Annual Conference of Regional Studies Association

The WDC is sponsoring this year’s Annual Conference of the Irish Branch of the Regional Studies Association. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions’ and takes place on Friday, 7th September at IT Sligo

Submission themes

The call for papers for the conference is now open. Abstracts of no more than 250 words can be submitted here. Presentations from policymakers, academia and practitioners active in the field of regional studies, as well as post-graduate students are welcome. Presentations may deal with, amongst others, the following themes:

  • Cities as a source of economic growth
  • Development in peripheral regions
  • Urban centres and economic development
  • The National Planning Framework and governance
  • The National Planning Framework and housing
  • Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies
  • Local and regional economic forums
  • New approaches to regional development
  • International comparator cases

Other contributions dealing with the topic of regional studies are invited and may be included in focussed sessions.

Speakers

Two international speakers have already been confirmed:

Dr Andrew Copus, The James Hutton Institute, Scotland: Andrew Copus joined the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Group of The James Hutton Institute in March 2013. For the previous eight years he was a Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio (Nordic Centre for Spatial Development, Stockholm) and the Centre for Remote and Rural Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands.

Andrew is an economic geographer by training, whose research interests relate to the changing rural economy and rural/regional policy. Much of his work has been based upon analysis of small area or regional secondary data and indicators. He has a long-standing interest in territorial rural development and regional disparities, which through recent projects is presented as “rural cohesion policy”.

Much of Andrew’s work has had a European perspective, variously funded by Framework Programmes, ESPON and as a consultant for the European Commission. He has studied the role of rural business networks, the changing nature of peripherality and most recently, patterns and trends in poverty and social exclusion.

Professor Mark Partridge, ​Ohio State University, USA: Mark Partridge is the C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University and a Professor in the AED Economics Department. He has published over 125 peer-reviewed journal papers in journals such as the American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Geography, Journal of Urban Economics, and Review of Economics and Statistics. He co-authored the book ‘The Geography of American Poverty: Is there a Role for Place-Based Policy?’

Dr. Partridge’s current research interests include investigating regional economic growth, urban spillovers on rural economies, why regions grow at different rates, and spatial differences in income equality and poverty.  Dr. Partridge has consulted with OECD, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, and various governments in the U.S. and Canada, as well as with the European Commission. He has presented to the U.S. Congress and the Canadian Parliament on regional issues.

Registration

The conference fee will be €70, including lunch, and online registration will open in the coming months. In the meantime any queries regarding registration should be sent to chris.vanegeraat@mu.ie or Justin.doran@ucc.ie

How can we develop renewable heat use in the Western Region?

The WDC has recently published an analysis study of opportunities for the development of the renewable heat sector in the Western Region.  The study ‘A Regional Renewable Energy Analysis: Using Biomass to Contribute to the National Renewable Heat Target’ was under taken as the Western Development Commission (WDC), along with SEAI, were tasked under the Action Plan for Jobs: West Region 2015 – 2017  (Action 134 ) to undertake a Regional renewable energy analysis on the use of biomass as a local contribution to the national renewable heat target and develop a range of actions to support the development of renewable energy in the region”.

The study considers the use of biomass use in the WDC region (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare), along with an assessment of the potential contribution to the national renewable heat target.  The analysis focused on ‘solid biomass’ – that is forest derived wood fuels used for energy production[1].

The use of biomass for heat generation is likely to have the greatest potential for the Western Region in the immediate future in achieving the renewables heat target and reducing carbon emissions.  An EU 2020 target of 16% renewable energy is to be achieved by 2020 across the electricity, transport and heat (and cooling) sectors in all member states. Ireland is one of only four countries in Europe expected to miss its renewable energy target[2][3].  Heat is the largest of these three sectors, and Ireland has a target of 12% of final heating demand be derived from renewable sources by 2020.

