Enterprise in Western Counties

Last week the WDC published two new WDC Insights publications.  They were both based on our analysis of the CSO’s Business Demography 2014 data which measures active enterprises in the business economy.[1]  The publications were:

In a previous blog, I outlined our analysis of the data for the Western Region.  In this blog the focus will be on the analysis at county level. It should be noted that in this CSO dataset, enterprises are assigned to the county where they are registered with the Revenue Commissioners. A business with multiple locations (e.g. chain stores, multinationals) is counted once.  Although this limits the data somewhat, and tends to increase the numbers for Dublin, it is a good reflection of local business activity.

Change in enterprise numbers in western counties since 2008

There were a total of 40,797 active enterprises in the Western Region in 2014.  Galway had the highest number at just over 13,000, while there were 1,750 registered in Leitrim (Table 1).  All western counties experienced a decline in enterprise numbers between 2008 and 2014 that was greater than the national average (-2.4%).  At -13.4% Donegal had the second highest decline in Ireland (after Monaghan).


Not surprisingly, the sector which declined most in all counties was Construction.  Wholesale & Retail also declined across all counties and most strongly in Donegal and Clare – possibly influenced by their proximity to other large retail centres.  Accommodation & Food Service declined across most counties, especially Clare.  Combined with a large decline in Transportation & Storage, this may be due to reduced flights into Shannon airport.

In general the knowledge services sectors performed best.  ICT, professional and financial services grew strongly in all counties (with only Clare having a decline in ICT services).  Despite this growth however, these sectors continue to play a relatively small role in the enterprise base of most western counties.

Enterprise base of western counties

Construction and Wholesale & Retail are the largest enterprise sectors in every county (Fig. 1).  In the highly rural counties of Roscommon, Mayo and Donegal 34-36% of enterprises are in the traditional sectors of Industry and Construction, while in the more urban counties of Clare and Sligo it is around 30%.  In Donegal and Leitrim over 40% of enterprises are in the local services of retail, accommodation and transport which rely on domestic spending and tourism.  These activities play a key role in the enterprise base of all counties, though Galway’s more diverse enterprise mix means it is least reliant on them.


Galway city and Sligo town are strong regional centres for knowledge service firms and this is clear from the quite high shares of their enterprises in professional, financial and ICT services.  In contrast, these sectors account for only 17% of registered enterprises in Roscommon.

A few examples of particular sectoral enterprise strengths stand out, such as Administration & Support Services in Clare which includes aircraft leasing activities around Shannon and Information & Communications and Financial & Insurance in Galway.  Construction remains hugely important to the enterprise profile of the largely rural counties of Roscommon and Mayo.


There is considerable variation across the seven western counties in terms of their enterprise base.  In general, counties with a higher share of their population living in urban centres (Galway, Clare and Sligo) tend to have a greater share of knowledge services firms and lower reliance on traditional sectors.  The general pattern since 2008 has been one of growth in knowledge services but decline in Construction and local services, a similar pattern to employment trends.  This pattern has a spatial impact as the former tend to concentrate in urban areas while the latter are more important to rural economies.

Pauline White

[1] It excludes Agriculture, Health, Public Administration and Other Services, as well as activities of holding companies.  It includes data on Education but this is not counted in ‘total business economy’ as many of the enterprises are publicly owned and is not analysed here.

Infrastructure Priorities: What to Invest in and Where?

Though the media attention is now largely focussed on what is in Budget 2017 and how it affects individuals, an interesting conference on investment in Ireland’s infrastructure took place on 27th September. Infrastructure Ireland, organised by Eolas, convened a range of speakers with expertise across various Government departments as well as industry bodies and funding agencies.

There were three broad themes emerging from the speakers;

  • the extent to which infrastructure investment should be spatially or geographically targeted,
  • how large infrastructure investments can be funded,
  • and the sectoral delivery of infrastructure investment and its impacts.

Overview and Context

Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, outlined the current planned priorities for infrastructure investment and how it is spread across different sectors. He noted that there needs to be a debate about what are the key priorities for future investment. There are recognised deficiencies in some areas such as water infrastructure and education. The findings from Census 2016 should also help inform where investment is needed. Mr. Watt argued that capital investment is an enabler of sustainable long-term growth and should not be seen as a driver, in terms of construction industry investment for example. Finally Mr. Watt noted the potential importance of the new National Planning Framework in guiding investment. There is to be a mid-term review of the Capital Plan in 2017 and there should be more long-term strategic infrastructure planning.

