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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

Agency Worker Employment

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

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

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

CSO definition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regional Share of Agency Workers

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

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

Proportion of employees who are agency workers

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

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

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

 

 

Deirdre Frost

Information Society Statistics – The Regional Picture

The CSO has recently published statistics on household use of the internet, measuring various aspects of the information society. Given the significant importance of the National Broadband Plan, aimed at delivering better internet access for all, especially those in rural areas, it is useful to examine the regional dimension of the Information Society Statistics, see here for the link to the CSO publication.

Household Internet Connectivity

In 2019, 91% of households have an internet connection, an increase of two percentage points since 2018. The regions with the lowest percentage of households with internet access are the Border (84%), the Midlands (85%), the West (89%) and South East (89%).  Some regions, such as the Border, have reported a slight decline in the rate between 2018 and 2019. It is not clear why this is the case, discussions with the CSO suggest it could be due to sampling and the fact that different households are selected each year, see note 1 below.

Type of Broadband Connection

The type of broadband connection also varies by region. Fixed broadband connection is highest in the Dublin region at 92%, compared with the Border and Midland regions, at 71% and 69% respectively. Narrowband connection is most prevalent in the Midlands, see table below.

Frequency of Internet Usage

Across the State the internet is used ‘everyday or almost everyday’ by 79% of individuals. The percentage rises to 85% in the Dublin region and the lowest rates are found in the Border (68%), the South-East (73%) and the West (75%).

Examining infrequency of internet use, nationally 12% of individuals ‘didn’t use it in the last 3 months’ and this rate rises to 19% in the Border region and 16% in the South-West and Mid-East. The CSO notes that frequency of use is related to age and principal economic status so that the younger age categories and students access the internet most frequently while those who are older and retired access it least frequently. The Border and West regions also have a higher age profile, especially in rural areas and this contributes to the higher rates among those who ‘didn’t use it in the last 3 months’ in these regions.

Types of Internet Activities

The CSO asked what type of internet activities were carried out by individuals in 2019. The

most popular activities were ’Finding information on goods and services’ and ‘email’ (sending and receiving emails), both at 84%. The Border region (73% using email) and the Mid-East (76% finding information on goods and services), reported the lowest rates in these types of internet activity.

Examining the use of the internet for financial transactions, nationally 42% of persons bought or renewed existing insurance policies online, see table below. This drops to 27% in the Border region while Dublin has the highest level – 48%, followed by the West at 46%.

e-Government

Examining the extent of e-Government use, that is engaging with public authorities and public services via the internet, in 2019, half of internet users (50%) Obtained information from websites or apps. Regionally, the Border region recorded the lowest rate in obtaining information from websites or apps – just 29% in 2019.

Nationally, 60% reported Submitting completed forms online. It is interesting to note that submitting completed application forms is more prevalent across all regions than obtaining information. The South West, Dublin and the West all had in excess of 60% of individuals submitting completed application forms online which highlights the value of e-Government in engaging with people in this way. While submitting completed forms online is very prevalent, there are some regions such as the Midlands and Border regions where rates were below 50% such as the Midlands – 46% and Border – 47%.

Across all types of contact with public authorities and services as outlined in the Table below, there is some evidence of a decline in rates between 2018 and 2019. It is not clear what is the reason for this, it is possibly due to sampling and different households are selected each year. It could also reflect an actual decline on yearly rates but measuring whether this is a trend or not will only become evident over a longer time period.

Shared Economy

Nationally in 2019 one third of internet users arranged accommodation from another private individual via dedicated website or app (such as a room, apartment, house, holiday cottage, etc.), such as Airbnb, which was an increase of five percentage points on 2018. This again varies by region, but here the West region has the highest incidence with 42% using Airbnb or similar. This is followed by Dublin 37% and the Mid-West by 36%.

The regions with the lowest rates are the South-East (24%) and the Border (26%). All regions reported an increase year on year, apart from the Midlands and the South West which remained stable.

As Table 1.5 shows, the practice of accessing transport services from another private individual online is much less prevalent. Unsurprisingly the rates in Dublin are the highest given the rate of activity there.

Internet Purchases

Considering online purchases, Clothes or sports goods were the most popular online purchase in 2019, purchased by over half (51%) of internet users. Here the regions with the greatest rates of online purchasing is the South west (56%), Mid-East (53%) and Midland region (53%). The lowest rates are in the Border region (41%).

There are clear differences between age groups in the types of goods and services bought online. The largest difference was for Clothes or sports goods, with 68% of individuals aged 16 to 29 years purchasing these, compared with just 23% of those aged 60 to 74. This age difference will also likely impact on regional variations with some regions having and older age profile such as the Border and West.

ICT Skills and Online Learning

Respondents were asked about online learning activities for educational, professional or private purposes which they undertook in the previous three months. Nationally 13% did a course online in the previous quarter and the highest rates were in the West (18%) and the lowest rates were in the Border region – 8%.

There is a greater incidence of people who Used online learning material other than a complete online course, across the State over one fifth (21%) did so in the last three months. Again, there is much regional variation with the highest rates reported in the West (29%), followed by 27% in Dublin. The lowest rates were reported in the Border and the Mid-East (13%).

Nationally, 14% Communicated with instructors or students using educational websites or portals. Here the regional variation is less pronounced.  The Border region reports the same as nationally – 14% while Dublin has the highest rate at 18%.

Home Smart Technology

In 2019, one eighth (12%) of internet users stated that they use home smart technology i.e., they use the internet to interact with household equipment or appliances that are connected to the internet (such as control of heating, control of lights and other building/apartment maintenance systems; household appliances e.g. oven, washing machine, robot vacuum cleaner; security systems e.g. locks, alarms, security cameras).

Regionally there are differences with the highest rates reported in Dublin (19%), followed by the Mid-East, Mid-West and South-West – all 11%. The regions of Midlands and West report 10% of internet users using home smart technology, while the lowest rates reported were in the South-West (9%) and the Border (5%).

Conclusions.

The information Society is very much embedded in how we conduct our lives. As the CSO data shows, the range of uses of the internet is extensive; from shopping for a wide range of goods and services to learning and accessing education services. And this release does not include information on the use of the internet to work from home on a regular or occasional basis.

The overall picture is clear, the use of the internet is pervasive and is becoming more so. The regional picture is less clear. On many of the themes, the Border region lags the national average, along with the West and South-East. On other variables such as arranging accommodation from another private individual online, the West has the highest rates.

Policy implications include the need to rollout the National Broadband Plan as soon as possible so as to ensure households without high speed broadband are not impeded in their use of the internet through a poor-quality service.

Other policy implications include the need to ensure ongoing provisions on high quality ICT skills and training such as the programme operated by the Department of Communications. It is clear that take -up is slower among the older age groups and some of this is due to a need for training.

Finally, it is clear that not everybody accesses goods and services online. Government services in particular need to continue to be delivered on an off-line method for those who are not able to or do not wish to access services online.

 

 

Deirdre Frost

Regional Sectoral Profiles: The Complete Collection

A year ago we began publishing a series of ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ of economic sectors in the Western Region.  Now, 12 months and 12 reports later, the series is complete!  As publication has been spread over a year, I thought it would be useful to provide a synopsis and links to the full series.

