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Aviation trends, Government Policy and Ireland’s airports

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is preparing a new Regional Airports Programme 2020-2024 and has sought the views of stakeholders. The WDC has made a submission which is available for download here. The WDC views are set out in the context of aviation trends, Government policy and airport capacity across Ireland.

Aviation Trends & Implications

The latest CSO Aviation statistics, Quarter 4 and Year 2018, see here, highlight the trend of the increasing concentration of air passengers travelling through Dublin airport compared to other airports. For example, in 2014, Dublin accounted for 81.9% of all passengers (total = 26.5 million), compared to 85.6% in 2018 (Total = 36.6 million). This represents an increase of 9.6 million passengers in 4 years, a 44.2% increase, with Dublin Airport accounting for 95.2% of total passenger growth in that period. So along with a significant increase in total air passenger numbers, there is an ever-increasing share travelling through Dublin airport.

The WDC believes that without more active intervention, further concentration of air traffic is likely. An ever-increasing share of passenger traffic through Dublin Airport is not in the State’s best interest (from a safety and security perspective) as well as counterproductive in delivering on targets within Ireland 2040.

Globally, it is difficult for smaller airports to compete with larger airports. For example, 80% of airports in the world have fewer than a million passengers per annum and 94% of these airports are loss-making[1]. This is one of the reasons that the EU allows State aid under certain conditions to support smaller airports.

Government Policy: Project Ireland 2040

There needs to be consideration of how the airports of Shannon, IWAK and Donegal can be more effectively supported through policy changes and State aid to deliver on the targets of the NPF and effectively on the role in supporting the economic growth of their respective regions (planned under Ireland 2040). The overarching policy objectives of Project Ireland 2040 state;

We need to manage more balanced growth … because at the moment Dublin, and to a lesser extent the wider Eastern and Midland area, has witnessed an over concentration of population, homes and jobs. We cannot let this continue unchecked and so our aim is to see a roughly 50:50 distribution of growth between the Eastern and Midland region, and the Southern and Northern and Western regions, with 75% of the growth to be outside of Dublin and its suburbs[2].

Policy and funding alignment

Given the recent Government commitment to Project Ireland 2040, sectoral policies need to be updated in order to effectively support the overarching objectives of Ireland 2040. If not, then Ireland 2040 is likely to fail. The National Aviation Policy (NAP, 2015) predates the publication and consideration of Ireland 2040 but can be seen to unduly reinforce the dominance of the larger airports (Dublin in particular).  Now that Project Ireland 2040 is Government Policy, the NAP should be reviewed and updated in light of the overarching objectives of the NPF. In the absence of reassessment and updating it is difficult to see how development can move away from a ‘business as usual’ approach and how the NPF can achieve its targets. It is sectoral planning and policy that are the real drivers of spatial and regional development.

The WDC believes that changes are required to more effectively support the growth of the airports in the Western Region, namely, Donegal, Ireland West Airport Knock (IWAK) and Shannon, to enable them to deliver on NAP and the regional targets contained in the more recently published Project Ireland 2040.

Airport Catchments

As the maps below show IWAK serves a very large catchment relative to some of the other airports. The planned road improvements for the North West will help support greater traffic through Ireland West Airport, which in turn will allow the airport better serve the catchment to its north including Sligo – a designated regional centre under Project Ireland 2040. The planned road improvements must be prioritised.

Maps 1 & 2: 30-min and 60-min catchment areas for Ireland’s airports

Source: Spending Review 2019, A Review of the Regional Airports Programme, DTTaS, IGEES

As the Department’s consultation document notes, though passenger numbers at all four regional airports are less than 1 million annually, just one airport – IWAK – has more than 400,000. IWAK has had annual passenger numbers in excess of 700,000 for the last three years and is forecast to have passenger numbers exceeding 800,000 in 2019. This is because Ireland West Airport Knock essentially serves the same purpose for its region (the North West) as the State airports perform in the Mid-West, South-West and East respectively, illustrated by the maps above. This needs to be recognised in an updated NAP.

Donegal serves a large catchment within a 60-minute radius and given the geography of Donegal, the relatively poor surface accessibility and the likely impacts of Brexit, it is important that support for Donegal continues.

Shannon Airport is the second largest airport in Ireland (in terms of capacity of the airport campus) and is a critical element in the transport infrastructure of the mid-west region, serving the significant industrial cluster of Shannon and the wider catchment as illustrated in the maps. It is therefore important that it operates optimally to help deliver the objectives of Project Ireland 2040, to enable the cities of Limerick and Galway on the Western seaboard, to each grow by at least 50% to 2040 and to enhance their significant potential to also become cities of scale[3].

