of at least B2 (or cost optimal or carbon equivalent.  Currently in the Western Region Galway and Mayo perform best with 5% of homes with a BER rating achieving B2 while only 2% in Leitrim and Roscommon do so.

The SEAI has recently produced an interactive map of BER ratings and with detailed BER data mapped at small area level.  Figure 6 below is a snapshot the national map where green DEDs have a median rating of B and above (there are not many on the map), while yellow shows DEDs with A median C rating, orange  is D, Red is E, Dark red, F and purple G.  The map should be viewed with caution as many DEDs have fewer than 20% of their homes with a BER rating and so the data may be skewed.  It is, however, really useful for planning and can be viewed in full here.

 

Figure 6: Map of median BER ratings by ED

 

Source: SEAI https://www.seai.ie/technologies/seai-maps/ber-map/

 

Fuels used in home heating.

While much of the discussion above has related to improving energy efficiency in homes, the other element necessary for reducing the carbon foot print of our homes is the fuel used for heating.  We will need to decarbonise the fuels used, by switching to renewable energy which may be electrical (generated from wind, solar or, in future, ocean energy), or bioenergy (e.g. wood energy, biogas from anaerobic digestion or a liquid biofuel).

The highest priorities for change are buildings heated using the most carbon intensive fuels (oil, coal and peat) and homes in the Western Region are particularly reliant on these, being rural, with little access to the natural gas grid and often using very traditional forms of central heating.  Figure 7 below shows the percentage use of oil and solid fuels (excluding wood energy) used in homes in the Western Region (from Census 2016).  In the Western Region as a whole more than four fifths of homes use oil, coal or peat for central heating, compared with 44% of homes in the rest of the state.  In Donegal 9 out of 10 homes use these fuels, with Mayo and Roscommon almost as high (each 87%).  Galway city has the lowest use of these fuels in the region (57%) and even that is higher than in the rest of the state.  Clearly homes in Western Region counties need to be prioritised in the switch to low carbon heating.

Figure 7: Oil and solid fuel as a percentage of central heating fuels in Western Region counties

Source: CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1053

 

While much of the discussion on home heat (e.g. in the Climate Action Plan) has focussed on heat pump installation, it may be that homes heated using coal and peat might find a switch to other renewable solid biomass such as wood energy to be more appropriate, especially in older homes which will need very significant retrofitting and may have particular ventilation requirements.  The focus of heat pump installation may therefore be on homes heated using oil.  Figure 8 below shows the percentage of homes in Region which use oil for central heating.

 

Figure 8: Oil as a percentage of central heating fuels in Western Region counties

Source: CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1053

Almost 60% of homes in the Western Region use oil for central heating compared to 36% in the rest of the state.  Again Galway city is lowest (at 50%) with the highest oil use in Leitrim (65%) and Donegal (64%).  A fifth of homes in Galway city (21%) are using electricity for heating which reflects the higher number of flats and apartments there (21%).  Roscommon has relatively low oil use (55%) because of the very significant use of peat (27%) to fuel central heating.  Homes in Galway county also commonly use peat (23%).

 

Heat Pump ready?

While it is important to change the type of energy used to heat homes in the Region, as discussed above  energy efficiency and good insulation are the first steps which need to be taken with a ‘fabric first’ approach advocated by SEAI for home energy improvement.  This is particularly important when heat pumps are to be installed as the home must be well insulated in order for heat pumps to work properly.

SEAI have used Heat Loss Indicator (HLI) data from BER certifications (see more here) to assess how many homes built prior to 2010 are ready to have heat pumps installed.  A prerequisite for heat pump installation is a HLI of ≤ 2 W/K/m2 and the percentage of homes ready for heat pump installation in the Western Region is shown in Figure 9 below.  Interestingly, this is a similar percentage of homes[2] in the Western Region (11.7%) as in the Rest of the State (12.8%).  Sligo is the Western Region county with the highest proportion of heat pump ready homes (15.6%) followed by Galway (14.0%) and Leitrim (12.6%).  Roscommon (8.6%) and Mayo (9.3%) have the lowest number of homes ready for heat pumps.

Figure 9: Heat Pump ready homes (HLI ≤2) by Western Region county

Source: https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableEnergyAut/key-learnings-from-the-seai-heat-pump-programme and CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1002. Own calculations.

 

The HLI of ≤ 2 is the most stringent measure of heat pump readiness, but given the very significant target for heat pump installation in the Climate Action Plan (400,000 in existing homes by 2030) if it also useful to look at other homes which are close to this level of readiness.  SEAI have, therefore, also estimated the number of homes which are heat pump ready using a HLI of ≤2.3 with certain caveats (see this for the detail of these).

 

Using this measure there are a considerably higher proportion of heat pump ready homes (see Figure 10) in the Western Region (23.2%)[3] which is higher than the rest of the State (22.5%).  Again Sligo has the most heat pump ready homes (27.8%) with Galway (23.9%), Leitrim (24.1%) and Clare 23.9% all higher than the Region average.  The lowest proportion of homes ready for a heat pump is in Roscommon (18%) and Mayo (19.4%).

 

Figure 10: Heat Pump ready homes (HLI ≤2.3) by Western Region county

Source: https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableEnergyAut/key-learnings-from-the-seai-heat-pump-programme and CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1002. Own calculations.

 

Although only 23% of homes are currently heat pump ready in the Western Region this still amounts to 65,187 homes in total in the region (and 351,295 in total for the state).  Prioritising these homes would make a very significant start on meeting the target in the Climate Action Plan.

Conclusion

In this post I have given some of the baseline information necessary for planning the transformation of our Western Region homes to more energy efficient, low carbon dwellings.  Clearly the scale of the transformation required is enormous and some of the issues which need to be addressed and actions which might be put in place will be discussed in my next post.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] BERs are usually done because a home is to be sold and a BER cert is required for this.

[2] Heat pump ready homes by county is shown as a percentage of permanent homes built before 2011 from CSO Census of Population 2016.