So it all began in October 2018 with …

Wholesale & Retail (Oct 2018)

42,510 people were employed in the Wholesale & Retail sector in the Western Region in 2016 making it the region’s second largest employer.  The Western Region is characterised by greater self-employment in Wholesale & Retail than the national average (15.5% of total employment in the sector is self-employment compared with 12.7% in the state) meaning it is characterised by more, but smaller, businesses. Download WDC Insights-Wholesale & Retail in Western Region-Oct 2018 and Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Analysis-Oct 2018

Health & Care (Nov 2018)

42,027 people were employed in the Health & Care sector in the Western Region in 2016. At 15.5% of all employment, Sligo has the highest share working in this sector in the country, while Leitrim (13.5%) has the 2nd highest share nationally with Galway City and Galway County (both 13%) jointly 4th.  This sector is a hugely important and growing employer in the region.  Download WDC Insights-The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region-Nov 2018 and Health & Care Sector in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Analysis-Nov 2018 

Education (Jan 2019)

32,349 people were employed in the Education sector in the Western Region in 2016.  Education is most important in Donegal (10.8% of all employment), followed by Galway County (10.2%). These are the highest shares working in Education in the country.  Moycullen (Co Galway) has the highest share of residents working in Education across Ireland’s 200 towns and cities. Within the sector, Pre-Primary education had the strongest recent jobs growth.  Download WDC Insights-Education Sector in the Western Region-Jan 2019 and Education Sector in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-Jan 2019-rev 12.03.19

Industry (Feb 2019)

With 45,754 working in Industry in 2016, it is the region’s largest employment sector.  It is considerably more important as an employer in the region than nationally (13.7% v 11.4%).  Among western counties, Industry is most important in Galway County, Clare and Galway City, while Ballyhaunis (Co Mayo) has the highest share of jobs in Industry among Ireland’s 200 towns and cities, where it accounts for 41.9% of total jobs.

Medical Devices is the largest activity accounting for 28% of all Industry employment in the region. The region’s industrial sector relies more on foreign owned companies than nationally (55.1% of assisted Industry jobs are in foreign owned companies v 45.3%).  Download WDC Insights-Industry Employment in Western Region-Feb 2019; WDC Insights-Industry Employment in Western Counties-Feb 2019 and Industry in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-Feb 2019-11.04.19

Accommodation & Food Service (Mar 2019)

23,038 people worked in Accommodation & Food Service in the Western Region in 2016.  Among western counties, it is most important in Galway City, Donegal and Mayo which are among the top 5 in Ireland in terms of the share of their workforce engaged in hospitality.  At 27.6% of total employment, Clifden has the highest share working in the sector in Ireland with Bundoran, Westport, Donegal town and Carrick-on-Shannon also among the top 10 towns.  The region is home to 23.7% of all Accommodation & Food Service enterprises in the state and it’s the sector where the region accounts for its highest share of national enterprises.  Download WDC Insights-Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region-Mar 2019 and Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-Mar 2019

Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing (Apr 2019)

22,733 people were employed in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing in the Western Region in 2016.  This only includes people whose main economic activity is working in the sector and does not include part-time farmers.  Of everyone working in the sector in Ireland, 1 in 4 of them live in the Western Region making Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing the sector where the Western Region accounts for its highest share of total national employment. Download WDC Insights-Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing Employment in the Western Region-April 2019 and Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-Apr 2019

Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services (May 2019)

21,789 people worked in Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services in the Western Region in 2016. This sector provides ‘outsourced’ services to businesses, as well as personal and recreation services to individuals.  Bundoran has the highest share working in the sector of all Irish towns.  This sector is characterised by high self-employment, both compared with elsewhere (27.6% in region v 21.5% in state) and with other sectors. The number of self-employed grew by 19.4% (2011-2016) in the region, the highest growth of all sectors. Download WDC Insights: Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services in the Western Region and Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

Financial & ICT Services (Jun 2019)

17,884 people worked in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region in 2016. Financial & ICT Services plays a significantly smaller role in the region’s labour market than nationally (5.4% v 9%).  In the region the sector is most important in Galway City, Donegal and Clare.  At 14.3% of total jobs Letterkenny has by far the highest share of residents working in the sector in the region and is 11th highest in Ireland.  Download WDC Insights-Financial & ICT Services in Western Region-June 2019 and Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-June 2019

Public Administration & Defence (Jul 2019)

18,858 people worked in Public Administration & Defence in the Western Region in 2016.  At 8.4% of total employment, Roscommon has the highest share working in the sector in Ireland with Leitrim and Sligo 2nd and 4th highest respectively.  North Connacht and the North West have high reliance on the public sector to sustain employment.  Lifford (Co Donegal), Strandhill (Co Sligo) and Roscommon town have the 2nd, 3rd and 4th highest shares working in the sector of Irish towns.  Download WDC Insights-Public Administration & Defence in Western Region-July 2019 and Public Admin & Defence Sector in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-July 2019

Professional Services (Jul 2019)

14,499 people worked in Professional Services in the Western Region in 2016.  It accounted for 4.3% of total employment in the region, far lower that its 6.1% share nationally.  Galway City is where it is most important in the region but it is still well below the state average.  This sector has among the highest rates of self-employment across all economic sectors and is considerably higher in the region than nationally (30.3% v 25.7%).  Download WDC Insights-Professional Services in Western Region-July 2019 and Professional Services in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-July 2019

Construction (Aug 2019)

18,166 people worked in Construction in the Western Region in 2016. In 2006 Construction accounted for 12.6% of all jobs in the region, by 2016 it was down to 5.4%.  Ballaghaderreen (Co Roscommon) has the highest share of residents working in Construction in the region and 2nd highest nationally.  Despite significant decline during the recession and slower recovery than elsewhere, Construction continues to employ a greater share of the workforce in the Western Region and particularly in more rural counties and towns.  Download WDC Insights-The Construction Sector in the Western Region-Aug 2019 and Construction in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-Aug 2019

And finally …

Transportation & Storage (Sep 2019)

10,758 people worked in Transport & Storage in the Western Region in 2016.  Clare has by far the highest share working in the sector in the region at 5.2% of employment and is 4th highest nationally due to aviation activity around Shannon. Shannon town (10.8%) has the 4th highest share working in the sector in Ireland with Newmarket-on-Fergus also in the top 10 towns.  There was a 6.3% fall in the number of Transport & Storage enterprises in the region between 2012 and 2017 mainly due to a sharp decline in taxi numbers.  Download WDC Insights-Transportation & Storage Sector in the Western Region-Sept 2019 and Transportation & Storage Sector in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-Sept 2019

So that’s the complete series of Regional Sectoral Profiles. In some ways it’s fitting that the series is now complete as this will be my final WDC Insights Policy Blog post.

After 16 great years with the WDC I am moving on to take up a new challenge.  I want to thank all my colleagues, past and present, and particularly my Policy Analysis team mates Deirdre Frost and Helen McHenry for all their help, support, encouragement and heated debated! over the years.

Wishing you all the best

Pauline White

Transportation & Storage Sector in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published the last in its ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ series which analysed the most recent employment and enterprise data for the Western Region on specific economic sectors and identified key policy issues.[1]

The final report examines the Transportation & Storage sector.  This includes activities such as taxis, bus companies, airlines and airports, haulage firms, couriers and services for the transportation sector.  Although it is among the smallest direct employers in the region, it’s significance to the regional economy and society is considerably greater, given its vital role in facilitating business activity, as well as providing services to individuals and communities.  Two publications are available:

Employment in Transport & Storage

According to Census 2016, 10,758 people worked in Transport & Storage in the Western Region.  Transport & Storage plays a smaller role in the region’s labour market than nationally (Fig. 1), accounting for 3.2% of total employment in the region compared with 4.0%. One of the reasons is the high concentration of this sector in Dublin due to the presence of Dublin Airport, Dublin Port, Dublin Bus and the headquarters of airlines and national transport companies

Among western counties, Clare has by far the highest share working in Transport & Storage (5.2%).  This is clearly due to the presence of Shannon Airport and Clare has the fourth highest share of its employment in this sector in Ireland.[2]  Roscommon has the next highest share in the Western Region, likely due to its very central location and the activities of logistics operations. At just 2.2% of total employment, Galway City has the lowest share working in the sector in the region and also in the state.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

There was 4.5% jobs growth in the sector in the region between 2011 and 2016, higher than the 4.0% growth nationally.  Jobs growth in Transport & Storage was driven by a number of factors including increased demand from commercial clients as business activity recovered and evolving processes demanded more complex logistics and increased consumer and tourism spending. Growth in this sector was lower than overall jobs growth in the region (7.5%) however.