Between September and December 2017, the survey of biomass deployment in the WDC region was undertaken which found seven large industrial biomass schemes using 110,000 tonnes of wood fuels a year. The installed capacity of these schemes ranges from 2,000kW to 22,000kW (31.2 Kilotonne of Oil Equivalent (ktoe)). The survey also found 43 smaller non-domestic biomass installations with installed capacities ranging from 50kW to 550kW. Only 24 of these are known to be operational, representing 6,600kW of installed capacity using 6,269 tonnes of wood fuel a year (1.74 ktoe).

In the WDC region, total biomass deployment is equal to 32.94 ktoe. This represents 8.1% of the Western Region heat market.  Taking into account the already installed biomass, this means 7.78 ktoe of new biomass deployment is needed by 2020 to achieve a target of 12% renewable heat for the Region.

This would require €35 million of capital investment and would create 70 new full time jobs and save 28,000 tonnes of CO2. As the potential total market is estimated to be 275MW, suggesting that 35MW of new capacity is a viable aspiration.

The WDC proposed 2018 – 2020 Action Programme, which is part of this report, considers how some of these barriers can be overcome and the growth of biomass could be achieved in the Western Region.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] There is a modest percentage of non-solid biomass used to generate renewable energy, and this has been commented upon in the report where appropriate.

[2]https://www.seai.ie/Publications/Statistics_Publications/Energy_Modelling_Group_Publications/Ireland%E2%80%99s-Energy-Targets-Progress-Ambition-and-Impacts.pdf

[3] The others are the UK, the Netherlands and Luxembourg

Developing a Strategy for the Northern and Western Region

The Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western Region will implement the targets set out in the newly published National Planning Framework (NPF) Ireland 2040.  The WDC recently made a submission on the Issues Paper for the Strategy for the Northern and Western region and it can be downloaded here (or you can read the summary here).

The Northern and Western Region probably has the most challenging targets to meet in Ireland 2040 with a target of a population increase of 160,000-180,000 people and 115,000 jobs in the region.  However, when broken down into annual growth rates over the next 21 years (2019-2040) the targets appear more manageable,  For example the target that larger towns should grow by 40% to 2040 is an annualised growth rate of 1.62% p.a. for 21 years while rural population growth of 15% over the period amounts to less one percent (0.67%) annual growth.  Galway, which has the largest growth target of 50-60% to achieve a population of at least 120,000 can do this with an annual growth rate of 1.95%.  Nonetheless, these are ambitious targets and achieving them will need considerable resources and direction.

Ireland 2040 also places a significant responsibility on the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) in particular and the urban centres of Galway, Sligo and Letterkenny, as well as other large towns, as the key drivers in the region.  Some of these urban centres, which are targeted for 40% growth in the NWRA area, are not very well connected though they may be well located to serve as a driver for their region. These towns need their connectivity improvements prioritised so that they have some chance to achieve the planned targets.

Successful, sustainable regional growth will require a clear Strategy with strong goals and objectives, appropriate resources, a well-developed implementation process and an implementation body with the capacity, resources and powers to achieve co-ordinated action.

Population & Employment

As was noted throughout the WDC submission, the solution to maintaining and growing the regional population is the availability of employment, which in turn requires supporting policy for infrastructural development, a strategy for education and skills and stimulation of entrepreneurship and enterprise growth.  Infrastructure, the ‘3Es’ (Enterprise, Employment and Education) and Innovation are the key levers for regional development.  When they work together they drive regional growth.  Each has a distinctive role, and needs its own policy focus, but they are most effective when addressed through an integrated policy approach.

The RSES should be explicit on the targeted location of jobs within the Northern & Western Region and the balance between jobs growth in Galway city, large towns and the rest of the Region.  These targets should be supported by a clear statement on how employment growth at different spatial scales will be facilitated and supported through the RSES.  It is important that the Strategy is clearly focused on creating real opportunities to keep people living in the region and to attract more people, whether to cities, towns or rural areas.