[3] This figure includes all those homes with a HLI of ≤2.0

Reprioritising and Updating Transport Policy and Investment

Recently, there have been a few publications which focus on the need to reprioritise policy and investment across various aspects of Irish transport infrastructure and services.

The Irish Exporters Association (IEA) has published a paper entitled Building a Transport infrastructure that fosters Irish exports to the world, see here. The IEA, whose focus is on supporting Irish exporters and ensuring efficient international transport access, sets out policies and recommendations which they believe are necessary to more effectively support exporters across Ireland. From a Western Region context, a few of these are particularly relevant.

Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC)

The IEA believes that the Atlantic Economic Corridor needs to be supported through improved connectivity from the North West to the South West of Ireland. The IEA sees the AEC and Ireland’s regions as an important counterbalance to Dublin and the transport infrastructure needs to more effectively support Ireland’s agri-food and Life Sciences industries along with all other industrial clusters located there.

Rail Freight development

The IEA are asking for policy supports to move more freight by rail, noting the relatively tiny share of traffic carried by rail in Ireland (0.9%) compared to an EU average of 17% in 2016. The Western Region is the source of most rail freight in Ireland. The IEA is asking for supports such as reduced track access charges for rail freight, which is a practice common across Europe. This is discussed further in a report commissioned by the WDC and available here. Apart from the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (rail freight can reduce the carbon footprint by 70%), the other significant driver is the huge degree of congestion which generates significant costs, highlighted in a report discussed further below.

Ports

The IEA believe that with Dublin Port operating at or near capacity, further upgrading and diversifying Ireland’s export gateways must be a strategic Government priority. This need is compounded by Brexit. The IEA believe the Government should further develop Ireland’s regional seaports to provide exporters across Ireland with viable, cost efficient and accessible alternatives to Dublin port. They welcome the proposed redevelopment of both Rosslare and Galway Ports.

Airports and air cargo

Similar to the concentration of traffic through Dublin Port, the IEA recognises the concentration of air cargo through Dublin airport. It believes that cost-efficient, viable and well-connected alternatives should be promoted in the West and South to facilitate high-frequency aviation connections to key European and global cargo and business hubs and ensure sustainable economic growth nationally.

This echoes the views expressed by the WDC in its submission to the recent consultation on the Regional Airports Programme, arguing for the need to update transport policy generally and aviation policy specifically to reflect the overarching objectives of Project Ireland 2040, see the WDC Submission here.

The CSO Aviation statistics, see here, highlight the trend of the increasing concentration of air passengers travelling through Dublin airport compared to other airports. For example, in 2014, Dublin accounted for 81.9% of all passengers (total = 26.5 million), compared to 85.6% in 2018 (Total = 36.6 million). This represents an increase of 9.6 million passengers in 4 years with Dublin Airport accounting for 95.2% of total passenger growth in that period. So along with a significant increase in total air passenger numbers, there is an ever-increasing share travelling through Dublin airport. The WDC considers that with Dublin Airport now operating at or near capacity, and capacity available at other airports such as Ireland West Airport Knock and Shannon, cost-efficient and accessible alternatives to Dublin should be utilised and promoted.

Level of concentration unusual in a European context

Just last week a report by Copenhagen Economics entitled Assessment of aviation policy as a driver of economic development in the West and Mid West of Ireland, see here noted the particularly high concentration of passenger traffic in Dublin relative to the other airports in Ireland which is especially high when compared to other small, open economies in Northern Europe. According to this report, the concentration of Dublin’s share of passenger traffic in Ireland represents the second highest, behind only Schiphol in the Netherlands. However, while Dublin’s share continues to increase that of Schiphol has been decreasing over time. This is partly due to Dutch aviation policy, which sets maximum aircraft movements through Schiphol, and actively encourages flights via other national airports in the Netherlands. Dutch aviation policy recognises that airport development is viewed as being part of regional development outlined in the Randstad 2040 Strategic Agenda. The report calls for initiatives to improve Shannon Airport’s global connectivity. A better capacity utilisation at Shannon Airport (in addition to other airports outside of the Capital) will enhance the growth capacity of the West and Mid West regions, and at the same time alleviate pressure on Dublin without requiring costly infrastructure investments.

Budget 2020

It seems Government maybe listening and in Budget 2020, a marketing support fund was announced, comprising approximately €10 million over three years to Tourism Ireland which is to be made available to support the regional airports outside Dublin, including Shannon Airport see here. This is a small but welcome development but more policy supports will be needed to ensure that other airports can grow their numbers and their share of national traffic which in turn will help them to become self-sustaining.

The Costs of Congestion

Finally, recent reports by the Department of Transport indicate that rebalancing traffic away from an increasingly congested Greater Dublin Area (GDA), will not only support the goals and objectives of Project Ireland 2040 but will also make financial and economic sense! The research measured the costs of congestion, specifically around the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) see here. Some of the congestion in the GDA and the M50 are contributed to by passengers and freight originating in the catchments of ports and airports in the West and South such as Shannon and Knock but who currently travel through the GDA to access services at Dublin Port and airport.

The reports estimate the annual value of time lost to road users due to aggravated congestion in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), as compared to where the road network is performing well. The cost of time lost due to aggravated congestion is measured at €358 million in 2012 and is forecasted to rise to €2.08 billion per year in 2033.

These estimated costs do not include other costs, for example, increased fuel consumption and other vehicle operating costs, or increases in vehicle emissions or the impacts of congestion on journey quality. Additionally, congestion also has an impact on the wider economy, and Ireland’s competitiveness. All else equal, high levels of congestion will reduce the attractiveness of a location to work and live in, as well as directly affecting the cost of transporting goods and services. These costs are not captured by this study, and as such, the total costs of aggravated congestion are likely to be higher than those estimated in this report.

Conclusions

It is clear that the benefits of supporting better transport infrastructure and services across ports, airports, the rail and road network outside of the GDA and specifically along the Western Region and Atlantic Economic Corridor makes sense from an economic, social and financial perspective. Implementation of Government policy already set out in Project Ireland 2040 through the NDP and the updating of various sectoral policies needs to take place to give effect to these policies and to a better Ireland for all its regions.

