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.

Travel to Work Areas and Border Labour Catchments

The WDC will present analysis on Travel to Work Areas (TTWAS) and the smaller labour catchments located along the Border at a conference in Derry, organised by NERI on 1st May see here for more details.

This work is part of a larger piece of work examining the smaller labour catchments across the Western Region which in turn is part of the WDC programme of research on Travel to Work Areas and Labour Catchments which has been a key element of the WDC Policy Analysis work programme for the last 10 years.

The work on smaller labour catchments follows on from the WDC report published in 2018, Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments (2018). This provides a detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region, based on travel to work patterns, namely: Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon and is available for download here. (14.2MB)

The map below illustrates all the labour catchments across the Western Region, arising from the analysis of Census 2016 data.

Map 1 Labour Catchments across the Western Region 2016

The analysis of smaller labour catchments reviews the remaining 26 complete labour catchments contained within the Western Region and the 26 reports will be published shortly. Here is a sneak preview of some findings and points of interest.

The 26 complete smaller labour catchments are distributed across each of the counties of the Western Region as the table below shows.

Table 1 The 26 smaller Labour Catchments in Western Region Counties, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The smaller labour catchments range in size from the largest, Ballina in Co. Mayo with 9,034 resident workers, to the smallest, Charlestown-Bellahy with 962 resident workers.

Each labour catchments has a greater number of workers living there compared to the figure reported in the Census for the town at its core, indicating a greater labour supply available than might otherwise be considered.

Of the 26 smaller labour catchments 15 reported an increase in numbers over the 10 year period from 2006 to 2016, while 11 of the smaller labour catchments reported a decline in numbers over the same period.

Generally, those that reported a decline are somewhat remote, for example five of those that reported a decline are located in Co. Donegal, namely, Ballybofey-Stranorlar, Buncrana, Killybegs, Bunbeg and Ballyshannon. Belmullet in west Mayo also recorded a decline in the number of resident workers living there over the 10 year period. A further four catchments in east Mayo/Roscommon reported a decline; namely Charlestown, Ballaghaderreen, Boyle and Castlerea, while Gort in co. Galway also had a decline in resident workers living there over the 10 year intercensal period.

In the case of the labour catchments in Co. Donegal, the larger labour catchments of Donegal town and Letterkenny, both recorded an increase over the period indicating move from the smaller more rural catchments in the county to the larger centres and this in part accounts for the changes.

For the centres in Mayo and Roscommon which reported a decline in numbers, some of this can be accounted for by growth in adjacent centres such as Castlebar and Carrick-on-Shannon but further analysis is needed to explain the changes in detail.

There is also some evidence of greater levels of longer distance commuting to Dublin and other locations, for example, the numbers travelling from the larger catchments of Galway city, Sligo and Ennis to work in Dublin has more than doubled over the 10 year period. This trend is likely to be evident for the smaller centres also.

However, it is also true that rural areas remain very important places of work. Across many of the 26 labour catchments the second most important place of work after the town itself is the rural parts of the county. Smaller centres and rural areas are very important employment centres and the analysis will show that this employment extends across sectors such as Education, health and Social Work, Manufacturing and Wholesale, Retail and Commerce.

Further detail will be available following the presentation at the NERI conference and will be posted here

 

Deirdre Frost

 

 

Energy and Climate Action- the WDC View of the Draft National Plan

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just made a submission to DCCAE on the Draft National Energy and Climate Plan 2012-2030 (NECP).  The development of clear energy and climate action to 2030 is essential to achieving the national goal of a low carbon economy in Ireland by 2050.  The WDC recognises that energy and climate action will bring important opportunities for our largely rural region, but at the same time it will bring challenges that we would wish to see addressed in the NECP.   The WDC made a detailed submission to the previous consultation on the draft NECP (November 2018), therefore in this submission we only addressed specific issues arising from this draft of relevance to our region and our remit.

The Draft National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP)

The NECP usefully brings together and summarises energy and climate policy.  However, much of the focus is on current policy and, while there is a recognition that it will be difficult to meet targets with the policy that is currently in place, there is little information about the additional policies or regulations which will be needed to ensure we achieve targets.