The WDC considers that with Dublin Airport now operating at or near capacity, and capacity available at other airports such as IWAK and Shannon, cost-efficient and accessible alternatives to Dublin should be utilised and promoted. Shannon, IWAK and Donegal are important airports serving the Mid-west, West and North west of the country and policy and funding needs to effectively support them.

Industry view

 Exporters are also concerned with the ever-increasing concentration of traffic through Dublin Airport For example, the Irish Exporters Association (IEA) advocate for support for better air connectivity from the West of Ireland such as direct access to a European hub airport.  The IEA submission[4] to the Draft National Planning Framework noted that of those IEA members surveyed many said that they would use a different Irish airport as their primary route to move goods from Ireland if:

  • There were more frequent flights from another airport – 36%
  • Road networks between primary distribution centre and another airport were improved – 23%
  • Another airport was upgraded – 14%

These views are likely to be attenuated with Brexit.

In our submission, along with an updating of National Aviation Policy to align policy with Project Ireland 2040, the WDC propose some amendments to the existing operation of the Regional Airport Programme, see here for more detail.

 

Deirdre Frost

[1] ACI Report https://aci.aero/news/2019/03/28/aci-economics-report-affirms-the-importance-of-non-aeronautical-revenues-for-airports-financial-sustainability/

[2] Project Ireland 2040, NPF, 2018, p.11

[3] https://www.gov.ie/pdf/?file=https://assets.gov.ie/166/310818095340-Project-Ireland-2040-NPF.pdf#page=1 p.22.

[4] IEA Submission https://irishexporters.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/IEA-Submission_Draft-of-the-National-Planning-Framework.-Nov-17.pdf

Transport, Aviation, Ten-T and Project Ireland 2040

Submission to Review of TEN-T

The Department of Transport has recently published its submission to the European Commission on proposed revisions of the TEN-T network see here.

The Department advocate for the inclusion of the Atlantic seaboard region of Ireland on the TEN-T Core Network, which the WDC welcomes. In his submission, Minister Ross provides the national policy context, in particular noting the overarching objectives of Project Ireland 2040.

We need to manage more balanced growth … because at the moment Dublin, and to a lesser extent the wider Eastern and Midland area, has witnessed an over concentration of population, homes and jobs. We cannot let this continue unchecked and so our aim is to see a roughly 50:50 distribution of growth between the Eastern and Midland region, and the Southern and Northern and Western regions, with 75% of the growth to be outside of Dublin and its suburbs[1].

One of the key objectives of the NPF is to move away from ‘business as usual’ and to redirect growth to other areas. In making the case for inclusion of the Atlantic seaboard region of Ireland in the Ten-T Core Network, Minister Ross also notes the adverse impacts of Brexit noting that,

Continued EU support for transport investment projects in Ireland will become even more important in the context of Brexit, after which our peripheral location on the western point of Europe will leave us even more isolated from other EU Member States. While Project Ireland 2040 aims to highlight the actions, including capital investment, required to strengthen the Northern and Western Regions and mitigate the adverse effects of the UKs exit from the EU which are expected to impact disproportionately on this area, its inclusion on the Ten-T Core Network would result in further Irish projects being eligible to apply for Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding, thereby contributing to the balanced development of our regions….

Policy and funding alignment

While the WDC welcomes the views expressed by the Department of Transport in relation to inclusion of the Atlantic seaboard region in the Ten-T Core network, in reality, for funding to follow from Europe, the Department of Transport needs to prioritise funding for Atlantic Economic Corridor Transport projects. So, for example the Capital Investment Plan allied to the NPF identifies transport projects for investment in the AEC region but many of these are not planned to occur until towards the end of the 10-year period, unlike other projects which are prioritised in the next few years.

The WDC have argued following publication of the NPF 2040, that if sectoral policies are not aligned to support the objectives of Ireland 2040 then Ireland 2040 is likely to fail. The National Aviation Policy (2015) predates the publication and consideration of Ireland 2040. The National Aviation Policy can be seen to unduly reinforce the dominance of the larger airports (Dublin in particular).  Now that the NPF is Government Policy, the National Aviation Policy should be reviewed and reassessed in light of the overarching objectives of the NPF and the need to ensure sectoral alignment. In the absence of such reviews it is difficult to see how development can move away from a ‘business as usual’ approach and how the NPF can achieve its targets. It is sectoral planning and policy that is the real driver of spatial and regional development.