It should be remembered that during the early part of this century (2000-2007), when there was rapid economic growth throughout Ireland, rural areas responded rapidly with significant increases in the numbers employed and in workforce participation and, in turn, in local populations.  The region is ready to respond and targeted policies to stimulate employment and entrepreneurship will help to achieve targets.

The urban hierarchy

Specific details of the role to be played by different areas in the Region’s settlement hierarchy and the investments needed for these areas to fulfil their roles must be included in the Strategy.

In order to ensure that Galway city, the strategically located regional centres of Sligo and Letterkenny, other towns and rural areas all fulfil their regional development potential, with service and infrastructure levels appropriate to each type of area, investment at the appropriate scale needs to happen in all these places.  Too often a strategy is made which is supposed to be for all people and areas, but the focus becomes that of cities and other areas are left without appropriate investment.

In the Northern and Western Region there are only 5 towns (and Galway city, as well as part of Athlone) which have a population of more than 10,000, yet it is a relatively large region in the Irish context.  Therefore the Strategy should focus on the function of towns and the role they pay in their hinterland, rather than being too concerned with population size as a criterion for investment.

The nature and role of the smaller towns including county towns must be considered in more detail in the RSES and in County Development Plans.  It is important to be aware, in the context of the Strategy that these towns, as well as being important drivers of their local economy, are also essential to those living in other even smaller less serviced towns, in villages or in the wider countryside.

Although smaller towns can face significant challenges they also have key assets such as cultural heritage, historic buildings, local businesses and high levels of social capital.  These all provide opportunities for diversification and adaptation of the town and its social network to embrace future opportunities, whether it is improved tourism product, attracting people to live there, or developing knowledge and sectoral clusters such as creative industries.  Many towns have strong indigenous industries which may be exporting and a substantial number have some small scale foreign direct investment.  There are other enterprises and employers too, and important local services sectors and small scale manufacturing serving a local market.  These are very significant parts of the local economy and important local employers.  All of these can be leveraged to support the development of local communities.

Brexit

Brexit is a key strategic issue for the Northern and Western Region.  Cross-border linkages including cross-border commuting, access to services, retail and trade are areas which will undergo massive changes in the context of Brexit.  Planning for how to mitigate the impact of Brexit on border communities and the economy of the Border region in particular must be a core priority of the RSES.

Conclusions

Development of a strong regional spatial and economic strategy for the Northern and Western region will require coordination with central government, local authorities, enterprise agencies, and alignment with the Action Plan for Jobs and the Action Plan for Rural Development as they are developed over time.   The involvement of education providers, employers and people in the region will all be needed to ensure the targets are achieved.  The Strategy should be appropriately resourced (with money, expertise and time, as well as involvement of key stakeholders).  It would be better to have a more focused, limited strategy that can be implemented than a vision which is beyond the possibility of effective implementation.

Of course, the Issues Paper is just the first stage in the process of developing a Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western region.  There are many steps to be gone through, and further consultation, before the Northern and Western Regional Assembly publish a final Strategy, hopefully before the end of the year.

Detailed answers to the questions in the Issues Paper and consideration of specific needs are in the full WDC submission and an overview of key points in the summary.

 

Island Life- Population change on islands in the Western Region

If you fancy island living there are 55 inhabited islands in the Western Region, although current freezing temperatures, recent storms and plenty of rainfall mean you will have to be tough!

You can choose from lonely isolation to relative crowds with populations on Western Region islands ranging from 1 person (on 9 islands) to 2,440 on Achill (Acaill) Co Mayo, the most populated of Ireland’s islands.  Most of the populated coastal islands in the State are in the Western Region (55 of 82 listed by the CSO for Census 2016) and 80% of island dwellers are on Western Region islands

At the time of the 2016 census, 6,985 people in the Western Region lived on islands, a decline of 5.9% since 2011.  This compares to a 6.2% increase in the population of islands elsewhere in Ireland.  It should be noted, however that in both the Western Region and elsewhere, there was significant variation in population change on different islands, some with population increases and some with decreases.  In this analysis I have grouped the islands into different categories so that the tables are shorter and key characteristics can be highlighted.