Transport & Storage sub-sectors

‘Postal, Courier, Warehousing & Cargo’ is the largest sub-sector in the Western Region (27% of total employment in Transport & Storage), and accounts for a higher share than nationally (23.8%).  The next largest is ‘Road Freight’ which is also more important in the region (21.2% v 18.4%). This illustrates the importance of the logistics sector in the region, which may not be surprising given its distance from the main international entry and exit points of Dublin Airport and Dublin Port.

In Clare, ‘Other Transport & Storage & Services’, which would include aviation services around Shannon, is the largest sub-sector while for Galway City ‘Taxi operation’ is largest with taxis being far more common in the city than elsewhere.  In Donegal ‘Road Freight’ is the biggest sub-sector and given the potential impact of Brexit on haulage, this is an issue of concern.  For all other western counties ‘Postal, Courier, Warehousing & Cargo’ is largest.

In the region, the strongest jobs growth (2011-2016) was in ‘Road Freight’ with employment increasing by 20% in the region, higher than the 15.9% growth nationally.  Only one sub-sector saw a decline with a 29.2% fall in the number working in ‘Taxi operation’ in the region.  Following growth in taxi numbers with de-regulation, over-supply of taxis in certain areas and increased alternative job opportunities with economic recovery, led to people leaving taxi driving.

Gender pattern and self-employment

Employment in this sector is highly male dominated with men accounting for 79.4% of the total Transport & Storage workforce in the Western Region.  Clare has the highest female share due to activity in aviation, while Donegal, where road freight is the largest activity, has the highest male share.

Of all those working in Transport & Storage, 20.1% are self-employed (employer or own account worker). This is higher than the region’s average rate of self-employment (18.3%).  Galway City (30.8%), Donegal (25.6%) and Sligo (23%) have the highest rates of self-employment and are also where ‘Taxi operation’ is most important.

There was an 18.3% decline in the number of self-employed working in Transport & Storage in the Western Region (2011-2016), the second largest decline of any economic sector.

Employment in western towns

When considering towns, commuting can be particularly important and it must be remembered that this data refers to residents of the towns, although some may travel to work elsewhere.

As may be expected from the previous sections, Shannon (10.8%) has by far the highest share working in the sector among towns in the Western Region (Fig. 2). Nationally, it has the fourth highest share working in the sector in Ireland with Newmarket-on-Fergus (9.5%) also in the top ten.[3] The towns with the next highest shares are also mainly in Clare.

Eight towns in the Western Region are among the bottom ten towns in Ireland in terms of the share working in Transport & Storage.  Six towns in the region have less than 2% of their employment in the sector.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Transport & Storage Enterprises

In 2017[4]  there were 3,291 Transport & Storage enterprises registered in the Western Region. This was 5.7% of total enterprises[5], well below the 7.6% share in the state.  The concentration of this sector around Dublin would be a factor in this pattern.

Galway[6], Sligo and Roscommon have the highest share of enterprises in the sector, though all well below the national average.  As noted above, ‘Taxi operation’ is most common in Galway and includes a large number of enterprises.  Differing from the pattern for employment however, Clare does not have a particularly high share of enterprises in the sector (5.5%) indicating it includes some large employers.

There was a 6.3% decrease in the number of Transport & Storage enterprises registered in the Western Region between 2012 and 2017 (Fig. 3).  This was a poorer performance than nationally where there was a 2.1% decline.  In both areas, the decline in the Transport & Storage sector contrasted with growth in overall enterprises.[7] Looking more closely at the data, there was the first sign of recovery in enterprise numbers between 2016 and 2017, so it could be expected that there has been some growth in the sector in more recent years.

All western counties had considerable falls in enterprise numbers in Transport & Storage, with Sligo and Mayo having the largest declines.  Roscommon and Clare, where the sector is most important as an employer, also had quite large falls in enterprise numbers.

Source: CSO, Business Demography 2017, Table BRA18.

Key Policy Issues

Smaller scale operations and high self-employment: Transport & Storage enterprises in the Western Region tend to be smaller in scale.  Self-employment in the sector declined as the economy recovered, largely due to a drop in the number of taxi drivers. Continuation of existing, and the development of new, initiatives and soft supports for sole traders and micro-enterprises is important to the future of the Transport & Storage sector in the region.

Responds to and facilitates economic growth: This sector depends on the level of activity in the domestic economy as this determines demand from commercial clients and private individuals.  As well as responding to economic growth, it also facilitates it e.g. by providing logistics services to business. Therefore, the presence of a strong Transport & Storage sector within the region, particularly given its peripheral location, is a key driver for regional economic growth.

Further development of the Western Region’s Airports: Shannon Airport plays a strategic national role in the transport sector.  In addition to transport services, there is considerable and growing activity in support services for the aviation industry.  At the same time, increasing international air access via Ireland West Airport Knock is important to improve accessibility for the West and North West.  The National Aviation Policy should be reviewed in order to further increase the role and capacity of these airports and reduce the dominance of Dublin Airport.

Brexit: The haulage and logistics sector will be among those most affected by Brexit.  The sector in Donegal potentially faces particular challenges.  It is important that the impact of Brexit be minimised and that haulage firms are supported in their efforts to adapt.  The Western Region’s peripheral location, and the role of the sector in facilitating wider economic activity, means this is of vital economic importance.

Opportunities in the logistics sector: Highly complex and integrated processes in manufacturing and retail increasingly rely on sophisticated logistics to minimise the time and cost of distribution and supply. In addition, the growth of online retail has greatly increased demand for postal and courier services. Given its central location, Roscommon has particular potential to further develop activity in this area.  Adaption to a low carbon economy is another area of opportunity for the freight sector.  

For more detailed analysis, download Transportation & Storage Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile and WDC Insights: Transportation & Storage Sector in the Western Region here

Pauline White

 

Photo The Shannon Group

[1] Previous Regional Sectoral Profiles are available here https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

[2] Fingal (8%), Meath (5.9%) and South Dublin (5.2%) have the highest shares, with Dublin Airport’s influence very clear.

[3] All other towns in the top ten are surrounding Dublin Airport.

[4] Data in this section is from CSO, Business Demography 2017

[5] Total enterprises includes all ‘business economy’ enterprises (NACE Rev 2 B to N(-642)) plus the sectors of Health & Social Work, Education, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Other Services.

[6] Business Demography data does not distinguish between Galway City and Galway County.

[7] As Business Demography data is not available for some sectors until 2015, changes over time are not based on ‘total enterprises’ but a sub-set of this called ‘business economy’ enterprises. This is sectors NACE Rev 2 B to N(-642) which is all economic sectors except Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Public Administration & Defence, Health & Social Work, Education, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Other Services.

New Infographic: Enterprise in the Western Region 2017

The WDC has analysed the latest CSO Business Demography data on enterprises in the Western Region. This data is for 2017 when there were 57,951 total enterprises[1] registered in the seven-county Western Region (location of an enterprise is based on its address as registered with Revenue[2]).  In total, just over a quarter of a million people were working for enterprises registered in the region.