Danny McCoy, Chief Executive of Ibec discussed the importance of infrastructure investment as a key driver of sustainable economic growth. He argued that the potential growth rate is actually greater than generally considered but that infrastructural deficits will impede or constrain this potential. He also argued that there is a false narrative that as a country we have no money to invest. Our debt to GDP ratio has been dramatically reduced and there are plenty of institutional funding agencies willing to invest in projects (Some examples were outlined by other speakers, see below).

Mr.McCoy argued that Ireland is in danger of becoming a society of ‘private affluence and public squalor’, a phrase coined by the economist JK Galbraith. Our public infrastructure stock is being diminished while private wealthy in increasing. For an economy to function well it needs good public infrastructure.

Mr. McCoy argued that greater investment is needed in the road infrastructure and not on the radial routes to and from Dublin. Growth is skewed too much towards Dublin with it accounting for 40% of national output. London is seen as an outlier with 22% of the UK’s output, most European capitals account for less than 20% of their national output. The other urban centres in Ireland need to be supported in their growth.

He also noted that infrastructure such as further development of our road network, is also a social benefit and the social use of infrastructure should also be valued and highlighted.

Addressing Ireland’s infrastructure gap, Tom Parlon, Director General, Construction Industry Federation, also took up the theme of the concentration of economic activity in the Dublin region, agreeing that it is unhealthy for the national economy for so much to be concentrated in Dublin. A key infrastructure project that should have proceeded is the Cork-Limerick motorway, with benefits outweighing costs by a factor of 2:1.

Mr. Parlon suggested there should be consideration of an Infrastructure Commission which could properly evaluate the infrastructure needs over the longer-term. Mr. Parlon also suggested that the new National Planning Framework should actively support the development of the urban centres of Galway, Limerick and Cork among others so as to distribute economic activity across the state.

Funding Mechanisms

There were a series of presentations on the various funding mechanisms which can be considered.

Brian Murphy, Chief Executive of the National Development Finance Agency, discussed the future outlook for the PPP (public private partnership) market in Ireland. He outlined the recent successes of this model in funding a range of infrastructure investments including much of Ireland’s motorway network, 23 schools, the Dublin Convention centre as well as development of the courts and primary care health centres. He noted that there is a lot of interest by funders and the outlook for more PPPs in Ireland is good.

The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) is another source of funds for Irish infrastructure. Donal Murphy, Head of Infrastructure and Credit Investments, explained the criteria that the ISIF use when deciding to invest; it must make a commercial return, have an economic impact and not displace other funds. A key sector they are interested in is fibre optic deployment, though they invest in a range of sectors including energy and transport infrastructure, housing and care centres.

A European perspective on funding models for strategic infrastructure projects was provided by Tanguy Desrousseaux, from the European Investment Bank. The EIB funds projects across the EU and beyond across various sectors. From an Irish perspective they have provided finance for Dublin Port development, primary care centres, flood protection and educational investments in Trinity College and UCD. Further investments in Irish infrastructure are planned.

Sectoral Investments and Impacts

The detailed sectoral impacts of some of these funding mechanisms were outlined in a series of presentations.

Jim Curran, from the Health Service Executive, outlined the plans for investing in healthcare for better services, focusing on the delivery of primary care centres as well as investments in hospital facilities.

Larry McEvoy, Technical Manager at the Department of Education and Skills, outlined some of the key education infrastructure projects that have been delivered and are in planning. Education is one of the largest recipients of capital funding with an allocation of €3.82bn planned between 2016 and 2021. Schools (both primary and secondary) account for nearly 80% of the funding and this in turn is in response to demographics, with projected enrolment at primary and secondary level continuing to increase up to 2025 at least. For example in 2011 enrolment at primary level was 510,000 children and this will increase to over 570,000 by 2018. Mr. McEvoy outlined the various milestones in the delivery of schools and noted that the building projects beyond 2016 would be announced by the Minister in November.

Peter Walsh, Director for Capital Programmes, at Transport Infrastructure Ireland, discussed the importance of transport infrastructure and outlined the investment planned. Mr.Walsh identified the positive impacts of the development of the motorway network, in terms of journey time savings, better access to employment as well as a reduction in road casualties.  He outlined the need for better public transport infrastructure around Dublin and some ideas on how to manage congestion on the M50. Current and planned roads projects were outlined. Transport Infrastructure Ireland have also been heavily involved in helping to devise regional transport strategies such as the Galway Transport Strategy.

Bob Hanna, the Chief Technical Officer from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, outlined the importance of our energy networks to both the residential and commercial sector. He discussed National Energy Policy and in particular the New Energy White Paper published last December (2015). This White paper highlights the need to decarbonise our energy supply as well as ensuring security of supply and cost effective delivery.