The figures discussed here are the de facto populations, i.e. the population recorded for each island is the total of all persons present on the Census night.  While there would be expected to be some difference in the de facto population and the resident population[1], on Western Region islands there were none with very significant differences (some islands elsewhere did have large differences).

Islands with a population of more than 50 people

There 16 coastal islands in the Western Region with a population of more than 50 people in 2016.  However, the population of the five largest of these inhabited islands decreased between 2016 and indeed of the islands in the Western Region with a population of more than 50 (16 in 2016), only 3 showed population increases (Inis Oirr, Galway (12.9%); Inis Meain, Galway (16.6%) and Inishbofin, Galway (9.4%))- see Table 1 below.  The population of Achill fell by 5% and on Inis Mór, Galway the population fell by nearly 10% while on Árainn Mhór (Arranmore, Donegal) the population fell by 9%.  Toraigh (Tory island, Donegal) had a population loss of more than 17% while the population of  Eanach Mheáin (Annaghvaan, Galway) fell by more than a quarter. The biggest percentage population decline in this category was on An Chruit (Cruit), Donegal) which had a population fall of almost 30%, some 25 people).

Table 1: Islands in the Western Region with a population of more than 50 in 2016

Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016, E2021 Population of Inhabited Islands Off the Coast 2011 to 2016 by Islands, CensusYear and Sex

Islands with a population of between 10 and 50 people

There are eight islands in the Western Region with population of between 10 and 50 people, and again the majority of these showed population decreases (Table 2 below). The most significant population fall (28%) was on Inis Bigil, Co Mayo (from 25 in 2011 to 18 in 2016), while the only increase was on An Ros, in Galway which grew by 10%, adding 2 more to its population.

Table 2: Islands in the Western Region with a population of between 10 and 50 people in 2016

Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016, E2021 Population of Inhabited Islands Off the Coast 2011 to 2016 by Islands, CensusYear and Sex

Islands with fewer than 10 inhabitants (but which were inhabited in 2011)

Among the smallest of the inhabited islands (fewer than 10 people, and which were inhabited in both 2011 and 2016) there were some very important changes and which are of significance for islands with these small populations.  These are shown in Table 3 below.  For example, the population of Gabhla, Donegal fell by 67% from 15 to 5, and the population of Inis Bó Finne, Donegal fell from 11 people to 2 people (-81%), while Inishturk Beg, Mayo fell from 10 people to 2 people (-80%).  The most significant growth in this category was on Inis Mhic an Doirn, Donegal where population grew from 1 person to 5 people.

Table 3: Islands in the Western Region with a population of between 1 and 10 people in 2016 and which were inhabited in both 2011 and 2016

Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016, E2021 Population of Inhabited Islands Off the Coast 2011 to 2016 by Islands, CensusYear and Sex

Islands which were not inhabited in 2011 but had inhabitants in 2016

There were also ten islands in the Western Region which had no population in 2011 and were populated in 2016.  The most significant of these was Oileán Uaighe (Owey), Co. Donegal which gained six people.  On 6 of the islands which were not inhabited in 2011, the population in 2016 was just one person.

Table 4 Islands which had no population in 2011 and are now inhabited

Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016, E2021 Population of Inhabited Islands Off the Coast 2011 to 2016 by Islands, CensusYear and Sex

Islands which were inhabited in 2011 but were uninhabited in 2016

In the final category, there are 6 islands which were inhabited in 2011 and which were uninhabited at Census 2016 (Table 5 below).  The most significant population losses in this category were on Inis Meáin, Donegal (7 people in 2011 and no inhabitants in 2016) and on Inishcottle, Co Mayo, 5 inhabitants in 2011 and none in 2016.