The Plan recognises that heating is a particular issue in rural areas (p4) but there is no specific commitment or policy to address the needs of rural areas either in relation heating or transport.  Nor is there a recognition that there are unique opportunities for rural areas from the low carbon economy.  We believe that specific rural focused policies could be introduced for this. This would have benefit both in terms of achievement of EU targets and in relation to the development of the rural and regional economies.

Similarly the NECP acknowledges that the dispersed population pattern results in particular challenges in terms of transportation options.  Again there is no specific commitment or policy to address the needs of rural areas.   The National Policy Framework on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland 2017-2030 notes that it is likely that in future electricity will fuel the majority of passenger cars, commuter rail and taxis while natural gas and biofuels will play an increasingly important role for larger vehicles like HGV and buses.  While we would agree with this, we believe that services such as EV charging points and CNG fueling points must be widely available in rural areas where population is dispersed.  Without these services being available and reliable, rural dwellers could be reluctant to adopt the new technologies and it could deter visitors who might be concerned about the availability of charging/fueling points.  In the case of HGVs and buses, lack of refueling options could increase costs of delivery or services in more rural and peripheral regions.

Electricity transmission network

In relation to the development of the electricity transmission network there is no mention of the issues noted by EirGrid in the recently published Systems Needs Assessment (Nov 2018) in the West (high need for grid development), North West (high need for grid development) and Midland (moderate need for grid development).  These need to be included. A study recently commissioned by the WDC, which we blogged about here reviewed the transmission network and current planned renewable generation to identify areas of the Western Region that have transmission capacity for new renewable generation. It found that North Mayo/West Sligo and Co. Donegal have no capacity for new generation without substantial transmission investment. Sligo/Leitrim, South Mayo and West Galway has limited capacity and will require transmission investment in the future. The WDC believes that significant investment is needed in these areas, so that the current and contracted renewable generation requirements are met and that there is potential for further future connections to ensure areas of best resource can produce most.

Gas transmission network

There is a need to review the natural gas network coverage to ensure that it is future proofed to meet the needs of all key urban centres (currently large settlements such as Sligo and Letterkenny are not connected).  There is important potential for decarbonisation in the gas network, through the future use of biogas, and through the transmission of gas for CNG refueling.  There are also economic benefits for urban centres which are connected to the natural gas network.  In the context of the NECP the broader government criteria for developing the transmission network should be reviewed.  This should include information from the study of wider benefits of connecting regions to the natural gas which has been undertaken for DCCAE but which has not been published.

Electric Vehicles

We welcomed the target of 500K EVs by 2030 but to help achieve this charging investment needs to be early and widespread. This will not just benefit those living in rural areas but will be important for those for those visiting for business or pleasure.  Lack of charging points could in future become a disincentive for visitors and could further concentrate tourism and other economic activities in areas near larger urban centres.

Built environment

We agree energy efficiency is important and welcome the ambition to increase the number of homes with a BER rating of B and above.  However, the most recent BER ratings data from the CSO shows that currently only 15% of homes assessed nationally have a rating of B or above.  In the Western Region only 10% achieve this and it is as low as 7% in Roscommon.  This highlights the need to specifically address energy efficiency and home heating issues in more rural and less well-off regions.  For dwellings in the in lowest rating categories and the costs and difficulties of achieving upgrade to a B rating are most significant.

Most homes in our region use oil for heating.  There needs to be a specific effort to encourage change in rural areas which are oil dependent.  While many of the incentives are for the installation of heat pumps it should be remembered that the use of wood biomass for heating brings very significant local economic benefits.

Transport

Employment is only one factor generating trips and the National Travel Survey shows that majority of travel is associated with non-work trips.  The importance of these non-work trips and the potential for change in this demand needs to be more central to climate action planning.

Rural people are reliant on car based transport, they have little available public transport and tend to travel greater distances. Therefore clearly rural dwellers’ transport demand patterns need to be central to planning for climate action. There must be detailed consideration of transport issues for smaller settlements and rural areas.  The majority of the population will continue to live in the historical settlement pattern and spatial planning will not change that pattern significantly to 2030 or even in the longer term (to 2050). Thus the NCEP needs to focus on current spatial patterns.