 

Deirdre Frost

Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies- the final steps

The long process of developing a National Planning Framework under Project Ireland 2040 is nearing its end, with the publication of the three regional Spatial and Economic Strategies anticipated shortly.  Each of the three regional assemblies (Eastern and Midland, Southern, and Northern and Western (see the map below) is at a slightly different stage in the process but have either completed (EMRA) or are currently consulting on material amendments to draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (SRA and NWRA).  These will feed into the spatial planning process as depicted in the graphic below which shows the relationship between the different planning levels.

Source: Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly https://emra.ie/regional-spatial-and-economic-strategies-2/

The Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly published its Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy and accompanying documents in June 2019 (see here for more information).

The Southern Regional Assembly has recently published its Proposed Material Amendments (PDF 3.5MB) and associated Environmental Reports for public consultation. The consultation period is from 12th September 2019 until 11th October 2019, (dates inclusive).  The WDC will review the material amendments relevant to the Western Region (largely as they relate to Clare).  Our previous submission is discussed here.

Finally, and of most interest to the WDC, because of its coverage of the Western Region (aside from Clare which is part of the Southern Region), the Northern and Western Regional Assembly is currently consulting on the Material Amendments (5.6MB) to the draft RSES.  The closing date for comments on these Material Amendments is 11 October.  More information about how to input to this process is here.

The three Regional assemblies cover the areas shown in the map below.

The WDC has made submissions and attended consultation meetings throughout the development of the National Planning Framework and the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies  (see WDC Insights posts here, here and here).

The WDC is finalising its inputs to the consultation on the Material Amendments in the Northern and Western Region, mindful that considerable consultation has already taken place and that the proposedamendments have been included by the elected members of Regional Assembly.  Therefore, the WDC comments will be confined to specific details of the amended text.

Proposed amendments

The material amendments largely relate to the RGCSPs but there are a number of other new Regional Policy Objectives and amendments to the previous RPOs (see this document for the full detail of all the material amendments under consultation).  A small selection of the new RPOS (relating to the region as a whole) are outlined here.

There is a proposed overarching environmental regional policy objective:

The Assembly supports the integration of biodiversity considerations in a positive, proactive and precautionary way and promotes the protections of the environment and bio-diversity conservation as key principles of the strategy.

There is increased emphasis on collaboration among Local Authorities and the Regional Assemblies:

It is an objective to establish a collaborative approach between the Regional Assemblies (NWRA, SRA), the Local Authorities and other stakeholders to enable all their metropolitan areas to collaborate with each other to harness their combined potential as an alternative to development of Dublin.

A number of RPOs relating to Tourism assets have been amended (e.g. 24-26, 31) :

24.To support working with relevant landholders and recreational / tourism agencies to increase access to the Countryside and to our Coastal area’s, and to ensure maintenance and access to the existing network of trails, paths, ways etc.

25.To support the maintenance of, and enhanced access to state lands, such as National Parks, Forest Parks, Waterways together with Monuments and Historic Properties, for recreation and tourism purposes.

26.To support the preparation and implementation of Visitor Experience Development Plans (VEDPs) within the Northern & Western Region, to underpin the overarching regional tourism benefits and to promote the natural and cultural assets of the Regions.

31.To ensure provision is made for the expansion in accommodation, and facilities within key destination towns, such as Carrick on Shannon, Cavan, Roscommon Town & Athlone, together with necessary supporting infrastructural investments, including improvements in the public realm, Transport links, accommodation, the night time economy, and sustainable development of our natural & built economy

The WDC welcomes a new RPO on the Bioeconomy:

The Assembly supports the future proofing of Infrastructure Planning to allow for the potential upgrading of existing industrial sites to bio-refining plants while also supporting the use of bio-renewable energy for production of bio-based products.

In relation to Ports the proposed RPO now includes Killybegs:

The Assembly supports the designation of Galway and Killybegs as Tier 1 Ports, subject to environmental and visual considerations as well as transport and economic viability requirements.

New RPOs are included on Climate Action and for the designation of National Parks:

The Assembly will support the preparation of local climate strategies by CAROs and Local Authorities to address vulnerability to climate risks and prioritise actions in accordance with the principles within the National Adaptation Framework and the National Mitigation Plan.

The Assembly supports the advancement of the zone of North Sligo/North Leitrim (Ben Bulben and its hinterlands) and the area surrounding Lough Arrow/Lough Key as potential National Parks/National Recreation Areas. It also supports collaboration in this regard with stakeholders including NPWS, Local Authorities, Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

In relation to roads, the following amendment is proposed (listing more roads than the original draft RSES):

The delivery of the following projects shall be pursued, in consultation with and subject to the agreement of TII, through pre-appraisal, early planning and to construction as priority projects to be delivered to an appropriate level of service in the medium term.

    • N15 Sligo to BundoranN16 Sligo to Blacklion
    • N13 Manorcunningham to Bridgend/Derry
    • N59 enhancement
    • N61 Athlone to Boyle improvement
    • N63 Galway to Longford improvement
    • N56 lnver to Killybegs
    • N15 Stranorlar to Lifford
    • N13 Stranorlar to Letterkenny
    • N3 North of Kells to Enniskillen, via Cavan and the A509 in Fermanagh;
    • N54 (NS) Cavan to Monaghan Town;
    • N55 (NS) Cavan to Athlone;
    • N26 and N58 (NS) linking Ballina to N5.

 

Finally, a RSES Oversight Committee is proposed, which will be established to ensure oversight of the implementation, monitoring and reporting of progress in implementation of the RSES, as well as identifying opportunities to drive Regional Development, and suggest sources of funding, fostering partnerships / new collaborations.

This is only a small selection of the proposed amendments. It is worth taking the time to consider all of the proposed amendments and provide feedback to the Northern and Western Regional Assembly by 11 October 2019.  The WDC will make its submission shortly and it will be available on our website.