Table 5: Islands which had population in 2011 and were uninhabited in 2016

Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016, E2021 Population of Inhabited Islands Off the Coast 2011 to 2016 by Islands, CensusYear and Sex

Conclusion

Finally, it is very important to note that this data from the Census of Population refers to a snapshot of population in time (2011 and 2016 in this analysis) and for some of the smaller islands in particular, there can be varied explanations for population changes and population can fluctuate unexpectedly.  It is always important, therefore, when considering the population of the islands to understand the causes of the changes.  It is also essential to be cautious when referring to percentage changes where populations are very small.

__________________________

[1] Information about de facto and resident populations was provided by the CSO.  I am grateful for their helpful response to this and other queries

What is Rural?

Many of us probably feel we know what rural means.  Perhaps when we hear the word we think of green fields, or wild mountains, or deserted beaches.  Or maybe we think of small villages, modern bungalows or just anywhere beyond ‘the big smoke’.  Arguably all of these are or can be considered rural and, indeed, in most situations it is not important how we define rural.  We know what it is, we use our mental definition, we even have casual conversations where everyone is talking about a different ‘rural’ and for the most part that doesn’t matter.

But is does matter when we come to make policy for rural places and when we think what should be included in ‘rural policy’, because the kind of policy we make and the kind of issues we address are strongly influenced by what we define as rural.  If we think of rural as fields and pastures then we may think of rural policy as agricultural policy, and if we think of it as market towns and pretty villages we may see it as a heritage or cultural issue and when we think of rural dwellers we have to think about how different policies affect people.

Defining Rural

The question of how we define rural for policy purposes and in relation to people rather than based on landscapes or places has not been resolved in Ireland.  While the OECD uses a definition relating to population density[1], the CSO defines the rural population as those living outside settlements of 1,500 people, while CEDRA (the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas) defined rural as those areas outside the administrative boundaries of the five main cities (Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford).  That definition includes some large urban settlements like Ennis, Dundalk and Kilkenny.  Realising our Rural Potential- the Action Plan for Rural Development refers to the CEDRA definition and provides a map of population densities but does not specify a definition of rural.

Finally, and most recently, the new Draft National Planning Framework (NPF) Ireland 2040- Our Plan defines rural as all areas outside towns of 10,000, unless they are within the immediate or ‘metropolitan’ catchment of a city[2].

How we define rural impacts on how many people we are considering when we make rural policy.  Is it a minority, niche policy, or something relevant to a majority of the population?  With the different definitions we get a very different population groups.  Under the OECD definition (a variation of which is used by Eurostat) 70.5% of the state population is predominantly rural.  Ireland is the most rural of the EU27 countries for both population and land area (for more information see note 1 below).

Looking at the different definitions used in Irish policy making (by the CSO, CEDRA and the NPF), for both the state as a whole and the Western Region we can see significant differences in the proportion of the population which is rural.

Figure 1: Percentage of the population living in rural areas according to definition for Western Region and State

Source: CSO Census of Population 2016,  Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements / E2014 own calculations

The Western Region is a very rural region and, whichever definition is used, the majority of the Region’s population falls into that category.  The CSO has the narrowest definition, with fewest defined as rural people (65%, or 535,953 people in the Western Region) while the CEDRA definition is inevitably the broadest, including on two thirds of the population of thewhole state (90% of the people in the Western Region). Nationally the definition of rural can take in anything between 37% and 66% of the population (between 1.8 and 3.1m people).

Looking at what is defined as rural in the three Regional Assembly Areas, which are important policy regions in the NPF and forthcoming Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (to be developed by the Regional Assemblies) there is a clear contrast among the regions.

Figure 2: Percentage of the population living in rural areas according to definition for three Regional Assembly Areas

Source: CSO Census of Population 2016,  Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements / E2014 own calculations

The NWRA is the most rural, with at least two thirds of its population classified as rural in the narrowest definition.  The EMRA, even using the broadest definition, has less than half its population defined as rural.