 Aviation trends

As the WDC pointed out in its Submission on Future Airports Capacity Needs at Ireland’s State Airports see here, the West and North West region in particular has relatively poor accessibility by air, which is the preferred transport mode for international access.

The CSO Aviation statistics, Quarter 4 and year 2018, see here, highlight the trend of the increasing concentration of air passengers travelling through Dublin airport compared to other airports. For example, in 2014, Dublin accounted for 81.9% of all passengers (Total = 26.5 million), compared to 85.6% in 2018 (Total = 36.6 million). This represents an increase of 9.6 million passengers in 4 years, a 44.2% increase. So along with a significant increase in total air passenger numbers, there is an ever-increasing share travelling through Dublin airport.

This ever-increasing concentration is of concern to those supporting exporters. For example, the

IEA submission to the Draft National Planning Framework noted that of those IEA members surveyed who use airports to export, 81% use Dublin airport predominantly as their primary route to ship goods out of Ireland. 15% said that this was not the closest airport geographically. Members surveyed said that they would use a different Irish airport as their primary route to ship goods from Ireland if:

  • There were more frequent flights from another airport – 36%
  • Road networks between primary distribution centre and another airport were improved – 23%
  • Another airport was upgraded – 14%

The implementation of hub connectivity from the west of Ireland directly into Heathrow or another European hub airport (example Schiphol or Frankfurt) would significantly enhance business connectivity and attractiveness to locate in the west of Ireland[2].

The WDC considers that with Dublin Airport, operating at or near capacity, cost-efficient and accessible alternatives to Dublin are required. Shannon and Ireland West Airport Knock are important transport centres enabling the international success of businesses in Ireland’s West and North West.

The WDC believes that there needs to be consideration of how the other State airports, in particular Shannon (given the remit of the WDC) can be more effectively supported through policy changes to deliver on the regional growth targets of the NPF.

 Role of ‘Regional Airports’

Similarly, the WDC believe that the role of regional airports has to be reviewed in light of the NPF and its regional population and employment targets. The Department of Transport is currently conducting a consultation on the Preparation of new Regional Airports Programme 2020 to 2024.

The Regional Airports Programme provides for funding to regional airports to help them deliver on their goal as outlined in the National Aviation Policy. Recognising the relative difficulty which smaller airports have in both meeting operating costs and attracting and retaining air services, the Department provides support under different funding mechanisms. These funding schemes are governed by EU guidelines on State aid some of which apply to airports handling up to 3 million passengers per year.

As the consultation document highlights, all regional airports are not equal! While passenger numbers at all four regional airports are less than 1 million annually, three of four have less than 400,000. The exception is Ireland West Airport Knock which has had annual passenger numbers in excess of 700,000 for the last three years. This is because Ireland West Airport Knock essentially serves the same purpose for its region (the North West) as the State airports perform in the Mid-West, South-West and East respectively. National aviation policy needs to fully recognise the international transport function Ireland West Airport Knock provides, ensuring direct international air services to a region much of which is not in the catchment of the other international airports, Dublin, Cork and Shannon.

The WDC believes that the road improvements planned for the North West will help support greater traffic through Ireland West Airport, which in turn will allow Ireland West Airport Knock perform a key role in supporting the Government’s wider/broader policy objectives of delivering the population and employment targets for the Northern & Western Region under Project Ireland 2040. The road improvements must be prioritised.

Similarly, Shannon Airport with passenger numbers under 3 million (and therefore eligible for capital support without prior EU State approval) can help deliver the objectives of Project Ireland 2040, to enable the cities of Limerick and Galway on the Western seaboard, to each grow by at least 50% to 2040 and to enhance their significant potential to also become cities of scale[3].

All sectoral policy areas, in this case – EU TEN-T, National Aviation Policy and the Regional Airports Programme – highlight the importance of an overarching policy framework, to which all other policies should be aligned in so far as possible. Without alignment, delivery on the overarching policy objective of Project Ireland 2040, is unlikely.

 

Deirdre Frost

 

[1] Project Ireland 2040, NPF, 2018, p.11

[2] http://npf.ie/wp-content/uploads/0725-Irish-Exporters-Association.compressed.pdf

[3] https://www.gov.ie/pdf/?file=https://assets.gov.ie/166/310818095340-Project-Ireland-2040-NPF.pdf#page=1 p.22.

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

The Public Administration & Defence Sector in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published the 9th in its Regional Sectoral Profile series which analyse employment in different economic sectors in the Western Region.

And this one is of particular interest to us, as it’s the sector we work in!  The report examines the Public Administration & Defence sector which includes all those working in the civil service, local authorities and state agencies, as well as Gardaí, prison officers and the defence forces.  It does not include those working in Education[1], Health & Care[2] or ‘semi-state’ companies e.g. Bus Eireann.

