In a recent post I outlined some of the main findings from our analysis of Census employment data on the Industry sector in the Western Region. Our recent report ‘Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ also examined agency assisted Industry jobs and they are the subject of this post.
Each year the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (DBEI) (and formerly Forfás) conducts a survey of all firms in Ireland who have ever received assistance from IDA, EI or Udarás na Gaeltachta. This is published as the Annual Employment Survey (AES) and these firms are referred to as ‘agency assisted’. They are limited to Industry or International Services firms currently or with the potential to export. For Industry this would include most enterprises. Unlike Census data, which is based on where a person lives, AES data is based on where the company is located, so is the location of the job, even if the person travels from another county.
Agency assisted jobs in Industry in the Western Region
The latest AES data is from 2017 when there were 49,435 agency assisted Industry jobs in the Western Region. From a low of 38,000 in 2010, assisted Industry jobs have grown steadily, accelerating since 2013.
Of total assisted Industry jobs in the region, 87.6% are Permanent Full Time (PFT) with the rest ‘Other Jobs’ (temporary, part-time or contract). The share of PFT jobs in the region is lower than nationally (89.5%) indicating that other forms of employment are more common in the region’s industrial sector. The share of jobs that are PFT declined over the decade from 92.2% in the state and 90% in the region in 2008 indicating a rising prevalence of other forms of employment. Every western county, except Donegal, had a lower share of PFT assisted Industry jobs in 2017 than a decade earlier.
Industry’s share of total assisted jobs
In the Western Region, the share of total assisted jobs (Industry + International Services) accounted for by Industry has remained extremely stable at around three-quarters over the past decade (Fig. 1). This contrasts strongly with a steady decline nationally from 64.2% in 2008 to 55.6% by 2017. International services account for a far higher and growing share of assisted jobs nationally than in the region, where Industry continues to play a greater role.
Due to confidentiality reasons, data on assisted jobs at county level is combined for Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo. In 2017, this is where Industry accounts for its highest share of assisted jobs (88.6%). There has been a considerable increase in Industry’s importance, partly due to substantial job losses in international services over this period. Mayo has the next highest share (87.3% in 2017) in Industry with a number of significant Irish and multinational manufacturing plants but limited international services activity.
In Galway, Industry’s share declined markedly between 2009 and 2012 but has remained relatively steady since as its growth in Industry and international services jobs has been similar (29.2% in Industry and 25.2% in international services during 2012-2017). While there has been fluctuation in the relative importance of Industry in Clare, by 2017 73% of Clare’s assisted jobs were in Industry, the same share as a decade earlier. Industry’s role in Donegal declined throughout the period, partly due to very strong growth in international services as well as manufacturing job losses. At 61.8% Donegal has the lowest share of Industry jobs in the region but is still above the state average.
Fig. 1: Industry as a percentage of total assisted jobs in Western Region and state, 2008-2017
MedTech dominates assisted Industry jobs in the Western Region (Fig. 2) accounting for 29.7% of all such jobs in the region compared with 13.3% nationally. For the country as a whole, Agri-food is by far the largest assisted Industry sector. As well as Agri-food, the region also has a notably lower share involved in the high-tech Chemicals & Pharma and Computer & Electronic sectors.
Fig. 2: Percentage of total assisted jobs in Industry in each sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2017
During 2012-2017 the region performed considerably better than nationally in the region’s three strongest growing sub-sectors (Fig. 3). Valeo in Tuam would be a key factor in the strong growth in Transport Equipment, while recovery in the building industry drove the next highest growing sub-sectors. In many other sub-sectors, jobs growth in the region was relatively similar to the national experience. It did have a notably stronger performance in Clothing & Textiles while there was a decline in Mining & Quarrying jobs in the Western Region compared with growth nationally.
Fig. 3: Percentage change in assisted jobs in Industry sub-sectors in Western Region and state, 2012-2017
Of total assisted Industry jobs in the Western Region in 2017, 55.1% (27,214) were in foreign owned companies, higher than the 45.3% share nationally.
During the early years of the recession (2008-2012), the share in foreign ownership increased substantially (from 52.7% to 55.8%) due to large job losses in predominantly Irish owned sectors supplying construction, as well as jobs recovery beginning earlier in the foreign owned sector, strongly influenced by the performance of MedTech. While jobs growth has extended more widely in the Irish owned sector, the share jobs in foreign ownership remains at a higher level than pre-recession. Foreign ownership is not only more important to Industry in the Western Region, but the recession further strengthened its role.
The ownership pattern differs across Industry sub-sectors. At 96.8% of assisted jobs in foreign ownership MedTech is very heavily reliant on FDI companies with large employers such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific and Abbot. Transport Equipment, which has shown strong jobs growth, has the next highest level of foreign ownership at 84.4%.
In terms of Irish ownership, all assisted jobs in Mining & Quarrying and practically all (98.2%) in Clothing & Textiles, is in Irish owned firms. For Clothing & Textiles, the loss of previous foreign owned jobs in the sector e.g. Fruit of the Loom in Donegal, and the changing character of the sector to focus on high value, hand crafted products e.g. Magees of Donegal, Foxford Woollen Mills, means it is now largely an indigenous industry. Agri-food has the next highest level of Irish ownership at 85% of assisted jobs.
Industry plays a considerably more significant role in agency assisted employment in the Western Region accounting for 3 in 4 of all assisted jobs. While Industry’s share is declining nationally, it is highly stable in the region with its strong Life Sciences cluster a contributing factor.
While Industry’s share of assisted jobs has remained highly stable, there have been many changes within the sector over the past decade including a growing share of non-permanent jobs and the increased significance of foreign owned employment.
Greater diversity in the industrial profile of a region increases its resilience and capacity to withstand external shocks. The region’s greater reliance on foreign ownership and the dominant role of Life Sciences (while a key regional asset) could increase the region’s exposure to risk. There needs to be a strong policy focus on further embedding existing regional strengths while also developing new areas of growth e.g. Energy, Transport Equipment, advanced engineering, to further diversify the region’s industrial profile and increase its resilience.
More detailed analysis of agency assisted employment in Industry in the Western Region is provided in Section 3 of ‘Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’.
 The numbers employed at the former MBNA (now Avantcard) call centre in Carrick-on-Shannon reduced substantially over this period, as well as a number of call centre closures in Sligo.