Enterprise in the Western Region 2017

The infographic shows some of the key indicators for enterprise in the Western Region.

The recession led to a 4.3% decline in the number of enterprises[3] in the region, this was compared to marginal growth in enterprises in the state (0.1%) over this period. With economic recovery, enterprise numbers grew again, rising 6.5% in the region between 2012 and 2017. While strong, this growth did significantly lag that nationally (11%).

As growth accelerated considerably between 2016 and 2017, it is likely that enterprise numbers have continued to expand since 2017.

Of all enterprises registered in the Western Region 92.9% were micro-businesses employing fewer than 10 people. This was a slightly higher share than nationally where 92.1% of enterprises are micro.

As each micro-enterprise is small in scale however, despite them accounting for 92.9% of enterprises, only 35.8% of everyone who works for an enterprise, works for a micro-enterprise.  Of course, direct employment is just one of the economic and social impacts of micro-enterprises and they play a particularly vital role in smaller centres and more rural areas, as well as in particular sectors e.g. Construction, Professional Services.

By their nature, larger firms (employing 10 or more people) play a more significant employment role, accounting for 64.2% of everyone who works for an enterprise, despite only accounting for 7.1% of firms.

In terms of the number of enterprises, Construction is the largest sector in the Western Region accounting for 20.4% of all enterprises registered in the region.  Wholesale & Retail (15%) and Professional, Scientific & Technical activities (9.4%) are next largest.  All three sectors include many sole traders and micro-enterprises e.g. construction trades, solicitors, architects, small shops and they are also the three largest sectors nationally.

Considering the number of people working in enterprises however shows a different pattern.  Wholesale & Retail is the largest enterprise sector in employment terms (17.8% of all people working in enterprises in the Western Region) followed by Industry (manufacturing) (17.2%) and Accommodation & Food Service (13.4%). These three sectors include many larger businesses e.g. factories, hotels, large retail stores, so account for a greater share of employment than of enterprises.

County Data

Data for the same indicators that are included in the ‘Enterprise in the Western Region 2017’ infographic has also been published for each of the seven western counties in a ‘Key Statistics’ one-pager.  A few interesting findings for western counties:

  • Roscommon and neighbouring Leitrim jointly have the highest share of micro-enterprises in Ireland (94.7%).
  • While for most western counties Wholesale & Retail, Industry and Accommodation & Food Service are the three largest enterprise sectors for employment, for Galway and Roscommon, Health & Care is in the Top 3.
  • At 9.9%, Donegal saw the largest decline in enterprise numbers in the Western Region between 2008 and 2012 with Mayo (5.3%) having the next largest decline. Sligo was the only western county where enterprise numbers increased over this period (0.9%).
  • Clare had the strongest recovery in enterprise numbers between 2012 and 2017 at 10.4%, close to the national average (11%).

For anyone interested in more detailed analysis, a comprehensive ‘Profile of Enterprise in …’ document is also available for each county. Each 12-page Profile includes data on:

  • Enterprise Trends 2008-2017: Active Enterprises and Persons Engaged
  • Employees as a % of Persons Engaged 2008-2017
  • Enterprises, Persons Engaged and Employees by Enterprise Size 2017
  • Change in Enterprises and Persons Engaged by Enterprise Size 2008-2017
  • Active Enterprises by Sector in 2017 and Change 2015-2017
  • Persons Engaged by Sector in 2017 and Change 2015-2017
  • Employees as a % of Persons Engaged by Sector 2017

Download the ‘Profile of Enterprise in …’ CLARE, DONEGAL, GALWAY, LEITRIM, MAYO, ROSCOMMON and SLIGO

Conclusion

Clearly micro-enterprises play a very significant role in the Western Region’s enterprise base.  There is a higher share of owner-managers working in enterprises in the region which is important to keep in mind when designing and planning business supports. While enterprises in the region were hit very hard during the recession, there has been recovery, accelerating in recent years. There were more enterprises registered in the Western Region in 2017 than a decade earlier.

Enterprises form the backbone of the local and regional economy.  Supporting the establishment and growth of sustainable enterprises across the Western Region is a key priority for the WDC and we hope that this analysis of enterprise data will help to better inform both ourselves and other organisations, individuals and policy makers, about recent trends in the enterprise base  of western counties, including their vital role in job creation.

All documents are available from https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

Pauline White

Infographic designed by Resonate Design

 

[1] Data on total enterprises, total persons engaged and enterprises/persons engaged by Sector are based on a figure for ‘total enterprises’ which includes all economic sectors (NACE Rev2) except Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing and Public Administration & Defence.

[2] The geographical breakdown for enterprises is an approximation. The county breakdown is based on the address at which an enterprise is registered for Revenue purposes, rather than where the business actually operates from.  In particular, where an enterprise has local units in several counties (e.g. a supermarket chain), but one head office where all employment is registered, all its employees are counted against the county where the head office is located.

[3] Data on enterprises and persons engaged by enterprise size (micro-enterprises etc.) and data on changes over time are based on a figure for ‘business economy’ enterprises which includes all economic sectors (NACE Rev2) except Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Public Administration & Defence, Education, Health & Social Work, Arts/ Entertainment/ Recreation and Other Services.

The Construction Sector in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has published the latest in its ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ series which analyses the most recent employment and enterprise data for the Western Region on specific economic sectors and identifies key policy issues.[1]

This report examines the Construction sector which includes the construction of buildings, electrical and plumbing installation, carpentry, painting, civil engineering (infrastructure projects), demolition etc.  It does not however include professional services related to the sector (e.g. architecture, real estate).[2]

Two publications are available:

Employment in Construction

According to Census 2016, 18,166 people worked in Construction in the Western Region. The past two decades have witnessed dramatic jobs volatility in this sector. The number working in Construction in the Western Region increased by 163.6% (from 16,674 to 43,956) in the decade from 1996 to 2006, followed by a 58.7% decline over the next 10 years (2006-2016).

These dramatic changes are clear from Construction’s share of total employment (Fig. 1).  In the Western Region, Construction accounted for 6.7% of total jobs in 1996 and by 2006 its share had almost doubled to 12.6%.  It sector was consistently more important in the region than nationally.

In the Western Region, the crash led to Construction’s share of employment more than halving to 5.4% by 2011; remaining unchanged in 2016. Nationally, the share also declined sharply to 4.8% in 2011 but its role grew somewhat in 2016 (5.1%) indicating that recovery in Construction in the region lagged that occurring elsewhere.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011; CSO, Census of Population 2006, Volume 7 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table C0713; CSO, Census of Population 2002, Volume 5 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table B0513; CSO, Census of Population 1996, Volume 5 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table  A0513

 In 2006, Construction accounted for 15% of total employment for residents of county Leitrim, the highest share in the region, with the largely rural counties of Mayo, Galway County, Roscommon and Donegal also having extremely high reliance on Construction jobs at this time.  By 2011, Construction’s share had fallen substantially in all counties.  Despite this, all western counties except Galway City and Sligo were still above the national average in 2011.

Between 2011 and 2016 there was 7.8% jobs growth in Construction in the Western Region, less than half that occurring nationally (16.6%), again indicating how recovery in the building sector in the region lagged that elsewhere.  Within the region Roscommon (11.1%), Galway County (9.5%) and Donegal (9.3%) had the strongest growth, though all still well below the national average.  In contrast to the general trend, Sligo actually saw a decline in the number of residents working in Construction between 2011 and 2016

Employment in Construction in western towns

When considering towns, commuting can be particularly important and it must be remembered that this data refers to residents of the towns, although some may travel to work elsewhere.