Two publications are available:

Employment in the Western Region

According to Census 2016, 18,858 people worked in Public Administration & Defence in the Western Region.  It plays a somewhat greater role in the region’s labour market than nationally (Fig. 1) accounting for 5.6% of total employment compared with 5.3%.

There is considerable variation across western counties and at 8.4%, Roscommon has the highest share working in Public Administration & Defence in Ireland with Leitrim (7.9%) second highest and Sligo (7.5%) fourth. Donegal is also in the top ten nationally.  North Connacht and the North West have high reliance on the public sector to sustain employment, partly due to more limited job options in the private sector.  In addition to Public Administration & Defence, Sligo and Leitrim also have the highest shares in Ireland working in Health & Care while Donegal has the highest share working in Education.

In contrast, at just 3.6% Galway City has the lowest share of its residents working in Public Administration & Defence in Ireland, with Galway County (4.6%) also in the bottom ten nationally.  Greater economic and employment diversity around Galway reduces this sector’s relative importance.

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

During 2011-2016, the Western Region experienced a 7.4% decline in the number working in Public Administration & Defence, greater than the 6.3% decline nationally.  In both cases this decline contrasted with overall jobs growth.  This period was characterised by a moratorium on recruitment in the public sector.

Every western county, except Clare (+3.9%), saw a decline over this period.  Donegal (-14.2%), Galway City (-12.5%) and Mayo (-10.1%) saw particularly large losses.  One factor would have been reduced staffing in their respective local authorities which are significant employers, as well as declines in the defence forces.

Employment in western towns

In 2016 there were 40 urban centres with a population over 1,500 in the Western Region. The relative importance of Public Administration & Defence as an employer varies across these towns (Fig. 2).  It is important to note that commuting is a particular issue when considering towns and this data refers to residents of the town.

At 11.4% (53 people) Lifford (county town of Donegal) has the highest share working in Public Administration & Defence in the region and second highest of Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+).  Lifford shows the potential jobs impact of locating the administrative centre of an area away from that area’s main economic centre both to support development in smaller towns and also to ease congestion in larger centres.

Strandhill in Co Sligo (9.4%, 75 people) and Roscommon town (9.2%, 208 people) were next highest in the region and third and fourth highest nationally. Except for Galway City and Ballina, the region’s larger (10,000+) urban centres all have around 7% working in this sector. Many host local authority head offices as well as offices of Government Departments and state agencies.  The very low share in Galway City is due to the wider range of alternative job options as well as the role of surrounding commuter towns e.g. Athenry.

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

Of the 38 towns in the region for which data is available for both 2011 and 2016,[3] 28 of them experienced a decline in the number working in Public Administration & Defence between 2011 and 2016, nine had an increase with one unchanged.  Bearna (18.5%, +5 people) and Gort (15.8%, +6 people), had the largest percentage growth possibly due to commuting to Galway City or Ennis as several of the other towns which grew are also commuter towns e.g. Strandhill, Sixmilebridge, Moycullen.  In absolute terms, Ennis (6%, +40 people) had the biggest increase in the number of residents working in the sector.

Many more towns experienced decline than growth however. Clifden had the largest decline (-49.1%, -26 people) and was also the town with the largest population decline of all western towns. Ballyhaunis, Ballybofey-Stranorlar, Castlerea and Loughrea also experienced large declines. These are all medium-sized rural towns, at some distance from larger urban centres.

Employment by gender

Overall, employment in Public Administration & Defence is quite gender balanced.  In the Western Region women account for a small majority (51.4% are women) in contrast to the state where there is a male majority (52.4% are men).  The female share has been higher in the region than nationally throughout the past two decades.

In terms of the sector’s relative importance to total male and female employment (Fig. 3), 6.2% of all working women and 5.1% of all working men in the Western Region work in Public Administration & Defence.  While the sector plays a notably more significant role in total female employment in the region than nationally (6.2% v 5.4%), its importance to male employment is the same.

In all areas the sector accounts for a greater share of all women’s jobs than men’s.  In Leitrim (9.4%), Roscommon (9.2%) and Sligo (8.9%) Public Administration & Defence plays a critical role in total female employment.  More limited options for alternative professional career opportunities, particularly in more rural areas, increases the role of Public Administration & Defence in women’s employment.

For male employment, Roscommon (7.6%) is where the sector is most important by quite some margin.  This may reflect the nature of some public sector employment in the county e.g. Castlerea prison.  Again, neighbouring Leitrim (6.6%) and Sligo (6.2%) is where it is next most important for men’s jobs, while it is least important in Galway.