Rural Policy or Policy for Rural People?

Given the rural population numbers, whichever definition is used, most policy affecting the Western Region is  rural policy as it impacts on the majority of the population.  Even policy which focuses more on Galway and the larger towns has important effects on rural people as these are centres of employment, enterprise education and health services.

The question becomes whether policy for a rural region is rural policy or, given that more than half population is living in rural areas, are not the needs of a rural region integral to all policy, including that for enterprise, employment, healthcare or transport?  Does labelling large parts of the country as rural and expecting their needs to be covered by a ‘rural policy’ serve those dwelling in rural areas well?  Does it ensure infrastructure provision takes account of our settlement pattern as it is, rather than as we think it should be?  Or, if we treat rural as different and needing separate policy rather than as an integral part of our policy focus, can we ensure that businesses can operate efficiently throughout the country, or that people can find varied employment in different places?  These are not narrow issues of rural policy but involve addressing the needs of the wider population through all government policy

Clearly areas which are very peripheral and which have small populations have particular policy requirements but most people in rural areas, however they are defined, have the same needs for employment, healthcare, education and transport as the rest of the population.  It is therefore not only important to consider how we define rural but why we are doing so, and how these definitions can be used to ensure people throughout the Region and the country have their needs addressed equally.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] The OECD methodology classifies local administrative units level 2 with a population density below 150 inhabitants per km² as rural.  For more information on the definition see http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Urban-rural_typology

[2] These catchments are not mapped in the draft NPF and it is not clear how much of the country is considered to be within the influence of a city.

Home-Based Working in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has published its latest WDC Insights Home-Based Working in the Western Region,

download here (267 KB):, which is the third in a series examining the current nature of work, focussing on work which is often home based.

Working at or from home can take different forms:

  • The WDC Policy Briefing No.7 e-Working in the Western Region: A Review of the Evidence (download here – PDF 748KB), examined the extent of e-working in the Western Region, examining those in traditional employer-employee relationships, but who work from home, whether full-time or for a period during the working week. This form of working is also illustrated with several case studies of the practice, (download here – PDF 484KB).
  • The second publication in the series, WDC Insights ‘New Work’ – the Gig economy in the Western Region, (download here – PDF 254KB), examined the nature of the gig economy and the extent to which it exists in the Western Region.
  • This WDC Insights on Home-Based Working in the Western Region examines the data on those people who work ‘mainly at or from home’ derived from the Census question ‘how do you usually travel to work?’ with one of the answers being ‘work mainly at or from home’
  • According to the Census, nationally, in 2011[1] excluding those working in the Agriculture, forestry & fishing industries[2], the share of the state’s working population reported as working mainly at or from home was 2.8% (47,127).

In the Western Region the share was higher with 3.2% (8,994) stating they worked mainly at or from home.

There is a higher rate of self-employment in the Western Region and this is likely to be a contributory factor.

  • Those working mainly at or from home represent a broad range of workers; the self-employed, employees, ‘gig’ workers and e-Workers across a broad range of sectors. They may have very little in common except their place of work, which is less visible than traditional work places.

Better data is needed to capture and measure the incidence of all types of work so as to ensure that our policy focus is not limited to the traditional workplace-based employer-employee relationship.

Policies are needed to support all employment types and evidence of the nature and extent of work that occurs in the home is required to inform this.

 

Deirdre Frost

[1]Census of Population 2011, the most recent Census data available. Census 2016 data will be available in September 2017.

[2] The rest of the data presented in this WDC Policy Briefing exclude those working in the Agriculture, forestry & fishing industries, in order to understand the prevalence of e-working in the wider economy. The WDC wish to thank the CSO for a special run of data excluding those working in the Agriculture, forestry & fishing industries.

Census 2016-The Western Region – in pictures!