Ballaghaderreen (9.8%, 57 people) in Co Roscommon has the highest share of residents working in the sector in the region (Fig. 2) and is second highest among Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population).  Within the region, Carndonagh (9%, 72 people), Ballinasloe (7.1%, 162 people) and Lifford (6.9%, 32 people) have the next highest shares working in the sector.  Small and medium-sized rural towns tend to rely most on Construction.

Six towns in the Western Region are among the bottom ten nationally in terms of the share working in Construction, including the large centres of Galway City, Letterkenny and Sligo.  Greater economic diversity and more alternative job options reduces reliance on Construction.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Self-employment in Construction

Of the 18,166 people working in Construction in the Western Region in 2016, 39.7% (7,206 people) were self-employed (employer or own account worker).  This is the second highest[3] rate of self-employment across all economic sectors due to the nature of Construction sector with many people working in construction trades e.g. electricians, plumbers, being self-employed.

Self-employment is more common in the Western Region (39.7%) than nationally (36.7%) (Fig. 3) with Construction in the region characterised by a higher share of sole traders or micro-enterprises.

The number of self-employed people working in Construction in the region fell by -1.1% between 2011 and 2016. In contrast, nationally, there was strong growth in Construction self-employment (6.2%).  In both areas however the share of total employment that was self-employment declined between 2011 and 2016 (Fig. 3), because employee numbers out-performed self-employment numbers, reducing self-employment’s share of the total.

At 44.2%, Sligo has the highest share of Construction self-employment in the region and had the smallest decline in its share 2011-2016. Clare and Roscommon also have 40+% self-employment with Galway City (33.6%) having the lowest share, the only area in the region below the national average.  This is influenced by the presence of some large Construction firms in the city.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB033. Special run from CSO.

Construction Enterprises and Persons Engaged

In 2017 there were 11,806 Construction enterprises registered in the Western Region with 23,059 persons engaged.[4]  Construction accounted for 20.4% of total enterprises[5] in the region compared with 16.9% in the state (Fig. 4) and was the largest sector in terms of enterprise numbers.  As Construction is characterised by many small scale operations however, it only accounted for 9% of all persons engaged in enterprises in the region (6.7% in state) and was the fifth largest sector.

The rural counties of Roscommon and Mayo is where Construction accounts for its highest share of total enterprises, followed by Donegal and Leitrim where Construction also accounts for over 1 in 5 of all enterprises. This reflects lower business diversity leading to greater reliance on Construction. Sligo and Clare, which had low shares of employment in the sector (see Fig. 1), also have the lowest shares of their enterprises in Construction.

In terms of all persons engaged in enterprises, over 11% were working in Construction in Leitrim, Roscommon and Mayo.  This reinforces the significant role of the Construction sector in both the enterprise and employment profile of these largely rural counties.  Again Sligo has the lowest share in the region (6.7%).

Source: CSO, Business Demography 2017, Table BRA18.

Key Policy Issues

Plays a larger role in the Western Region’s economy, especially in more rural areas: Despite significant decline during the recession and slower recovery than elsewhere, Construction continues to employ a greater share of the workforce and account for a higher share of enterprises in the Western Region.  It is particularly significant for the region’s more rural counties and for small and medium-sized rural towns, in terms of jobs, income and enterprises.  The experience of the last recession highlights the importance of promoting diversity in the rural and regional economy and, while Construction must play a key role, a return to over-reliance on the building industry poses a risk.

Smaller scale operations and high self-employment:  Construction enterprises in the Western Region tend to be smaller and the sector is characterised by high self-employment.  The quality of some Construction self-employment, and its ability to sustain a person’s livelihood, are issues to be considered as the sector grows.  Supports for Construction sole traders and micro-enterprises such as business skills and financial training, as well as information on emerging trends and opportunities must be a focus for policy.

Important employment role among men including young and lower skilled workers: At the height of the Celtic Tiger 22% of working men in the Western Region worked in Construction and the impact of the recession on Construction greatly increased male unemployment and out-migration.[6]  Construction continues to play an important role and in 2016 employed 1 in 10 working men in several of the region’s more rural counties. It also helps to sustain the viability of part-time farms.  In total, 94.2% of the total Construction workforce in the Western Region are men.

While Construction includes many highly skilled and well-paid occupations, it is also an important source of jobs for younger and lower skilled workers.  It is important that current growth in the sector includes opportunities for people of differing skill and experience levels, while not acting as a disincentive to the pursuit of further or higher education.

Opportunities of a low carbon economy: Adaptation to a low carbon economy, specifically improved energy efficiency and renewable energy, presents a growing opportunity for this sector.  Government targets[7] of 500,000 building retrofits and installation of 600,000 heat pumps by 2030 present particular opportunities in the region and its rural areas.

For more detailed analysis, download The Construction Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile and WDC Insights: The Construction Sector in the Western Region here

Pauline White

 

[1] Previous Regional Sectoral Profiles are available here https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

[2] See WDC (2019), Professional Services in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

[3] The highest is Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing at 76.5%.

[4] Data is from CSO, Business Demography 2017

Each enterprise and all persons engaged in that enterprise are assigned to the county where its head office is registered with Revenue.

[5] Total enterprises includes all ‘business economy’ enterprises (NACE Rev 2 B to N(-642)) plus the sectors of Health & Social Work, Education, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Other Services.

[6] WDC (2009), Work in the West: The Western Region’s Employment & Unemployment Challenge

[7] Government of Ireland (2019), Climate Action Plan 2019: To Tackle Climate Breakdown

Professional Services in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published the latest in its ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ series which analyses the most recent employment and enterprise data for the Western Region on specific economic sectors and identifies key policy issues.[1]

This report examines the Professional Services sector which includes two sub-sectors: ‘Professional, Scientific & Technical Activities’ (legal, accountancy, architecture, veterinary, graphic design, translation services etc.) and ‘Real Estate’ (auctioneers, valuers, property letting and management). Both are knowledge intensive services sectors, relatively high value and are highly sensitive to the level of overall economic activity.

Two publications are available:

Employment in Professional Services

According to Census 2016, 14,499 people worked in Professional Services in the Western Region.  Professional Services play a far smaller role in the region’s labour market than nationally (Fig. 1).  In 2016 Professional Services accounted for 4.3% of total employment in the Western Region compared with 6.1% in the state.

As would be expected, Galway City is where this sector is most important in the region (5.2% of its residents work in Professional Services), but this is still well below the state average and is in fact only tenth highest of all counties in Ireland.  Donegal is where it is least important (3.8%) and it has the second lowest share in the state.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

Between 2011 and 2016 there was 10.8% growth in employment in this sector in the region.  Although growth in the region was only half that occurring nationally (21.1%), the sector still grew considerably more strongly than total jobs over this period in the region (7.5%) as the sector responded to increased economic activity and growing demand.  At 18.2%, Leitrim had the highest growth in the region, followed by Donegal and Sligo showing a strengthening of this sector in the North West.

Professional Services sub-sectors

Within the Professional Services sector, ‘Accountancy & Management Consultancy’ is the largest activity (22% of Professional Services employment) though its share is notably lower in the region than nationally (26.2%) due to the concentration of the head offices of large accountancy firms in Dublin.  The next largest sub-sector is ‘Architectural & Engineering Services’ accounting for 20.1% of all Professional Services jobs in the region (similar to the national share), linked to the construction and manufacturing sectors.

The third largest sub-sector is ‘Advertising, Market Research & Other’[2] and it is considerably more important in the state (20.3%) than the region (17.2%).  As this includes many quite specialised activities mainly serving business/commercial clients there is high concentration in cities and particularly Dublin.