In conclusion, the WDC believes that it is essential that part of the NECP should have a specific focus on issues for rural areas, and on actions to ensure that rural areas are both in a position to benefit from a move to a low carbon economy and to meet the challenges of doing so.  This will enable them to make a fair contribution national goals in relation to renewable energy and to actions to mitigate climate change.

 

Read our full submission here

 

 

 

Helen McHenry

WDC Submission on Draft RSES for Northern & Western Region 

Last week the WDC made a submission to the public consultation being held by the Northern & Western Regional Assembly on their Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.  The submission is available here.

As we’ve provided substantial input previously to the preparation of the Draft RSES, in this submission we mainly comment on the specific text and content of the Draft RSES document and pay particular focus to the 211 Regional Policy Objectives set out.

Some of the general comments contained in our submission include:

A Rural Region

  • Adapting the ‘city-led development’ approach of the National Planning Framework (NPF) to a highly rural region presents a considerable challenge. The RSES for the NWRA Region needs to have flexibility to take an approach more suited to the rural nature of its settlement pattern.
  • Rural areas provide much of the urban workforce and urban demand. Rural-urban interlinkages, including travel to work patterns, need to be given greater consideration.
  • Job creation in smaller towns, villages and rural areas, as well as remote working, can bring closer alignment of housing and jobs. Building more houses in large urban centres is not the only route to greater alignment.

Implementation

  • Many of the Regional Policy Objectives do not include detail of how they will be implemented, who will be involved in leading or implementing them or the timeframe for implementation.
  • A mechanism is needed to achieve the required alignment of a large array of national, regional, local, sectoral, public and private organisations, policies, priorities and strategies to ensure implementation of the RSES. It needs to be clear what will happen if the priorities of a Government Department or sectoral agency conflict with the RSES.

Growth Ambitions

The Draft RSES is based on a Growth Framework composed of 5 Growth Ambitions: 1) Vibrant Region; 2) Natural Region; 3) Connected Region; 4) Inclusive Region; 5) Enabling our Region.  Some of our key points on these included:

  • The Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC), as an agreed place-based platform for economic growth, should be designated as an Economic Zone in the RSES.
  • Adopting a ‘sector’ approach to economic and enterprise development misses out on many ‘cross-cutting’ themes e.g. digitalisation, AI, finance.
  • There is an urgent need to review national Ports and Aviation policy to move away from the ‘business as usual’ approach which reinforces the dominance of Dublin Port and Airport.
  • Delivering Atlantic Corridor road projects (on the N17/15) should be prioritised to take place earlier (no commitment in current NDP to begin construction before 2027).
  • Some care is needed in focusing on ‘infrastructure corridors’ – this approach will not work in all circumstances and areas distant from such ‘corridors’ risk further disadvantage.
  • RSES should contain a stronger commitment to the extension of the natural gas grid.
  • RSES needs to focus on improving living standards for residents of the Region as a key objective in its own right, rather than simply as a way to attract companies and support business.
  • More reference is needed to the potential impact of Brexit.

The full submission is available here

Following the public consultation (which closed on 8 February) the NWRA will prepare a report on issues raised in submissions/observations and recommend whether the RSES should be made with or without amendments. It may necessary to hold another phase of public consultation before the RSES can be finalised. You can check for updates on the process here.

The Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Regional Assembly  is still open for consultation, with a deadline of 8 March 2019, and a future post will discuss the WDC’s submission to that consultation.

Pauline White

Measuring Rural Poverty – It’s Complicated!

 

At Risk of Poverty

Within the same CSO release, the data show that the at risk of poverty rate decreased from 16.2% in 2016 to 15.7% in 2017. Examining the at risk of poverty rate spatially, the rate is higher in rural areas[1], compared to urban areas; the at risk of poverty rate in rural areas is 17.2% in 2017, compared to 15.1% in urban areas. Moreover the trend over the last two years shows a divergence, with the urban rate declining – from 15.9% to 15.1%, while the rural rate increased from 16.9% to 17.2%.

