Importance of rural areas as employment locations revealed in new analysis of Western Region

  • More people living in the Western Region and at work – up by 6% in 10 years
  •  Over a quarter of all workers in the Western Region live in Galway city catchment
  •  Workers in the Western Region leave for work later than national average

A new report carried out by the Western Development Commission (WDC) examining the labour trends in the Western Region has highlighted the importance of rural areas as employment locations.

The report found that a large proportion of the labour catchment residents are in fact employed in rural areas – centres with less than 1,000 people – depending on the location of the county town and the proximity of nearby urban areas.

In general, this rate is greater than 22% with the exception being in the Sligo town labour catchment where only approximately 17% are employed in rural areas.

Ennis labour catchment has the highest level of rural employment with 26.9% employed in the Clare rural area, reflecting the low number of urban settlements within Clare.

The WDC report also shows that in the past decade, there has been little change in the geographic and population size of the largest labour catchments. The seven county town labour catchments account for an increase of only 0.5% in the total population at work and residing in the Western Region.

 “This shows the limited change that has occurred in these catchments over a long period and the need for very strong policy intervention to effect change,” noted WDC Policy Analyst, Deirdre Frost.

The report identified 42 labour catchments in the Western Region (April 2016), ranging in size from the largest – Galway city with over 70,000 resident workers, to centres with fewer than 1,000 resident workers.

 It found that there was over a quarter of a million (260,261) people living in the Western Region and at work, up by 6% on 2006, a decade earlier. Over a quarter of all workers in Western Region, from Donegal to Clare, live in the largest catchment – the Galway city labour catchment.

And all the town catchments are larger, with many more people working there than the numbers at work in the town at its centre, highlighting the larger labour supply available.

For example, Galway city labour catchment has a population at work more than double the number of resident workers identified in the Census population while Carrick-on-Shannon labour catchment has a population at work around 4.6 times the Census population of resident workers.

In terms of ranking, the Sligo town labour catchment (21,834) is now second largest, slightly larger than the Ennis labour catchment (21,409).

The age profile of the working population has been increasing and there has been a decrease in the rate of young workers (aged less than 30 years); this pattern is also evident across the State. Letterkenny (17%) and the Galway City (16.8%) catchment have by far the highest rates of young workers while Carrick-on-Shannon catchment recorded the lowest rate of workers aged less than 30 years (12.8%).

Letterkenny has the lowest rate of workers leaving for work before 7.30 am (19.1%), followed by Sligo (20.6%), Carrick-on-Shannon (23.4%), Castlebar (23.5%) and Roscommon 23.9%.

Galway city labour catchment has the highest rate (28.8%), but it is still less than the figure for the State (31.3%). The second highest rate of workers departing for work before 7.30 am is those in the Ennis labour catchment (26.3%).

Education & Employment

One of the most significant changes over the last decade is the rate of third-level educational attainment. Within the seven county town catchments, Galway City has by far the highest rate at 61.3%, up from 49% in 2006. The Roscommon town catchment recorded the lowest rate in 2016 – 49%, up from 32.9% a decade earlier.

While the presence of a higher education institution is a factor in relatively higher rates of third level educational attainment, it is by no means the only factor. For example the Galway, Sligo and Ennis labour catchments have a rate of third-level educational attainment of 54% or higher. The catchments of Castlebar (50.4%) and Letterkenny (51.6%) have lower rates, indicating that the range and quality of employment opportunities is also a key factor.

The workers living in North-east Donegal have strong linkages to Northern Ireland. This ‘Derry Rural’ labour catchment is the 13th largest in the Western Region and accounts for 5,056 resident workers an increase of approximately 10% (476), since 2006. This region will be most impacted by BREXIT, whichever form it takes, therefore policy needs to be developed and implemented to mitigate the impacts.

Within the Western Region, both the ‘Wholesale, Retail Trade’ (25.8%) and ‘Education, Human Health and Social Work Activities’ (25.4%) are the largest employers. The third most important sector is ‘Manufacturing Industries’ (15.9%).

Commenting on the findings, the Chairperson of the WDC, Dr. Deirdre Garvey said:

“This is very valuable information as it provides robust analysis of travel to work patterns across the Western Region. Comparing these data with the original WDC analysis 10 years earlier provides insights into trends. It will be of particular value to policy-makers in the context of Project Ireland 2040 and the development of the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies informing decisions on commuting patterns and enterprise location”.

 For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact Deirdre Frost, Policy Analyst, WDC on +353 86 605 3317

The WDC report identifies 42 labour catchments in the Western Region (counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare) and provides a detailed labour market profile for the largest seven towns in the seven counties:  Galway, Sligo, Ennis, Letterkenny, Castlebar,
Carrick-on-Shannon and Roscommon Town.