Two sub-sectors where the region has a notably higher share are ‘Testing, Research & Development’ (10.9% v 7.3%) and ‘Veterinary’ (5.4% v 3.3%).  The region’s strength in manufacturing[3] with companies providing testing or R&D services to these factories influences the first, while the region’s rural and agricultural nature influences the second.

Employment in western towns

When considering towns, commuting can be particularly important and it must be remembered that this data refers to residents of the towns, although some may travel to work elsewhere.

Bearna (8.1%, 72 people) has the highest share of residents working in the sector (Fig. 2) and ninth highest among Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population).  Within the region, Strandhill (7.1%, 57 people), Loughrea (6.9%, 159 people) and Buncrana (6.4%, 153 people) have the next highest shares.  In all cases, this is influenced by commuting, with other commuter towns such as Oranmore and Athenry also having quite high shares.

A number of more rural, medium-sized towns such as Castlerea, Boyle, Carndonagh and Ballymote also have relatively high shares and clearly act as service centres for their rural hinterland.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Self-employment in Professional Services

Of the 14,499 people working in Professional Services in the Western Region in 2016, 30.3% (4,399 people) were self-employed (employer or own account worker).  This is among the highest rates of self-employment across all economic sectors which is not surprising given the nature of the sector with many small and micro businesses e.g. solicitors, photographers, vets.

Self-employment is considerably more common in the Western Region (30.3%) than nationally (25.7%) (Fig. 3). More people in the region have chosen self-employment as a route to work in this sector, perhaps due to more limited job options and also the fact that the smaller size of the local market favours smaller operations.

At 32.5%, self-employment is most common in Sligo, followed by Leitrim (32.4%).  This implies these counties tend to have a large number of smaller businesses and fewer larger firms.  Roscommon (27.5%) and Galway City (28.9%) have the lowest shares. In the case of Galway City, the presence of larger firms contributes to a lower share of self-employment.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB033. Special run from CSO.

In the Western Region, the number of self-employed people working in Professional Services grew by 5.7% between 2011 and 2016. This compares with a 1% decline in total self-employment over the same period, indicating that this sector differed from the general trend of declining self-employment in the region.

At a county level, Leitrim had the strongest growth in self-employment in the sector, increasing 20.4% between 2011 and 2016.  This was clearly a very strong driver of the county’s total jobs growth in this sector.  Sligo (11.4%), Donegal (11.4%) and Clare (9.1%) had the next highest growth.  Roscommon had the lowest growth (2.8%) which contributed to its current low share of self-employment.

Professional Services Enterprises

In 2017[4]  there were 8,139 Professional Services enterprises registered in the Western Region. This was 14% of total enterprises[5] (Fig. 4), well below the 17.3% state average.  The sector’s share of total enterprises in the region (14%) is substantially greater than its share of all employment in the region (4.3%, see Fig. 1), though it should be noted that the employment data refers to 2016. Again this illustrates that this sector is characterised by a large number of quite small enterprises.

At 16.2%, Galway[6] has the highest share of its total enterprises in this sector, though still below the national average. Sligo, Mayo and Clare have the next highest shares influenced by the presence of quite large urban centres.  In common with employment, Donegal has the lowest share of its total enterprises in this sector which points to less activity in the sector.

Source: CSO, Business Demography 2017, Table BRA18.

During the period 2012 to 2017 there was 16.8% growth in the number of Professional Services enterprises in the Western Region, the highest increase across all economic sectors.  Growth in the region was higher than the 15.7% increase nationally.

Key Policy Issues

Lower level of activity in Professional Services in Western Region:  Given that this is a knowledge intensive services sector offering high quality employment, increasing the level of Professional Services activity in the region could make an important contribution to diversifying and strengthening the region’s labour market as well as increasing income levels.

Responds strongly to economic cycles and changing domestic demand: While several Professional Services activities can be traded internationally e.g. architectural services, most enterprises in this sector serve clients in the domestic market and often quite locally.  It therefore relies heavily on the level of domestic demand in the economy including from the construction sector.  The fact that economic recovery in the Western Region lagged that occurring elsewhere in the country[7] was an important factor in the region’s lower jobs growth in this sector.

As well as responding to the economic cycle, this sector also helps to facilitate it, as Professional Services play a key role in business growth by providing legal and accountancy services, market research, advertising and so on, to enterprises. The presence of a strong Professional Services sector within the region is therefore a key driver for wider regional economic growth.

Smaller scale operations and high self-employment: Professional Services enterprises in the Western Region tend to be smaller in scale than the national average and it is characterised by high self-employment.  As many Professional Services are outside the remit for direct financial supports from enterprise development agencies, continuation of existing, and the development of new, soft supports for self-employed and micro-enterprises in this sector is important, particularly in smaller urban centres and rural areas where self-employment can be a key pathway to work and this sector is an important source of professional career opportunities.

Large urban locations play a critical role but there are also opportunities for growth beyond these:  More specialised Professional Services tend to be quite concentrated in larger urban locations.  Nationally, there is strong concentration in Dublin and within the region Galway City is a key location. It is important that the locational advantages of Galway City and the region’s other larger centres (e.g. office space, networking opportunities, digital infrastructure) are enhanced to allow them to play a greater national role as centres for Professional Services activity.

There is also potential for further expansion, at a suitable scale, in smaller centres and more rural areas, including through remote work.  Access to high speed broadband is a critical factor in facilitating this sector to such areas.

For more detailed analysis, download Professional Services in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile and WDC Insights: Professional Services in the Western Region here

Pauline White

 

Feature image by Robert-Owen-Wahl from Pixabay

[1] Previous Regional Sectoral Profiles are available here https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

[2] The ‘Other’ includes graphic and fashion design, translation, agents/agencies etc.

[3] See WDC (2019) Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile 

[4] Data in this section is from CSO, Business Demography 2017

[5] Total enterprises includes all ‘business economy’ enterprises (NACE Rev 2 B to N(-642)) plus the sectors of Health & Social Work, Education, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Other Services.

[6] Business Demography data does not distinguish between Galway City and Galway County.

[7] WDC Insights Blog Post, ‘Recent Trends in Regional GDP’ 14 June 2019

Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region

The WDC has just published the latest in its series of Regional Sectoral Profiles analysing employment and enterprise data for economic sectors in the Western Region.

It examines the Financial & ICT Services sector which covers two sub-sectors: ‘Financial & Insurance Activities’ (banks, mortgage brokers, insurance and pension funding) and ‘Information & Communication’ (publishing, film, video, TV and music, telecommunications, computer programming (software) and IT services/support). Both are knowledge intensive services sectors, relatively high value, high skill and highly paid and tend to be quite concentrated in larger urban centres.

Two publications are available:

Employment in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region

According to Census 2016, 17,884 people worked in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region. This was just 9.9% of everyone working in this sector in Ireland, compared with the region’s 16.6% share of overall employment.

Financial & ICT Services plays a significantly smaller role in the region’s labour market than nationally (Fig. 1); 5.4% of total employment compared with 9%.  The balance between ‘Financial & Insurance’ and ‘Information & Communication’ also varies in the region.  Nationally, each accounts for the same share of total jobs (4.5% each) however in the Western Region ‘Information & Communication’ is notably more important than ‘Financial & Insurance’ (3% of all jobs v 2.3% of all jobs). This reflects the concentration of financial services activity in Dublin and particularly around the IFSC.