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

The period 2011 to 2016 saw both male and female employment in Public Administration & Defence decline by 7.4% in the region.  For both, this was a greater decline than nationally with the difference greater among women (-7.4% in the Western Region v -5.8% in the state) than men (-7.4% v -6.7%).

Key Policy Issues

Higher reliance on public sector employment in the Western Region: Public Administration & Defence is a more significant employer in the Western Region than nationally (5.6% of total employment v 5.3%) and this is the case to an even greater degree for the two other predominantly public sectors of Health & Care and Education.  The three primarily public sectors of employment jointly account for 28% of all jobs in the Western Region (24% in the state).

This is also reflected in income earned.  Recent analysis by the CSO[4] found that 41.7% of earned income by employees living in Sligo came from Public Administration & Defence, Education and Health & Care combined, the highest share in Ireland, followed by Leitrim (37.8%) and Donegal (37.8%).  The spatial pattern is very vividly illustrated by Fig. 4.  This higher reliance means that developments, such as the moratorium on public sector recruitment, had a greater economic and employment impact in the region.

Fig. 4: Proportion of earned income from Public Administration & Defence, Education and Health & Care combined, 2016

Source: CSO, (2019), Geographical Profiles of Income in Ireland 2016, Map 6.8

 

Important role in female employment: Public Administration & Defence is a more important source of female employment in the region compared with nationally and the gap widened over the past two decades as women’s employment in the region became increasingly dependent on this sector. This is particularly true in more rural counties with 9+% of women in Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo working in public administration.  Such employment may help maintain the viability of household income, particularly during a recession when there are large private sector job losses e.g. in construction.  Future trends in public sector employment will have a greater impact on female than male employment levels.

Providing professional career opportunities in smaller towns and more rural areas: Public Administration & Defence plays a critical role in providing professional career opportunities, including in more rural areas and smaller towns where there may be fewer alternatives.  North Connacht and the North West, which is the more rural part of the Western Region, has particularly high reliance on the sector (see Fig. 4).  More limited private sector job options increases this sector’s impact on the local economy.  While the main focus for Public Administration & Defence policy must be on the provision of quality public services, it parallel role as a provider of jobs, particularly in smaller towns and rural areas, should also be a factor in policy decisions on the location of such jobs.

Contribution to achieving regional and rural development: As was highlighted in a previous WDC study ‘Moving West’[5] the location of Public Administration & Defence employment is a key policy tool at the disposal of Government. The relocation of public sector offices and jobs from Dublin to other locations has considerable potential to both stimulate development in these areas and to ease pressures on the capital.  The Government, national and local, can therefore play a very direct role in delivering the regional development objectives of the National Planning Framework (NPF) through its location decisions.  Lessons learned from previous relocations, as well as technological developments to facilitate more dispersed work locations, can contribute to implementing such moves.

For more detailed analysis see ‘The Public Administration & Defence Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’.

Pauline White

 

[1] See WDC (2019) The Education Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

[2] See WDC (2018) The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

[3] Two towns with a population above 1,500 in 2011 (Portumna and Bunbeg-Derrybeg) dropped below in 2016. Two towns (Collooney and Convoy) rose above the 1,500 threshold in 2016.  There were also town boundary changes between 2011 and 2016 for 15 of the 40 towns in the Western Region which has an impact when considering change over time. For most towns the impact was relatively minor, however there was a quite substantial change for Ballina.

[4] CSO (2019), Geographical Profiles of Income in Ireland 2016

[5] WDC (2008), Moving West: An Exploratory Study of the Social and Economic Effects of the Relocation of Public Sector Offices to Towns in the Western Region

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

Smaller Labour Catchments across the Western Region

Travel to Work Areas and Labour Catchments

Analysis of travel to work data can be used to identify the geographic catchment from which a town draws its workforce, otherwise known as its labour catchment. Measurement of labour markets based on Travel to Work Areas (TTWAs) has been well established in the UK for many years, helping to inform various public policies ranging from employment to transport provision. Companies and large employers use TTWAs to help identify optimal locations to access labour supply.

The use of TTWAs is less well established in Ireland, and where used has largely been focussed on the larger cities especially Dublin. There has generally been little focus on labour catchments in other centres or more rural regions.

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has worked with the All Island Research Observatory (AIRO) to examine the labour catchments of towns across the Western Region based on Census of Population data 2006 and 2016. The town labour catchments show that area from which a town draws most of its labour supply; each catchment is based on the inclusions of Electoral Divisions (EDs) that are assigned to a town, based on commuting to work flows.