The CSO release also provides a breakdown by region. The data indicates that the at risk of poverty rate is higher in the more rural regions (Northern and Western) with 21.8% or over a fifth of the population there at risk of poverty. This is in contrast to the rate within the Southern region (16.8%) and it is lower again in the more urban Eastern and Midland region (12.8%).

Deprivation Rate

The CSO also measure the deprivation rate, which is a broader measure than poverty and is defined as follows: Households that are excluded and marginalised from consuming goods and services which are considered the norm for other people in society, due to an inability to afford them, are considered to be deprived. This measure of the marginalised or deprived is currently achieved on the basis of a set of eleven basic deprivation indicators as follows.

  1. Two pairs of strong shoes
  2. A warm waterproof overcoat
  3. Buy new (not second-hand) clothes
  4. Eat meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day
  5. Have a roast joint or its equivalent once a week
  6. Had to go without heating during the last year through lack of money
  7. Keep the home adequately warm
  8. Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year
  9. Replace any worn out furniture
  10. Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month
  11. Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight for entertainment

Individuals who experience two or more of the eleven listed items are considered to be experiencing enforced deprivation and this is the basis for calculating the deprivation rate.

The deprivation rate nationally has shown a decrease between 2016 and 2017, from 21% to 18.8%. At a spatial level it appears that there is a higher rate of deprivation in urban areas than in rural, in 2017 the urban deprivation rate was 20.2%, while in rural areas it was 15.9%. Similarly the more rural Northern and Western Region has a lower deprivation rate in 2017 (17.3%), compared to 18.7% for the Southern Region and 19.5% for the Eastern and Midland region.

Consistent Poverty

Finally, the other commonly used measure of poverty, is the consistent poverty rate. An individual is defined as being in ‘consistent poverty’ if they are

  • Identified as being at risk of poverty and
  • Living in a household deprived of two or more of the eleven basic deprivation items listed above

Nationally the rate went from 8.2% in 2016 to 6.7% in 2017. At a spatial level, like the deprivation rate, the consistent poverty rate is slightly higher in urban areas than in rural areas. In rural areas the rate was 5.3%, compared to 7.4% in urban areas.

Measuring Deprivation: Access to Services?

The measurement of poverty in its various ways has become a lot more sophisticated than a simple examination of income. The at risk of poverty rate and the deprivation measurement places poverty in the context of the society and environment in which it occurs and this is welcome.

It is often said that rural poverty, is more hidden or less visible than urban poverty. Overall the CSO recent data show that rural areas have a higher at risk of poverty rate, compared to their urban cousins, but have lower deprivation and consistent poverty rates.

However the definition of deprivation is based on enforced deprivation where there is an inability to afford goods and services. But what of the inability to access goods and services because they are not available in the locality. Is the inability to access broadband a deprivation? Many rural residents think so. It impacts on their ability to access goods and services on-line and often impacts on their ability to generate their incomes, for small businesses and the self-employed.

And, in the absence of broadband, what of access to services such as banks and post offices?  Is it enforced deprivation, when these services were once available within the community and are no longer there?  Is it enforced deprivation when access is not available online and there are limited if any transport services to travel to the next available centre to access the closest banking or post office facilities? Most would consider Yes, that this is enforced deprivation.

Those communities that are not being served by the commercial broadband providers now and are awaiting a decision to start the National Broadband Pan (following its original announcement seven years ago) are and will continue to remain deprived for years to come.

On 4th February this year, Social Justice Ireland, issued a press release entitled Time for Government to commit to eradicating poverty, see here. In it they point to the importance of being able to access high quality public services. On the same day, Social Justice Ireland published their Social Economic Review 2019, which highlights in detail the importance of access to broadband, financial services and other public services in helping to deliver a fairer Ireland. The publication has a specific chapter on the issues and challenges for all those living in for rural and regional Ireland see here.

Deirdre Frost

 

[1] Since 2014 areas are now classified as Urban or Rural based on the following population densities derived from Census of Population 2011: Urban – population density greater than 1,000,  and Rural: Population density <199 – 999 and Rural areas in counties.