In the region Financial & ICT Services is most important in Galway City (9.1%), followed by Donegal (6.2%), Clare (5.6%) and Galway County (5.5%) with large urban centres and the Shannon Free Zone influencing the pattern.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in Financial & ICT Services in Western Region and state, 2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

 

At a more detailed level, ‘Computer Programming & Consultancy’[1] is the largest employer among Financial & ICT Services activities (36.8% of all employment in the sector) and accounts for a higher share in the region than nationally (32.8%).  In contrast the region has a notably lower share in the next largest activity of ‘Financial Services’[2] (25.1% in the region v 31.3% in the state).  The two other ICT Services activities of ‘Audio-visual, Publishing & Broadcasting’[3] and ‘Telecoms’[4], also account for a greater share in the region, whereas the other financial activity of ‘Insurance, Pension & Fund Management’ accounts for a similar share in both.

Employment in western towns

At 14.3% (1,111 people) of total employment Letterkenny has by far the highest share of residents working in the sector (Fig. 2) and is the eleventh highest of Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population).  Most of the towns with a higher share surround Dublin city. Within the region, Bearna (11%, 98 people) and Oranmore (10.6%, 275 people) have the next highest shares working in Financial & ICT Services, likely due to commuting to Galway City.

Four towns in the Western Region are among the bottom ten nationally (Ballyhaunis, Bundoran, Ballyshannon and Ballymote) at less than 2.6% working in Financial & ICT services. All are rural towns at some distance from larger urban centres.  It is clear there is limited activity in this sector in such towns or commuting to work in other centres.  Remote work offers the possibility for more people working in this sector to live in such locations.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total employment in Financial & ICT Services in towns in the Western Region, 2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Change in employment in the Western Region and its counties

There was 4.6% jobs growth in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region between 2011 and 2016 (Table 1). This was less than half the 12.1% increase that occurred nationally and significantly lower than overall jobs growth in the region (7.5%).  Galway City (14.5%) and Donegal (12.9%) experienced jobs growth higher than the national average and this sector exceeded overall jobs growth in both counties.

Mayo, where the sector is least important as an employer, had the largest job losses with a fall of 9.1% in the number working in Financial & ICT Services.  Leitrim (-6.8%) and Sligo (-6.6%) also saw large declines between 2011 and 2016 and in all cases this sector performed worse than jobs overall.  It is important to note that this data is from 2016 and there have been some significant job announcements in this sector since that time, particularly in Sligo.

The performance of the individual activities varied very significantly with a 49.3% increase (2,176 people) in employment in ‘Computer Programming & Consultancy’ in the region contrasting with a 22.8% decrease (1,330 people) in ‘Financial Services’.  Regardless of whether an activity grew or declined, its performance in the region was weaker than nationally, particularly for those activities which declined. The region was closer to the national average for the two growing activities

‘Computer Programming & Consultancy’ showed strong jobs growth across every western county, growing by 60+% in Roscommon, Donegal and Galway City. ‘Financial Services’ saw significant job losses across all western counties, declining by over a quarter in Galway City, Donegal, Sligo and Clare.  One of the main reasons for this was the closure of many bank and building society branches, particularly in smaller towns, growing online banking and increased automation reducing staffing levels.

Agency Assisted Jobs in Financial & ICT Services

In 2017, there were 12,844 agency assisted[5] jobs in Financial & ICT Services based in the Western Region.  Jobs in Financial & ICT Services account for 19.3% of all assisted jobs in the Western Region, but 32.4% of all assisted jobs in the state, consistent with the sector’s lower importance to total employment.

The relative importance of different activities varies (Fig. 3).  The share of total assisted jobs accounted for by ‘Computer Programming’ is essentially the same in both the region and state, indicating that this sector is well developed in the region.  For all other Financial & ICT Services activities, their share of total assisted jobs in the region is considerably lower than nationally. This is particularly the case for ‘Computer Consultancy’ which accounts for 8% of all assisted jobs in the state, making it the largest among these five activities, but less than half this share in the region.  Indeed, for all other activities, their share of assisted jobs in the region is roughly half that nationally.

Fig. 3: Percentage of total assisted jobs in each Financial & ICT Services activity in Western Region and state, 2017

Source: Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2018), Annual Employment Survey 2017, special run

Ownership of Agency Assisted Jobs

Financial & ICT Services has a very high level of foreign ownership with 79% of jobs in foreign owned agency assisted companies, among the highest shares of foreign ownership across all sectors.  The level of foreign ownership has risen, in 2008 71.6% of jobs in the sector were foreign owned.

The balance between Irish and foreign ownership varies across the different sub-sectors (Fig. 4).  All assisted jobs in ‘Computer Facilities Management’ in the region are in foreign owned firms.  The largest activity of ‘Computer Programming’ is strongly foreign dominated with 97.6% of all assisted jobs in this activity in foreign owned firms.  International ‘Financial Services’ is another area of high foreign involvement, with 91.3% of all jobs in the region in foreign owned firms.

‘Computer Consultancy’ has considerably greater Irish owned involvement with only 49% of jobs in foreign owned firms.  In this activity the region has a lower foreign owned share and therefore greater Irish owned involvement.  This activity saw large job losses in the early part of the recession, only recovering somewhat in more recent years. The greater level of Irish ownership within this activity contributed to greater losses of Irish owned Financial & ICT Services jobs during the recession than foreign owned.

Fig. 4: Percentage of total assisted jobs in Financial & ICT Services activities in foreign owned companies in Western Region and state, 2017

Source: Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2018), Annual Employment Survey 2017, special run

 

Key Policy Issues

Low current level of activity in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region and the gap is widening as the rate of growth in the region significantly lagged that nationally between 2011 and 2016.  Given that this is a high value, high skill and highly paid sector, increasing the level of activity in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region could make an important contribution to regional economic development, productivity and income levels. However as this is not a highly labour intensive sector it plays a modest role in direct job creation.

Lower level of international activity in the region but internationally trading firms performed better than domestically trading sector, particularly in financial services.  Sustaining and accelerating this growth in internationally trading Financial & ICT Services firms is the main route to increasing the sector’s regional economic impact.  Access to talent, high quality telecommunications, research capacity and a supportive business ecosystem, as well as an attractive quality of life, are critical to this growth.

High level of foreign ownership means there is a need to stimulate the Irish owned sector.   Stimulating start-ups and the scaling of Irish owned technology and finance companies, to a stage where they have the capacity to trade internationally, is important to creating a more sustainable balance in the structure of this sector in the region.  This is particularly important in light of planned changes to international corporation tax rules, developments in the US and Brexit.  Current initiatives such as NUIG’s TechInnovate[6] are trying to address this by facilitating technology start-ups in the region.

There is a growing gender imbalance as the male share of all employment in Financial & ICT Services rose from 50.9% in 2011 to 54.9% by 2016 mainly because of stronger growth in male dominated ICT Services (67.9% male) compared with large job losses in the more female dominated Financial Services (62% female).  Ongoing initiatives to encourage greater participation by women in computer science, technology and finance courses, addressing the perceived male culture within the sector, raising awareness of female role models and female entrepreneurship programmes can all help to redress this imbalance.

Key urban locations play a critical role as centres for Financial & ICT Services activity with Galway City and Letterkenny two key locations particularly in ICT Services, Shannon/Ennis also having notable activity especially in Financial Services and a number of high profile recent announcements for Sligo. The availability of suitable office space, physical and digital infrastructure, links with education and training providers, access to talent and quality of life, as well as addressing issues such as traffic congestion and rising costs, will be important to ensuring these key urban locations can enhance their regional and national role as centres for Financial & ICT Services activity.

Opportunities for growth exist beyond large urban locations, including remote workDevelopments in technology, the world of work and the need to develop more sustainable approaches means that remote work (from home, a co-working hub or other location) holds considerable potential for smaller urban centres and rural areas to host increasing activity in this high skill, high value and highly paid sector. Initiatives such as Grow Remote[7] are currently highlighting the potential for increased remote working and also highlighting key policy changes needed to facilitate its expansion and wider acceptance among employers.  Access to high speed broadband is one of the most critical factors.