Last year the WDC published the findings on the labour catchments of the principal towns of the seven counties of the Western Region (Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon). The full report Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments is available for download here (14.2MB). Each of the individual town reports are also available to download separately (Galway City, Sligo Town, Ennis,  Letterkenny, Castlebar, Carrick-on-Shannon, Roscommon).

The WDC is now publishing the findings of the other smaller catchments across the Western Region. This is the first time such detailed labour market analyses have been undertaken for the smaller centres across the Western Region. These data and findings can inform local and regional economic development and help support appropriate policies to ensure optimal local and regional development.

Smaller Catchments

The WDC identifies 26 labour catchments, which complement the 7 labour catchments of the principal towns in each of the counties which were published in 2018, see above.

In these 26 publications, the WDC draws on Census 2016 POWCAR (Place of Work Census of Anonymised Records) data to examine the travel to work patterns in centres with a population greater than 1,000 across the Western Region.

These 26 smaller catchments provide insights into the travel to work patterns of workers living there which are then used to generate labour catchments which show the geographic area from which each town draws most of its workers. Each town’s labour catchment has many more workers living there than the Census measure of the town’s resident workforce and it is a better measure of labour supply. This is particularly useful when considering employment and investment decisions.

Socio-economic profiles

Each of the reports identify the place of work of the resident workforce and provides detailed analysis of the socio-economic profile of workers providing information on age, gender, education levels, and sector of employment. There are comparisons with the rest of the Western Region and the State Average. There is also trend analyses indicating the extent of change between 2006 and 2016.

For ease of presentation the 26 smaller catchment reports are presented by County. Below are links to each of the 26 reports. In practice labour catchments extend across county boundaries, indeed that is one of the rationales for considering labour catchments rather than administrative boundaries; people travel to work regardless of county boundaries and these patterns and catchments provide a better evidence base for informing policy.

Some key points include:

  • Labour Supply: All the town labour catchments have significantly more people at work than the Census population at work for that town and have therefore access to a larger labour supply than normal Census definitions would indicate.
  • Profile of ‘Rural’ employment: The profile of employment in these smaller centres provide important insights into ‘rural’ employment, which is much are complex and varied than the perception of rural as largely agricultural employment.
  • Trends: Changes over time, in both place of work and the socio-economic characteristics of workers indicate little change in the geography of labour catchments but much change in the profile of resident workers, most notably in their age and education levels.

County Clare

The two labour catchments within Co. Clare have both recorded an increase in workers resident in the catchments. The Shannon labour catchment is concentrated around the Shannon Free Zone and Shannon Airport and is geographically compact. The Kilrush labour catchment is more extensive and now incorporates a previously separate Kilkee labour catchment. In both there is evidence of longer distances travelled to work than previously.

County Donegal

There are 8 smaller catchments located within Co. Donegal, reflecting the large size of the county, its geography with an extensive border both with Northern Ireland and the sea, and the relatively small size of some of the catchments.

Of the 8 labour catchments, 5 recorded a decline in the number of resident workers in the decade between 2006 and 2016. The three that recorded an increase in resident workers are Donegal, Dungloe and Carndonagh,  illustrating that some more remote areas are experiencing growth.

Each report identifies the top 10 work destinations for residents living in each labour catchment and the extent of cross border commuting is presented.

County Galway

There are 4 smaller catchments located within Co. Galway and just one, Gort labour catchment, recorded a decrease in the number of workers living there over the decade 2006-2016. Clifden, Tuam and Loughrea labour catchments recorded increases of varying degrees. The data presented also shows the extent of commuting between catchments, for example from Tuam, Loughrea and Gort labour catchments to Galway city.

County Leitrim

Apart from the county town labour catchment of Carrick-on-Shannon, there is just one smaller catchment located within Co. Leitrim, namely Manorhamilton. The number of resident workers in the Manorhamilton labour catchment increased over the ten year period and there is data to show more people are now working in Manorhamilton . The influence of some key employers is evident. Data on dross border commuting is also presented.

County Mayo

There are 8 smaller catchments located within Co. Mayo. Just two of the eight recorded a decline in the numbers of resident workers between the period of 2006 and 2016, these were Belmullet and the Charlestown/Knock Airport catchment. The other 6 recorded increases of varying degrees from 31% increase in the Westport labour catchment to an increase of 2.4% for the Ballina labour catchment. The most important places of work across each catchment are presented along with the labour market profiles of workers living there.