Give your view on the development of the Northern and Western Region- make a submission on the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy

Just a reminder that the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) is currently out for consultation, with a closing date of 8th February 2019.

The National Planning Framework (NPF) published last year, provides a framework for development and investment over the coming years. Under the umbrella of Project Ireland 2040, it was published with its companion, the National Development Plan (NDP), a 10 year strategy for public investment.

The NPF is a framework for the development needed to underpin population growth in Ireland of up to 1 million people (by 2040) with approximately 50% of this growth to be in the five main cities.  The Framework is underpinned by 10 National Strategic Outcomes and, central to it, is the concept of Compact Growth identifying where new growth can take place within the existing envelope of our Cities, Towns and villages.

The primary vehicle for delivering the NPF is through the implementation of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES) for each of the three NUTS 2 Regions shown on the map below.  The Assembly in each of these Regions (the Northern and Western Region, the Southern Region  and the Eastern and Midlands Region) has a draft RSES currently under consultation.

The NWRA, through the RSES, aims to provide regional level strategic planning and economic policy in support of the implementation of the National Planning Framework and provide a greater level of focus around the National Policy Objectives and National Strategic Outcomes in the Region.  The challenge for the NWRA was to take the high-level framework and principles of the NPF and work out more detail at regional and local authority levels.  This NWRA RSES introduces the concept of a Growth Framework with ‘Five Growth Ambitions’ defining the priorities for the Region and how they are mutually intertwined. The five are:

  • Growth Ambition 1: Economy & Employment – Vibrant Region
  • Growth Ambition 2: Environment – Natural Heritage
  • Growth Ambition 3: Connectivity – Connected Region
  • Growth Ambition 4: Quality of Life
  • Growth Ambition 5: Infrastructure – Enabling Our Region

The draft NWRA Strategy can be viewed or downloaded here.

Written submissions or observations with respect to the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western Regional Assembly and the accompanying reports may be made between 19th November 2018 and 5pm on 8th February 2019 (both dates inclusive) through one of the following media:

On Line: Completing the RSES Web Submission Form available here.

Email: rses@nwra.ie

Mail: ‘RSES Submissions’, NWRA, The Square, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon. F45 W674

The focus of this post has been on the NWRA RSES.  In a future post we will outline key elements of the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Regional Assembly  (consultation closing date is 8th March 2019).  The Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly Draft RSES is also currently out for consultation, with a closing date of 23rd January 2019.

 

Helen McHenry

A National Digital Strategy needs a National Broadband Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Deirdre Frost

Payments and income from farming in the Western Region

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

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

 

Payments from the CAP.

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

Table 1: CAP beneficiaries in the Western Region in 2016

Source: DAFM CAP Beneficiaries Database

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

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

Source: DAFM CAP Beneficiaries Database 2016

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

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

 

Farm Incomes- Revenue Data

In addition to information about numbers of farming cases, data is available from Revenue for both average Gross income and average Farming Income.   The data for Revenue cases from farming is from the Revenue Statistics and Economic Research Branch publication ‘The Farming Sector in Ireland: A Profile of Revenue Data’ available here.

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

Figure 2: Average Farm Income by county- Revenue data

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

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

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

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

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

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

The National Farm Survey

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

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

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

Source: Teagasc, 2017, National Farm Survey 2016

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

Comparing the data.

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

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

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

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

 

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

Conclusions

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

 

 

Helen McHenry

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

How many farmers are in the Western Region?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Census of Population 2016

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

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

Figure 2: Excerpt from 2016 Census of Population form

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

Revenue Cases: Farming

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

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

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

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

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

 

CAP Beneficiaries

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Farmers in Western Region Counties

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

Figure 3: Farmer numbers in Western Region counties

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

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

 

So, how many farmers?

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

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

 

Helen McHenry

City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions- Conference Report

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

Figure 1: Dr Chris O’Malley from Sligo IT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 3: Audience at the conference

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

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

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

Figure 4: Dr Chris Van Egeraat (Maynooth University)

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

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

 

Helen McHenry