As further results from Census 2016 are published we get an interesting picture of the Western Region in 2016.  The Western Development Commission (WDC) has today published an infographic on aspects of the Western Region from the Census 2016 Summary Results Part 1.

This is the first in a series of infographics to be published using data from the Census and focusing on the Western Region – the seven counties under the remit of the WDC.  These infographics make key regional statistics available in an easily accessible manner.

In this infographic we show that:

  • The Western Region had 17.4% of the state population in 2016 compared to 30.7% in 1841
  • While the Region’s population only grew by 1% between 2011 and 2016, it grew by over 26% in the last 20 years (between 1996 and 2016)
  • 4% of the Western Region population is female
  • 21,185 people in the Region speak Polish at home.

For more interesting statistics about the Western Region click here 

 

 

 

 

 

Helen McHenry

Census 2016: Profiling Age and Dependency

The most recent release from Census 2016 Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements contains data on the age categories of the population by county.  Different age groups have different needs and opportunities so this information is important for planning services for the future and understanding social and economic development issues for our region.

Population in key age categories

The key age categories for analysis are shown in Figure 1 for the Western Region, the Rest of State[1] and for the EU28 (in 2015) along with the projected age structure for the EU 28 in 2080.

The Western Region has 21.1% of its population in the 0-14 age group (the same as the Rest of State), while 15.6% of the EU28 population is in that age category.  The county with highest share of young people in its total population in 2016 was Donegal (22.0%) while the lowest were Mayo and Sligo (20.3%).

 

Figure 1: Population Structure by Age Group

Source:  CSO, 2017, Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements  E2022  and Eurostat (demo_pjangroup) and (proj_13npms)

 

The category ‘15-64 years’ covers most of the economically active population.  In the Western Region the Galway has the largest proportion in this category (65.6%) but this is still lower than the average for the Rest of State (65.9%).  Leitrim has the lowest proportion in this age category (61.5%).

There is significant variation among counties in the proportion of the population over 65 years, but all counties have more people in this category (between 13.6% in Galway and 17.5% in Mayo) than the Rest of State (13.0%).  Counties, including those such as Mayo, Roscommon and Leitrim which we consider to have high concentrations of older people, have fewer in the older age categories than the EU 28 (18.9%) which is turn is much less than that projected for the EU 28 (28.7%) by 2080.

Population Pyramids

The population pyramid below (Figure 2) shows the age distribution for the Western Region and the Rest of State in more detail.  A peak of births in 1980 shows up in the 35-39 age category, and another peak in the number of births occurred in 2009[2] and shows up in the 5-9 age category.  The smaller numbers in both the 20-24 age category relates to a falling birth rate in that period while the lower number in the 25-29 age categories, and to some extent in the 30-34 are the result of high outward migration.  The difference in proportions in these age categories for the Western Region and Rest of State indicate greater out migration from the Western Region.

 

Figure 2: Population Pyramind for Western Region and Rest of State, 2016

Source:  CSO, 2017, Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements  E2022

 

The Western Region has a higher proportion of it population than the Rest of State in each of the age categories from 45 years and upwards for females and 40 years and upwards for males.  This is also the case for the 10-14 and 15-19 years categories but the more recent higher birth rate in other more rapidly growing counties (especially those surrounding Dublin) means there is a higher proportion of young children in the population in the Rest of State than the Western Region, but these differences are relatively small at the moment.

Dependency ratios

The Dependency ratio (Figure 3) shows the number of older and younger people compared to the working age population (which for this statistic is considered to be 15-64) as these are potentially the most economically active.  In reality many in the 15-19 and 20-24 categories will be in education but it is a useful statistic for comparison purposes.

It is also important to be aware of the differences in population structure among regions and counties when examining economic statistics such as those for income and output.  Counties a lower percentage in the economically active age groups have proportionally more dependents.  They will tend to have lower per capita income and output levels even where there is no difference in productivity.