Conclusion

The completion of all of the Regional Spatial and Economic strategies will be a very significant achievement, the culmination of years of work since they were first announced  and extensive consultation and stakeholder engagement.  Of course, this means the work of implementation becomes a priority.  The incorporation of the strategy goals and targets into Local Area Plans and City and County Development Plans is to follow, and wider implementation of the strategies to ensure that the growth and employment targets set out the in the NPF are achieved, along with ten National Strategic Outcomes (NSOs listed below) is essential:

  1. Compact Growth
  2. Enhanced Regional Accessibility
  3. Strengthened Rural Economies and Communities
  4. Sustainable Mobility
  5. A Strong Economy Supported by Enterprise, Innovation and Skills
  6. High Quality International Connectivity
  7. Enhanced Amenity and Heritage
  8. Transition to a Low-Carbon and Climate-Resilient Society
  9. Sustainable Management of Water Waste and other Environmental Resources
  10. Access to Quality Childcare, Education and Health Services

 

Achieving these will involve co-ordinated spending and investment and alignment of policy across all sectors (eg transport, education, enterprise and initiatives such as the Atlantic Economic Corridor) as well as through the planning process.  It will require the iterative incorporation of new policies (such as the Climate Action Plan and the local Climate Adaptation Strategies (see here for example)  as well as incorporating responses to economic, social and policy responses to know and unknown factors (e.g. Brexit, changes in global economic activity and any unexpected events).

 

We look forward to a strong, driven, implementation process responsive to the changing world and to changing priorities.  With this we can be optimistic about living, working and doing business in a thriving, active and sustainable region twenty years from now.

 

Helen McHenry

The Business of Literature – Major Literary Tourism Initiative Set to Enhance Commercial Capacity in Northern European Region

Major new three-year literary tourism pilot programme set to launch across four Northern European countries this Autumn.

Spot-lit is a new three-year project that aims to grow the literary tourism sector in the Northern Periphery and Arctic region by supporting the organisations and businesses in this culturally-rich region to grow collaborate and better engage audiences together. Literary Tourism is an emerging niche sector within the wider cultural tourism sector, where places with literary heritage offer author and fiction-related literary tourism opportunities along with opportunities arising from literary festivals, trails and book shops.Funded by Interreg Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, the regions participating in the Spot-lit programme area are Western Ireland, Northern Ireland, Eastern Finland and South-West Scotland.

All share a number of common features such as low population density, low accessibility, low economic diversity, abundant natural resources, and high impact of climate change.

Collectively, the region is home to world-class literary icons and landscapes, however, research suggests there is potential for this sector to work together and grow significantly. Current low levels of joined-up literary tourism activity in the Northern Periphery and Arctic Region make it a sector that is ripe for development.

Spot-lit addresses the need for shared development and marketing of existing assets and the development of new ones, which respond to emerging literary and cultural consumer needs. This will result in a better cultural tourism offering and deliver greater economic impact than projects developed in national isolation.

The programme will include the development of a cluster network across the regions, a series of support workshops, the development of 20 new literary products or services and shared learning and transnational marketing.

Some of the Spot-lit partners at a recent partner meeting in Scoltland (left to right) Filip Sever, Mary Keaveney, Minna Mustonen, Helena Aaltonen  Marlene Kohllechner-Autto, Shane Campbell.

Speaking on the occasion of the launch of the project, CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin of the Western Development Commission said: “We are delighted to launch this programme today following an extensive period of research and development. Spot-Lit has the capacity to deliver tangible benefits to under-tapped regions across Europe through the literary tourism sector which we know has the potential to be a major economic driver. We encourage any organisation or business in the literary tourism sector to visit our website and sign-up for our information roadshows in early October.”

This Autumn, the Spot-lit partners in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Finland will deliver a series of workshops for businesses interested in Literary Tourism development.

Workshop 1: Building Successful Literary Tourism Experiences for Visitors
Workshop 2: Designing and developing your Literary Tourism product or service
Workshop 3: Knowing and growing your market

Following on from the workshops, businesses will be invited to participate in a Literary Business Support Programme. The programme will be open to SMEs, social enterprises, community groups and literary associations with a unique idea for the development of Literary Tourism in their area. This bespoke programme will involve a series of monthly engagement workshops, learning journeys, business advice clinics and individual mentoring supports. The programme will engage with 5 businesses in each country and will include a €10,000 innovation voucher. The focus of the business idea/product will be for the development of Literary Tourism.

The project will officially launch on September 25th with a new website at http://www.spot-lit.eu, dedicated social media channels @spot_lit_eu, followed by a call out for literary businesses and organisations to register their interest for upcoming events and workshops.

 

 

 

 

 

Incomes in the Western Region: what do Geographical Income Profiles tell us?

At WDC Insights we are always on the lookout for data sources which can improve our understanding of the economy and society of the Western Region and give us greater insight into how the people living and working here are doing.  The CSO recently published Geographical Profiles of Income in Ireland 2016, a new, very comprehensive report on incomes in Ireland which provides data at both county and Electoral Division (ED) level.  This post provides a taster of the data available.

Background

Geographical Profiles of Income in Ireland 2016, examines income for both households and individuals by county and by ED. Income is also examined across the areas of housing, health, education, occupation and commuting.  The primary definition of income used throughout is Gross Income. This includes income from employment, self-employment, pensions, rental property, social welfare and further education grants.

The production of this data involved the integration of datasets held by Revenue and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection with CSO held datasets to produce aggregated analysis and outputs at a detailed geographical level not previously available. see Background and Methodology for further information[1].

 

Household Median Income for counties

There is significant variation in household income across the county as is shown in the map below with highest incomes tending to be in the East and around the cities.

The median household income in the state was €45,256 in 2016, but there was significant variation from the lowest (Donegal, €32,259) to the highest (Dun Laoghaire Rathdown €66,203) as shown in Figure 1 below.  All of the Western Region counties and Galway city had median incomes below the state average.