County Roscommon

There are 3 smaller catchments located within Co. Roscommon. All 3 recorded a decline in the numbers of workers resident there. In the case of Boyle and Ballaghaderreen, the geographic size of the labour catchments also decreased slightly. The data presented show the sectors in which people worked, the extent to which people worked inside the town and those who worked outside the town but within the wider catchment and the changes over the 10 years. Across all catchments there is a very significant increase in the level of third level education among the workforce.

 

Deirdre Frost

Strong recent growth in overseas & domestic tourism in the Western Region, but considerable variation across counties

Given that it’s mid-term break and the summer season is fast approaching, this is a good time to look at the role and importance of the tourism sector in the economy of the Western Region.

Because of its importance as a source of demand for the hospitality industry, though the balance between tourist and local demand varies considerably across the region, our recent publication ‘Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ included a section examining tourism data.  This post looks at visitor numbers and revenue from both overseas and domestic tourists visiting the Western Region.  The data is from various Fáilte Ireland reports on regional tourism performance.

Overseas tourist revenue in western counties

In 2016[1] overseas tourists visiting the Western Region generated total revenue of €838m.  This was 18.1% of total overseas tourism revenue[2] generated in the state in that year.

The largest source of overseas tourism revenue for the Western Region is North America (35.4%), considerably higher than this market’s share nationally (Fig. 1).  The next largest is Mainland Europe which accounted for a somewhat lower share in the region than nationally.

The region differs considerably from the state in the lower share coming from ‘Other Areas’ (e.g. Asia, Australia).  It seems that visitors from emerging and long-haul markets are less likely to visit the region than elsewhere in Ireland. A key factor in this is access.  As international air carriers from these locations fly in to Dublin Airport, increasing road, rail and bus accessibility from Dublin to the region is vital to growing visits from these new markets.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total overseas tourism revenue by market in Western Region and state, 2016

Source: Fáilte Ireland, Regional tourism performance in 2016 (revised March 2018); Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Facts 2016 (August 2017)

The relative importance of different markets varies across counties.[3]  Britain is the largest source of overseas tourism revenue for Roscommon, Leitrim, Donegal and Mayo.  This is influenced by their large diasporas in the UK as well as direct UK flights to Ireland West Airport Knock, Donegal Airport and City of Derry Airport.  For Roscommon and Leitrim it may also reflect their lower profile among visitors from the US or Europe.  The tourism sector in these four counties is therefore quite exposed to the impact of Brexit.

North American visitors are the largest source of revenue for Galway and Clare (jointly with Mainland Europe) reflecting these counties’ position as international tourist destinations, with direct flights to Shannon Airport playing a role.

Change in overseas tourist revenue and numbers

Between 2011 and 2016, total overseas tourism revenue generated in the Western Region grew by 35.8% compared with 58.9% nationally (Fig. 2) showing a somewhat lower level of recovery.  While it is not possible to calculate total overseas tourist numbers for the Western Region as a whole due to double-counting, all western counties experienced growth in visitor numbers.

Overseas visitor numbers grew by 38%-58% in Donegal, Clare, Galway and Leitrim and these four counties also showed the strongest revenue growth.  They also had the strongest hospitality jobs growth over the same period clearly illustrating the strong link between overseas tourism and hospitality employment.

Donegal experienced substantially greater revenue growth than numbers growth indicating that each visitor spent more per trip (perhaps by staying longer) with Leitrim and Clare also seeing higher spend per overseas visit.  In contrast, Galway had lower growth in revenue than numbers with its growing popularity as a ‘city-break’ destination leading to more, but shorter, visits.

Fig. 2: Percentage change in overseas tourism revenue and overseas tourist numbers in Western Region and state, 2011-2016

Source: Fáilte Ireland, Regional tourism performance in 2016 (revised March 2018); Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Facts 2016 (August 2017); Fáilte Ireland, Overseas Visitors to Counties in 2011 and Associated Revenue (revised July 2013); Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Facts 2014 (revised February 2016)

Mayo was the only county to experience a fall in overseas tourism revenue (-13.9%) despite growth in tourist numbers, indicating that average spend per visit declined.  The ageing of the large Mayo diaspora in the UK, reducing revenue from ‘visiting friends and relatives’, could be a factor.  Roscommon and Sligo also saw a decline in spend per visit.  The substantial reduction in average hotel prices during this period would have contributed and this may have been more prevalent in these counties.

Domestic tourist revenue and numbers in western counties

Domestic tourism plays a key role in the region.  In 2016 Galway received over 1 million domestic trips with Mayo and Clare next highest (Table 1). Given low numbers, data for some counties is amalgamated in the published data and Roscommon & Longford received 136,000 domestic trips in 2016, the lowest number in Ireland.  The revenue generated from domestic trips ranged from €17.5m in Roscommon & Longford to €193.9m in Galway.