Mayo has the highest old age dependency ratio (28.3%) in the country,  followed by Leitrim (27.4%) and Roscommon (26.8%) while the lowest nationally is in Kildare (15%).  Galway (20.6%) and Clare (23.4%) have the lowest age dependency ratios in the Region but all Western Region counties have a higher age dependency than that for the Rest of State (19.7%).

 

Figure 3: Old Age, Youth and combined Dependency Ratios, 2016

Source:  CSO, 2017, Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements  E2022, own calculations

 

The highest youth dependency ratio in the Region is in Donegal (35.3%) and Leitrim (35.1%) but other counties with particularly high birth rates have much higher youth dependency ratios (in Meath it is 39%, Laois 38.3% and Longford 37.2%).  In the Western Region the lowest is in Galway (31.8%) and Sligo (32.0%).  The Western Region as a whole has a youth dependency ratio of 33.2% compared to 32.1% in the Rest of State.

Combining the youth and old age figures gives an overall dependency figure which gives the proportion of both older and younger people compared to the working age population.  In the Western Region this was 57.4% while in the Rest of the State it was 51.8%.  This compared to a figure of 52.6% in the EU 28 in 2015.

The Oldest People

Some of the most significant change is population structure is occurring among the ‘older old’, those in the 80+ years category, with increased longevity and ageing of the older population.  In Roscommon 4.4% of the population is already in this older age category, while Leitrim (4.27%) and Mayo (4.24%) are the next highest in the state. In contrast, in Kildare only 1.91% are in this category while in Meath it is 2.21%.  Some 3.7% of the WR population is over 80 (3.0% in the Rest of State).  It is expected that by 2080 in the EU28 12.3% of the population will be over 80, which compares to 5.3% in the EU28 in 2015.

The percentage in the 80+ years category is rising in all counties and, while increased longevity is a significant human achievement, it can have important implications.  Those in this age group can experience more poverty and social isolation and poorer health that the ‘younger old’[3].  There is also a significant gender dimension with women having higher survivorship and a lower propensity to re-marry which means they are more likely to live alone.  It is important to respond to, and plan for, the needs of this age category and to endeavour to ensure that as many years as possible are lived with as good health and quality of life as possible.

Conclusions

A higher proportion of the Western Region population is in the older and younger age categories than in the Rest of State, in part reflecting the outward migration of those of working age.  It highlights the importance of a focus on regional employment provision as a key element of regional development policies.  Improving employment prospects would benefit those currently in the youth dependent category, as well as those who are already economically active.

The higher proportion of older people in many Western Region counties means that services for older people are crucial.  As much of the Region is very rural we should continue to learn from best practice elsewhere, particularly in Europe, where the ageing of the population is taking place earlier, on how to provide supports and services to an older population in rural areas.

While much of the thinking about ageing populations is on services and supports it should also be remembered that many people in this age category are likely to continue in employment and so this group would also benefit from improved employment opportunities.  Currently, 4.5% of the Western Region labour force is over 65[4], while 13% of those in the 65+ category are in the labour force.  This compares to 2.8% of the rest of State labour force over 65 and a 10% participation rate for that age category.

Understanding trends in population and examining the detail for the seven Western Region counties helps us better understand the economy and society of the Region.  We will continue to provide analysis of the issues as more results are released from the 2016 Census of Population.

 

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] Rest of State refers to the 19 counties which are not in the Western Region and is used for comparison rather than using a State figures which also include the Western Region.

[2]http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/releasespublications/documents/population/2017/Chapter_3_Age_and_sex_composition.pdf

[3] Ingham, B., Chirijevskis, A. & Carmichael, F. Pensions Int J (2009) 14: 221.’ Implications of an increasing old-age dependency ratio: The UK and Latvian experiences compared’ doi:10.1057/pm.2009.16 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057%2Fpm.2009.16

[4] CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey Quarter 1 2016- Special run for the Western Region.  See here for more detail https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC-Insights-Presentation-DSP-30.01.2017-final.pdf