Limited self-employment activity in this sector, but higher incidence in the Western Region, particularly for ICT Services in Sligo, Leitrim and Mayo. This implies the structure of the sector in these counties differs from that elsewhere with many sole traders or freelancers engaged in AV production, IT services or software development and fewer large employers. An opportunity exists to target these ICT entrepreneurs, many of whom may be based in quite rural areas and smaller towns, by providing networking opportunities, business support, co-working space and opportunities to collaborate.

Access to talent is critical.  A co-ordinated approach between education and training providers in the region, in collaboration with employers, is needed to ensure an adequate supply of the necessary skills including a strong focus on upskilling and lifelong learning.[8]  Attracting talent to relocate to the region is the complementary approach.  Promoting the quality of life, lower cost of living and shorter commuting times in the region, as well as the job and entrepreneurship opportunities available, are important to attracting people to relocate.  [9]The demand for talent is also increasing the incidence of permanent full time jobs and wages in the sector.[10]

For more detailed analysis see ‘Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

Pauline White

 

Image by Free Photos at Pixabay

 

[1] Software and app development, IT services, data analysis consultancy etc.

[2] Banks, building societies, credit companies, venture capital, mortgage advisors etc.

[3] Publishing, newspapers, film, photography, music recording, TV production, TV and radio broadcasting etc.

[4] Wired, wireless and satellite telecommunications (phone, broadband).

[5] Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (DBEI), Annual Employment Survey 2017. A survey of all firms in Ireland who have ever received support from IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland or Udarás na Gaeltachta.

[6] See http://techinnovate.org/

[7] See https://growremote.ie/

[8] See https://www.regionalskills.ie/

[9] See www.LookWest.ie

[10] ‘Information & Communication’ had the highest growth in average weekly earnings nationally over the past five years increasing 21.1% Q1 2014 to Q1 2019. CSO, Earnings, Hours and Employment Costs Survey Q1 2019, Table EHQ03

Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services rely on local demand from businesses & consumers, but potential to expand international activity

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published the latest in its series of Regional Sectoral Profiles which analyse employment and enterprise data for economic sectors in the Western Region.  This report examines the Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services sector, and two publications are available:

This sector includes three sub-sectors which provide services to both businesses and individuals:

  • ‘Administrative & Support Services’ primarily provide ‘outsourced’ type business services (property management and landscaping, contract cleaning, ‘back office’ business processing/call centres, recruitment, leasing and security) but it also includes travel agents and tour operators;
  • ‘Arts, Entertainment & Recreation’ (creative arts, cinemas, gyms, sports activities, amusements, museums and gambling); and
  • ‘Other Services’ (hairdressing and beauty, laundry, repair services, funeral services, unions and business groups and domestic staff) mainly provide services to individuals and households.

Given the wide scope of this sector, it is particularly important to consider differences across the sub-sectors. Some of the key findings from the analysis are:

Sector plays a smaller role in Western Region’s labour market

Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services account for a smaller share of total jobs in the region than nationally (Fig. 1); 6.5% of total employment compared with 7.5%.  Large urban centres and global business services activity around Shannon influence its relative importance across western counties.

The region experienced lower jobs growth in this sector than elsewhere between 2011 and 2016 (8.9% compared with 13.6%).  As this sector relies heavily on local demand, slower economic recovery in the region was a factor in this.  Nevertheless as this sector grew more than total jobs in the region (7.5%), it contributed to the region’s jobs recovery.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services in Western Region and state 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

High and growing self-employment

This sector in the region is characterised by a high rate of self-employment, both compared with elsewhere (27.6% in region v 21.5% in state) and with other sectors. This is particularly the case in more rural counties and for locally provided services (38.1% of all employment in ‘Other Services’ is self-employment).

The number of self-employed in this sector in the region increased by 19.4% (2011-2016), the highest growth across all sectors, as many individuals responded to growing demand by setting up small-scale service businesses (e.g. gyms, barbers, HR services, phone repair).  Continuation of existing, and the development of new initiatives and soft supports, to support self-employment, including addressing issues of the quality and viability of some self-employment, is important particularly in smaller urban centres and rural areas where self-employment can be a key pathway to work.

Important contribution to town centre renewal

As online retailing grows, the availability and choice of local personal and recreational services is central to attracting people to visit and remain in town centre locations.  Facilitating such services, many of which are provided by sole traders and micro-enterprises, should be integral to local plans for town centre renewal.

At 11.2% of all employment Bundoran has the highest share working in this sector of Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population), largely due to ‘Arts, Entertainment & Recreation’ (Fig. 2).  Carndonagh (10.4%) and Ballyshannon (10.2%) are also in the top 10 towns in Ireland.  Shannon meanwhile has the second highest share working in ‘Administrative & Support’ in the state.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total employment in Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services in towns in the Western Region, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

The structure of the sector in the region differs from the national picture

The mainly locally traded personal and leisure services are more important for employment in the region, with less activity in business services (Fig. 3).  The single largest employment activity is ‘Hairdressing & Beauty’ which is significantly more important in the region than the state, the next largest is ‘Services to buildings & landscape’, followed by ‘Sport, amusement & recreation’. The greater importance of locally provided services means the sector relies more heavily on local demand and disposable income.

Fig. 3: Percentage of total Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services employment in each broad sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

Some of the implications of this are:

  • ‘Administrative & Support’ less developed but with growth potential: The ‘Administrative & Support’ sub-sector accounts for a lower share of total employment (see Fig. 3) and enterprises (33.5% of all AEOS enterprises v 35.8%) in the region than the state and also experienced lower growth. There is an opportunity to further develop this sector in response to increased outsourcing and strong growth in global business services.  High quality communications infrastructure and property solutions, as well as improved accessibility and the availability of suitable talent are important factors.  Within the region the Shannon Free Zone is a nationally significant location for global business services (e.g. aircraft leasing, e-commerce outsourcing).  Strengthening this cluster to adapt to technological change, meet emerging skill needs and increase collaboration are among the actions needed to support this key regional asset.
  • Local ‘Other Services’ more important and in particular for rural counties: These services largely rely on local demand and respond strongly to disposable income.  As they are often consumed at the same location as they are supplied (e.g. hairdressing, dry-cleaning, nail bars), they play a particularly important role in the local economy of towns and villages.   This sector however is generally quite low paid (at €17.13 per hour ‘Other Services’ has the second lowest average hourly earnings of all economic sectors.[1])  The greater importance of this sub-sector in the employment profile of the region therefore reduces the overall economic benefit of the sector to the regional economy.
  • Role of ‘Arts, Entertainment & Recreation’ in the regional economy is growing: It experienced the strongest employment (13.6%, 2011-2016) and enterprise (12.6%, 2011-2016) growth in the region, in both cases expanding more than nationally. This sector is highly responsive to local disposable income with tourism a key driver. This is clear from its importance in locations such as Bundoran, Strandhill and Clifden.  The Western Region is recognised as having a strong creative and cultural industries sector, as well as tourism industry. The WDC has supported the creative sector’s development through a range of initiatives[2] and the recent Regional Enterprise Plan for the West region[3] included it among its strategic objectives. Adopting a coordinated approach is critical to help realise the growth potential of the creative industries.

For more detailed analysis, including of enterprises in the sector and agency assisted jobs, download Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile here

Pauline White

 

[1] Only ‘Accommodation & Food Service’ is lower. CSO, Earnings, Hours and Employment Costs Survey Q4 2018, Table EHQ03

[2] See https://www.wdc.ie/regional-development/creative-economy/

[3] Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2019), Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020: West Region

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.