Figure 1: Household Median Income for counties, 2016

Source: CSO Geographical Income Profiles, Table 1.1: Household median gross income by county, 2016

Looking more closely at the Western Region (Figure 2), not unexpectedly the highest median income was in Galway City (€44,492), with Galway county (€44,352) close behind.  Clare also had a median household income of more than €40,000.   Surprisingly (especially given other data on county incomes) Roscommon had the next highest median household income (€39,006) , higher than Sligo (€38,695) and Mayo (€37,214).  As noted above Donegal had the lowest median income, with Leitrim significantly above it (although this was still the second lowest in the country).

Figure 2: Household median Income in the Western Region

Source: CSO Geographical Income Profiles, Table 1.1: Household median gross income by county, 2016

Incomes in larger towns

The report also provides data on incomes in towns of more than 10,000 people, of which there are five in the Western Region (Figure 3).  Ennis  (€40,508) had the highest income in the Western Region for these towns (though, as noted above, income in Galway City is higher) while the lowest was in Ballina  (€32,779).  Nationally the lowest income in these towns is in Longford (€29,224)  while the highest is in Malahide (a very substantial €78,631).

Figure 3: Median income in Western Region towns, 2016

Source: CSO Geographical Income Profiles, Table 1.2: Population and household median gross income by town, 2016

 

Incomes at local level

Finally, as mentioned, this data is also available at ED level, providing more information on areas of high income and those which are doing less well (shown on the Map below).  Clearly incomes in many of the EDs in the Western Region and along the Atlantic coast are among the lowest in the country, though there are pockets of affluence in each county.  The detail of income at ED level will be discussed in a future post.

Source: CSO Geographical Income Profiles

 

Conclusion

In previous discussions of measuring regional success it has been noted that limitations in the GVA data need to be counterbalanced by better regional level data on the three key variables of Income, Wealth and Consumption.  This recent publication provides an excellent start in relation to the first of these.  It is really helpful to have such a comprehensive source of data available at both county and ED levels.  The CSO is to be complemented in their work on this.

This new data set has provided much food for thought, with data at county level not always as I would have anticipated (for example, Roscommon having a higher median income than Sligo is unexpected).  Over the coming months I hope to have the opportunity to look into the data in more detail to better understand components income and earnings in our region, counties and at a local level and to consider the patterns which are emerging.

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] Under the auspices of the Statistics Act 1993[1] and in compliance with all relevant data protection legislation, the CSO is in a unique position to gather and link administrative data sources held by Government Departments and Agencies and evaluate their potential for statistical use.

Our 5th Birthday! 5 years of the WDC Insights Blog

Five years ago today we published the first WDC Insights blog post.  This special anniversary post today is our 208th post.

As we noted in the celebration for our 200th post, the blog covers a wider range of topics from the impact of the famine on the Region’s population, to the analysis of economic and social issues for the Western Region.  We are delighted that the blog has given us an effective way to let you all know about our work and given us, the authors, the opportunity to explore issues we might not have otherwise considered.

In this short celebratory post we thought we should give you a little insight[1] into the workings of the blog and show you some of the other places where you can find our work.

About us

The WDC Insights blog is written by the Policy Analysis Team in the Western Development Commission.  There are three of us, Deirdre Frost, Pauline White and me, Helen McHenry.  Regular readers may have spotted that, while we all post on social and economic issues for the Western Region and for rural areas, we also have a few specialist areas. Deirdre, for example, is our telecoms and rail expert; Pauline posts on employment and enterprise; and I cover energy and low carbon issues.  These are just examples of some our work areas. We all cover specific issues relevant to different aspects of regional and rural development and , of course, have a particular focus on our seven county Western Region.

In general we rotate posting among the team, so we are all familiar with the three week deadline and the ‘what will I write about this week?’ question.   Sometimes it is obvious.  We may have completed or published some analysis, attended an interesting event or given a presentation.  Sometimes it is not so obvious.  The posts we write on these occasions, in retrospect, are often most fun to prepare, covering some issue important to the Region following something of particular interest to us, or analysing unusual data available at county level (something that still excites us!).  One great thing I have learned about those posts is that you never know when a piece of analysis will suddenly become relevant or useful.

Where to find our work

As the blog is a showcase for the work of the Policy Analysis Team at the Western Development Commission this is a good opportunity to highlight some of the other work we do which may be of interest.  All our work is on the website of the Western Development Commission www.wdc.ie and you can read more about the areas covered by the team here.

On the website we have statistics about each of the seven counties and the Western Region in our County Profiles.  The areas covered include:

  • Physical data (e.g. land mass)
  • Human Resource
  • Centres of Population
  • Education levels
  • Natural Resources
  • Employment
  • Local Sustainability
  • Tourism
  • Enterprises

 

So, if you want to know more about one of our seven counties (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Galway or Clare) or the Western Region itself, check out the County Profiles.

 

Publications

The best place to find our range of outputs in on the publications page of the WDC site which has all of our reports and papers and our submissions.

We produce a range of reports and papers including:

 

Submissions

We also make submissions to national policy consultations on an on-going basis to provide a Western Region perspective to national and regional policy making.  These are on the submissions page.  Recent submissions were on European Union guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network, the options for the use of revenues raised from increases in Carbon Tax and to the Northern and Western Regional Assembly on the Draft of its Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy. See all of our submissions here

 

We hope that you continue to enjoy the blog and find our analysis useful and interesting.  Don’t forget that to be sure of getting our weekly posts you can follow the blog here.  You can also sign up to the WDC Insights Policy Mailing List for monthly updates on our work and publications or follow us on twitter where we are @wdcinsights.

In the meantime we are off to celebrate our five years of blogging!

 

Helen McHenry, Deirdre Frost and Pauline White

[1] Pun intended.

The Benefits as well as the Costs of the National Broadband Plan

There are significant benefits associated with the planned rollout of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), though the recent media coverage seemed to focus largely on the costs.

A review of newspaper headlines over the period following the announcement of the preferred bidder and the likely cost of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), suggests that the overall benefit is significantly lower than the cost. For example some of the headlines included;

  • Its wrong to endorse broadband plan and ignore officials’ warning on costs, Independent, 12 May 2019
  • National Broadband Plan, labelled ‘the worst deal ever seen’ Irish Examiner, 13 May 2019
  • Government to press ahead with €3bn broadband plan despite cost warnings, 26 April, 2019

But in reality, the cost benefit analysis (CBA) conducted by consultants on behalf of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, found that under all three different scenarios considered, the benefits outweigh the costs. The CBA also made clear that many benefits were not included in the computations and some of the benefits were estimated on a very conservative basis.