In terms of the average expenditure per trip, counties Clare and Donegal generate notably higher spending per domestic trip.  This might be because domestic trips to these counties tend to be for a longer duration and/or people engage in more activities (are holidaymakers).  The more inland areas (Roscommon & Longford and Leitrim & Cavan) have lower average spend per trip which could be because stays in these areas tend to be shorter, are more commonly to visit friends or family and/or costs are lower.  Galway’s relatively low spend per trip is likely influenced by short ‘city-breaks’.

Table 1: Number of domestic trips and revenue in Western Region and state, 2011 and 2016

Source: Fáilte Ireland, Regional tourism performance in 2016 (revised March 2018); Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Facts 2016 (August 2017); Fáilte Ireland, Regional tourism performance in 2014 (February 2016); Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Facts 2014 (revised February 2016

Change in domestic tourist revenue and numbers

As economic conditions improved and disposable income recovered, the number of domestic trips taken in the state grew by 30.5% between 2011 and 2016 with the revenue generated by such trips increasing by 27%, indicating some reduction in spend per trip (Fig. 3).  Except for Mayo, all western counties had the opposite pattern, with greater revenue growth than growth in domestic trips with higher spend per trip.  Clare, Leitrim & Cavan and Sligo in particular had notably higher revenue than numbers growth.

Roscommon & Longford had the strongest growth in both numbers and revenue, though from a very low base.  This growth was far stronger than the performance of overseas tourism over the same period in Roscommon[4] meaning Irish tourists now play a larger role in Roscommon’s tourism activity.

Galway and Mayo had the next strongest growth in tourist numbers influenced by Wild Atlantic Way marketing, initiatives such as the Mayo Greenway and the popularity of Galway City and Westport in particular for short breaks.  For Mayo, domestic trips out-performed overseas, again indicating an increased role for the Irish market, while Mayo’s lower revenue growth is consistent with the pattern for overseas tourists where spending per visit also declined.

Fig. 3: Percentage change in domestic tourism revenue and tourist numbers in Western Region and state, 2011-2016

Source: Fáilte Ireland, Regional tourism performance in 2016 (revised March 2018); Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Facts 2016 (August 2017); Fáilte Ireland, Regional tourism performance in 2014 (February 2016); Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Facts 2014 (revised February 2016)

Key Policy Issues

Tourism marketing brands are critical to attracting domestic and overseas visitors: The Wild Atlantic Way brand has increased tourist numbers and hospitality employment in counties along its route with Donegal, Clare and Galway seeing particularly strong jobs growth.  The continuation, strengthening and extension of the WAW marketing brand is important for sustaining and growing the sector along the western seaboard.

The 2018 launch of the new Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands marketing brand is hoped to increase tourist numbers and revenue to the more inland areas of the Western Region.  While Leitrim has performed well in recent years with strong employment and visitor growth, Roscommon has performed quite poorly; both rely heavily on the UK market.  Careful monitoring of the impact of the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands marketing will be required to judge its effectiveness, with adjustments made as needed.

Need to adapt to tourism trends: A number of trends will impact on the future of tourism in the Western Region.  For example the emergence of ‘sharing economy’ models such as Airbnb is already having an impact.  This can facilitate visitors to stay in more rural areas where there may be insufficient demand for other types of accommodation but where visitors can bring benefits to the wider economy.  This trend however may also impact on the employment levels of accommodation providers.

Changing demographics such as the ageing profile of the European market as well as the UK and US based Irish diaspora, alongside strong global tourism growth from Asian markets, will alter the profile, nature and requirements of overseas tourists to the Western Region and its hospitality sector will need to adapt.

The transition to a low carbon economy will also impact on tourism with potential reduction in air travel, increased focus on the use of public transport by tourists and a demand for higher environmental standards within the sector.   The Western Region’s ‘green’ image provides an important marketing tool, however Ireland’s island location and reliance on air access means that any reduction in air travel to mitigate its negative climate impacts could have a significant impact on tourism in the region.

Pauline White

 

[1] Latest data available. While some topline county data is available for 2017, it does not include a breakdown by market.

[2] Not including revenue from Northern Ireland, carrier receipts (payments to Irish airlines/ferry companies by tourists coming into the country) or overseas same-day visits.

[3] County data is based on a three-year rolling average so the figures for a particular year represent their ‘average’ performance for the previous three years.

[4] This was also the case for Longford.