The Costs and Benefits of the National Broadband Plan

The table below shows the costs and benefits anticipated under three different scenarios; pessimistic, central and optimistic. There is a detailed analysis showing how each of the costs and benefits are computed, all of which is published and available for download on the Department of Communications website, see here  (825KB)

Costs: The total project costs include both costs to the State and costs to the operator.

Benefits include benefits to residents and enterprises. The residential benefits refer to the residents who will benefit from the NBP through various savings which will be made in communications services, time savings through online access of services as well as time and cost savings from remote working.

The enterprise benefits refer both to benefits to all firms, those within the NBP area and those outside it.

For firms outside the NBP area one of the largest benefits to be realised is that many of their staff (who live in the NBP area) will now have better broadband access enabling productivity gains from remote/tele-working.

For firms within the NBP area, all SMEs will benefit. Farm enterprises will be able to engage in smart farming, while all SMEs will benefit from higher upload and download speeds to serve their clients and suppliers more efficiently.

Scope of Costs and Benefits

Table 1 shows that under all three scenarios the benefits of the NBP exceed the costs. In the analysis, the entire range of costs have been considered and furthermore they are capped and there are various clawback mechanisms to ensure limited and capped costs to the State.

The benefits that have been measured are just some of the range and a whole range of benefits have not been included. As the CBA report notes, in including and profiling benefits, the consultants adopted a deliberately conservative approach to ensure benefits were not overstated. As a result, there are important categories of benefits which are not quantified and therefore not included in the CBA analysis. Table 2 below provides an overview of these benefits and examples of how households and enterprises in the NBP area may benefit.

Measuring benefits – Other international examples

In making the case for various state supports and state aid for broadband investment, other countries have also grappled with how to measure and capture benefits. While investment in fibre networks can be evaluated in a similar fashion to investment in other infrastructure, technological innovation and new product and service developments are continually extending the range of benefits from investment in broadband infrastructure generally and fibre deployment in particular. Consideration of these other benefits is not new and other countries have valued the benefits of fibre rollout across various sectors.

For example, research undertaken in Sweden provides some economic calculations on additional returns to fibre which need to be captured in evaluation. In Sweden, higher rents are charged for homes with fibre connectivity. Tenants pay an extra €5.50 per month for a home with a fibre connection and this is valued at €267 million per year for all fibre connected homes, which yields €185.6 million per annum return on investment.

Investment in fibre networks can also reduce telecommunications costs to the user, for example the Stockholm Regional Council (regional government) reduced its telecommunications costs by 50% following deployment of the fibre network. This is attributed to increased efficiency and greater competition with more telecommunication operators providing services on the high capacity fibre network.

The development of eHealth technologies including remote monitoring and diagnosis will provide opportunities to deliver some healthcare direct to the community rather than through hospitals. Community care is generally significantly less expensive than hospital care. The greater bandwidth and symmetrical (upload and download) speeds with fibre networks can support those applications requiring very good upload and download speeds. As many of these applications such as eHealth are still being developed, it is difficult to estimate their full value and benefit.

At a wider economy level, the OECD has examined the benefits arising to other economic sectors (transport, health, education and electricity) of a national ‘fibre to the home’ network. The analysis examines the cost of deploying ‘fibre to the home’ across different OECD countries, including Ireland, and has estimated that the combined savings in each of the four sectors over a 10 year period could justify the cost of building a national ‘fibre to the home’ network. These examples are outlined in the WDC report, Connecting the West, Next Generation Broadband in the Western Region, see here (1.5MB).

Measuring the benefits of State investment should also take account of the impact on other Government policy objectives. More balanced regional and rural development and greater regional economic growth are important Government policy objectives.

State Aid

The Telecoms sector just like most other economic sectors are subject to strict EU State Aid Rules. State aid is subject to very strict criteria, one of which is that there is market failure. In the NBP areas, defined according to a detailed mapping process which was undertaken as part of the requirements for State aid, it is clear that no commercial deployment of high speed broadband has been or is likely to occur. This is then a case of market failure. Just as with other utility provision (transport, water, energy) the State intervenes where commercial provision does not occur.

One of the other criteria for State aid is that the aid serves an Objective of Common Interest. The European Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) is an objective of common interest to which Ireland has committed and this sets out a minimum of 30Mbps download for all homes and businesses by 2020. Given the increasing demand for higher speeds the EU Commission has revised upwards the target for member states which is now to achieve a basic service of 100 Mbps for all households by 2025. This objective and need to reduce the current digital divide complies with State aid requirements.

Conclusions

The NBP has been subject to probably the most extensive, thorough and comprehensive evaluation both within various Government Departments as well as across the wider public domain.

When the benefits exceed the costs, and the costs are capped while the benefits that are measured are only partial and conservatively estimated then the results of the CBA are positive and clearly make the case to proceed with the investment.

The full report on the benefits from the NBP (February 2019), is available for download on the Department of Communications website, available here (2.5MB).

The NBP Cost Benefit Analysis report (April 2019), is available for download for the Department of Communications, see here  (825KB).

 

 

Deirdre Frost

Recent Trends in Regional GDP

With the Irish economy again experiencing a period of significant expansion (it is estimated to have grown by 6.7% in 2018) it is important to consider how different Irish are regions doing in this time of growth.  While this was examined for the three Assembly regions (Eastern and Midland, Southern and Northern and Western) in a previous post using Eurostat data, we now have the opportunity to consider economic growth and prosperity, as measured by GDP, for the smaller regions.

Regional GDP data (NUTS3 regions) for 2016, with preliminary figures for 2017 was published in April, so in this post we consider the most recent information, as well as looking back to 2008, and observing the regional patterns of recession and growth in the last decade.  While income data is available at county level (discussed for the Western Region in a previous post) the GDP and GVA data[i] is only available at regional level.  The Western Region, under the WDC’s remit includes the entire West region and three of the five counties in the newly delineated Border region (Louth is now included with the Mid East as discussed here).  Clare is part of the Mid West and unfortunately data for the Mid West has been suppressed in the CSO publication for reasons of confidentiality.  In charts for this post the Mid West and South West (also suppressed) have been combined for the years 2015-2017.

When comparing regions of very different sizes GDP per person is the most useful measure (total GDP and regions share of the national economy will be discussed in the next post on this topic). Figure 1 illustrates the very significant differences in GDP among regions.  In both 2016 and 2017 the lowest per capita GDP was in the Border region (€21,446 in 2016) followed by the Midland[ii] (€23,417 in 2016) and the West (€29,798 in 2016).

 

Figure 1: Regional GDP per person 2016 and 2017 (estimated)

a Data for 2015, 2016 and 2017 suppressed in MW and SW for reasons of confidentiality, b Preliminary

Source: CSO, 2019, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 9a, Mid West and South West own calculations based on Table 9 and Table 13, 13a

 

In contrast, the Mid West & South West  had the highest per capita GDP (this is a combined region as data for the two regions was suppressed) at €80,758 in 2016 which is almost four times greater than that in the Border region.  There are some unusual factors underlying this growth which are discussed in detail here.  Dublin, when considered alone had the highest GDP per person at (€81,184) in 2016 (though not in 2017) but it is shown here with the Mid East as much of the Dublin GDP is produced by workers living the Mid East (discussed here) and so considering the two region’s GDP together, when examining the per capita data gives a more realistic picture.  The very high levels of GDP per person in these regions (with large populations and significant economic output) bring GDP person in the State was €57,650 in 2016.

While 2017 figures are preliminary it is nonetheless interesting to look more closely at the growth rates most recent two years for which data is available.  According to this measure (GDP at current market prices) the economy of the state grew by 4.1% between 2015 and 2016, and 7.6% between 2016 and 2017.  Interestingly, the South East showed the highest annual growth (17.7%) between 2015 and 2016 with the Mid East next highest (12.8%) followed by Dublin at 9.7%.  The economy of the Border region grew by 6% but regional GDP decreased in the West by 6.1% between 2015 and 2016 and by 3.7% in the Midland region.  Surprisingly, as the South West was one of the regions with the most significant growth in 2015 the Mid West & South West economy contracted in that year by 3.6%.  The economy in all regions  grew in 2017 (except the Midland which contracted by 0.7% in the year and by 4.3% in total since 2015) with the biggest growth in Dublin (12.6%).  The West also showed a year on year recovery (5.3%) but still is estimated to have a smaller economy in 2017 than 2015 (by 1.1%).

 

Figure 2: Percentage change in Regional GDP between 2015 and 2017

b preliminary figure; MW & SW, own calculations

Source: CSO, 2019, Table 9   GVA per Region at Current Market Prices (GDP), 2008 to 2017

 

Looking back over a longer period, the very significant differences in patterns of growth are evident (Figure 3).  Dublin, which was always the largest economy, has grown more rapidly than other regions since 2012, while the Mid West & South West combined show the impact of the very significant level shift in GDP which occurred in 2015 (and is discussed in more detail in this post Leprechauns in Invisible Regions: Regional GVA (GDP) in 2015)

Figure 3: GDP per person in NUTS 3 regions 2008-2017

a Data for 2015, 2016 and 2017 suppressed for reasons of confidentiality, b Preliminary

Source: CSO, 2019, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 9a, Mid West and South West own calculations based on Table 9 and Tables 12,13, 13a

 

Other Regions had more modest growth, but both the South East and the Mid East have recovered well since the recession.  This is shown more clearly in Figure 4.  The economy of the Border region is estimated to be 0.8% smaller in 2017 than 2018 and the Midland region is 0.4% smaller. The economy of the West region grew modestly (10.6%) during the ten year period.  These regions clearly have not benefited from the recovery and growth in economic activity experienced in other regions.  The economies of the Mid West and South West combined have more than doubled in size (118% growth) between 2008 and 2017, while the Dublin economy grew by more than 50%.

Figure 4: Growth and decline in regional economies GDP since 2008.

Source: CSO, 2019, CSO, 2019, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 9 GVA per region at current market prices (GDP) 2008-2017, own calculations

 

Given the very different growth rates in the regional economies, there has been significant divergence among regions since 2008 and in particular since 2012.  The divergence is shown clearly over time when looking at how each of the region compares to the State average.  This is done using an Index with the State in each year equal to 100 (Figure 5).  In 2008 only two regions (Dublin and the South West) were above the state average, and the difference between the highest (Dublin) and the lowest (Border) was 85 points.  By 2017 Dublin and the combined region (Mid West and South West) were above the state average, and the other regions remained below, with the difference between the highest (again Dublin) and the lowest, (the Border) now 111 points.  By 2017 the Border, (36.1%) and the Midland region (37.5%), were significantly lower than the state average, while GDP per person in the Dublin region is 47% more than the state average.  The West, which has the strong economic driver of Galway, had a GDP per person of 72.5% of the state average in 2008 and 50.6% by 2017.

Figure 5: Index of GVA per person (Basic Prices) for each region 2008-2017, State=100

Source: CSO, 2019, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 10, MW & SW own calculations.

 

Along with this divergence in economic activity among regions within the State, it is interesting to look at the pattern in relation to the EU28.  Figure 6 shows GVA in the State relative to the EU28 increased from 129% of the EU28 average in 2008 to 178% in 2017.  The Dublin region grew even more strongly (from 188.7 in 2008 to 262.3 in 2017).  The West, which was 95.7% of the EU28 average in 2008, peaked in 2012 at 107% of the EU28 average, but has since fallen back to 90%.

Figure 6: Index of GVA per person (Basic Prices) for each region and state 2008-2017, EU28=100

Source: CSO, 2019, County Incomes and Regional GDP, Table 11, MW & SW own calculations.

 

Similarly the Border region which was 79% of the EU average in 2008 had decreased to 64.3% in 2017.  Clearly these regions are not just falling behind in relation to the state average, they are also diverging from the EU average, which is a cause for concern.  As discussed in this post A Tale of Three Regions: GDP in the new NUTS2 Regions it also has implications for the status of the regions in relation to cohesion funding and the Border Midland and West NUTS2 region will revert to Transition Region status from 2021.

Conclusion

GDP is the key measure of a how region’s economy is doing and is one of the important indicators of regional wellbeing[iii].  But the data shows that divergence in regional GDP is increasing, with some regions are experiencing very rapid economic growth while others, especially those in the Western Region (the Border region and the West) along with the Midland region are experiencing more modest growth and even contraction.

Given the significant growth of the national economy this is an important time to address issues in lagging regions such as the infrastructure deficits and other structural economic issues and to incentivise regional employment growth and make it easier for new businesses to establish and existing enterprise to survive.

Regions are the drivers of modern economic systems and all regions have the potential to thrive and to contribute to the national economy. However, because success breeds success some regions do this more effectively than others. Less advantaged regions will benefit if policy is focused on ensuring that they too can reach their potential. With the economic upturn, regional policy must be prioritised, it is a waste of talent and opportunity not to realise all regions’ potential.  It is to be hoped that the Ireland 2040 project can achieve this.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[i] GDP is Gross Domestic Product, GDP and GVA are the same concept i.e. they measure the value of the goods and services (or part thereof) which are produced within a region or country. GDP is valued at market prices and hence includes taxes charged and excludes the value of subsidies provided. GVA at basic prices on the other hand excludes product taxes and includes product subsidies. See background notes 

[ii] Although the Midland Region has consistently one of the lowest GVA per person, and Dublin and the Mid East the highest, the fact that GVA is measured where it is produced and the population is counted where people reside, means that those commuting from the Midland region of Dublin and the Mid East are contributing to the GVA of that region (which is why for GDP per person Dublin and the Mid East are often shown as combined for per capita data), while they form part of the denominator in the Midland region, so increasing the GVA of one and reducing that in the other.

[iii] Discussions of GDP inevitably must also consider on the limitations of the statistic as a measure of economic development (see here ) but it is the key statistic used, despite shortcomings.  As Eurostat notes here GDP per capita does not provide an indication as to the distribution of wealth between different population groups in the same region, nor does it measure the income ultimately available to private households in a region

200th WDC Insights blog post – Our Top 5!

It is hard to believe but this is our 200th post since the Policy Analysis team’s WDC Insights blog was first launched on 25th July 2014. Over the last (almost) five years and 200 posts we have addressed everything from labour market to climate change, broadband to county incomes, demography to electricity and much more in between.

We’ve tackled mysterious questions (Understanding rural transport statistics: Why are there so many new cars in county Roscommon?[1]) and pressing issues (Energy and Climate Action- the WDC View of the Draft National Plan); assessed the regional impacts of national trends (Leprechauns in Invisible Regions: Regional GVA (GDP) in 2015) and policies (WDC submission to Ireland 2040-Our Plan, the Draft National Planning Framework); analysed Census data (Census 2016: Housing In Ireland – What has been happening in the Western Region?) and explained changing statistical classifications (Nuts about NUTS!). And of course there’s our annual Christmas Quiz!

So of our 200 posts so far, what have been the most popular…?

Number 5: How are we doing?  GDP of Irish Regions in 2014

From April 2017, How are we doing?  GDP of Irish Regions in 2014 by Dr Helen McHenry is among our annual posts analysing CSO data on county incomes and regional GDP.  The analysis in this post showed the increasing dominance of Dublin and the South West in terms of their combined share of national GDP, with the share accounted for by other regions reducing over time, a trend that has continued.

Number 4: Preliminary Results of Census 2016 for Co Roscommon

Presenting our analysis to stakeholders is a key part of the work of the WDC’s Policy Analysis team and Preliminary Results of Census 2016 for Co Roscommon, from December 2016, summarised the main points from a presentation by Pauline White to the Roscommon Local Community Development Committee (LCDC). It outlined the key preliminary Census results for the county on population and the components of change.  Of course, these results have since been superseded by the final Census results, but it seems fitting this is in our Top 5 given that Roscommon is the WDC’s ‘home’.

Number 3: What is Rural?

It might seem like a simple question, but the popularity of this post by Dr Helen McHenry from October 2017 shows that defining What is Rural? is far more complex that you might think. The post explores differing definitions of ‘rural’ used by the CSO, the National Planning Framework and the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas. It concludes by asking if we need ‘rural policy’ or policy for people living in rural areas?

Number 2: Census 2016: Rurality, Population Density and the Urban Population of the Western Region

Examining the population living in rural areas (using the CSO definition!), population density across western counties and the population of towns in the region, Census 2016: Rurality, Population Density and the Urban Population of the Western Region from May 2017 provides a handy overview of the distribution of the region’s population.  It highlights that the region’s highly rural nature, with a dispersed population and a large number of small and medium-sized towns, has important implications for the delivery of services and infrastructure to residents of the Western Region.

And finally …

Number 1: Balanced regional development – What does it mean?

In our most popular post (by a long way!) Balanced regional development – What does it mean? Deirdre Frost explored the differing definitions and uses of this much used (and abused?) term.  Written in May 2015, when the initial discussions were underway for the National Planning Framework, as a successor to the National Spatial Strategy, it concluded … ‘When considering a new national planning framework which aims to deliver balanced regional development, deciding and agreeing what we actually mean by balanced regional development and how we measure it would be a useful starting point which might ultimately ensure a greater chance of success.’   Whether the final NPF actually achieved this clarity is perhaps a topic for a future post …

So, 200 posts done and we are looking forward to the next 200.  We hope you have found (at least some of) them useful and of interest.  If you have, forward them to your friends!  And if there are any issues you think we should cover in future posts, just let us know policyanalysis[at]wdc.ie

All the best

Pauline, Deirdre & Helen

[1] The answer’s here