Details on the plan to upgrade Ireland’s water infrastructure was outlined by Elizabeth Arnett, Head of Corporate Affairs & Environmental Regulation, Irish Water. There is a seven year business plan (2014-2021) with key milestones and deliverables set out, including nobody on boil water notices, nobody to be at risk of water contamination as well as the ending of discharges of raw sewage into the sea. There was also an outline of proposed capital investment projects by county between 2007-2021. Within the Western Region, a spend of €356 million is envisaged over the period.


Now that as a country we have emerged from recession, there can be consideration of what capital investment is required and what should be prioritised. The conference highlighted the different perspectives, the sectoral needs as well as funding mechanisms. Above all however, recognising the need to agree a National Planning Framework or Strategy to identify and direct where growth needs to be supported so as to optimise the country’s development is critical.

The most recent plan for capital investment Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021 was published in September 2015. A mid-term review is planned next year. Work on the new regional economic and spatial strategies and the National Planning Framework is underway. A key theme from the conference is that the mid-term review and other decisions on capital spending need to be informed by the National Planning Framework and Regional strategies, both to give effect to them and to ensure that investment is not just sectorally driven. The WDC will be considering regional priorities and inputting into these regional and national processes.

The regional economic and spatial strategies and the National Planning Framework should provide a strong framework as well as input into consideration of the key infrastructural priorities needed to optimise growth, economically and socially, for all citizens and spaces across Ireland. Without this framework, investment will be piecemeal and ad hoc, sectorally driven and relatively inefficient.


Deirdre Frost

Census 2016: Preliminary findings on housing stock and vacancy rates. What has been happening in the Western Region?

A previous blog post Census 2016 Preliminary Results – What does it say about the Western Region? provided some headline figures on population and migration data in 2016 and changes since 2011.

Here I examine two further aspects; housing stock and vacancy rates and examine what is happening at a Western Region and county level.

What is the housing stock in the Western Region?

In April 2016, the Western Region had a housing stock of 404,494, an increase of 0.8% or 3,183 on 2011. Nationally the increase was 0.9% over this period (18,981). These relatively small increases are not surprising following the economic crash and the very limited house building that has taken place since then.

Within the Western Region there was an actual decline in housing stock in three of the counties, (see Table 1 below), Roscommon, -0.5% (-173), Sligo -0.2% (-51) and Leitrim -0.2% (-36), indicating some houses have been removed from the housing stock, though the data does not tell us whether these are ‘ghost estates’ or not.   Though these are marginal changes, there are also negative declines in just a few other places, Dublin and Limerick cities and Longford. In contrast, within the Region, only Galway city records a significant increase in housing stock – 3.5% – the highest recorded increase across the State.


Source: CSO, Census of Population 2011, Census of Population 2016, Preliminary Results.

As the change in housing stock is so closely related to the most recent period of economic growth and decline, it is interesting to look at the figures over the 10 year period, 2006-2016. This period marks the time immediately before the peak of economic growth and growth in housing supply and the economic crash following this, culminating in the current period, marked by a return to economic growth.

Between 2006 and 2016, there was an increase in housing stock of 16.4% in the Western Region and this compares to 14.3% nationally. Within the Region, some counties had a very significant increase in housing stock, Donegal (20.2%), Leitrim (19.1%) and Roscommon (16.9%), highlighting the particularly strong growth rates in the West.

The evident contrast between the growth in supply in the earlier period and the limited growth and contraction in the latter period highlights the difference in housing activity over the periods.

It is worth noting that even with the limited growth in housing stock in the latter period, the growth in the Western Region between 2006 and 2016 of 16.4% is still nearly than double the population growth in the Region over the same period – 8.6%.

Looking at the period 2011-2016, the percentage change in both population and households by county is presented in Figure 7 below. While Donegal lost population (-1.5%) it still experienced a small increase in the number of households (0.8%).


What are the vacancy rates in the region?

The vacancy rate measures the share of the housing stock in each county that is recorded as a vacant dwelling by the Census enumerators.  The average vacancy rate in the Western Region in 2016 was 21.7%, marginally lower than in 2006 (22.8%).

 Fig. 2: Vacancy rates in western counties, Western Region and State, 2011 and 2016

vacancy-rates-11-16-wrSource: CSO, Census of Population 2011, Census of Population 2016, Preliminary Results.

In total Leitrim (29.5%), Donegal (28.2%) and Mayo (24.0%) had the highest vacancy rates in the region, while Galway city (10.5%) had the lowest.   All counties in the Western Region experienced a slight decrease in their vacancy rates between 2011 and 2016.

 Nationally, the average vacancy rate in 2016 was 19.9%, a decrease on the 2011 rate of 22.8%. At a national level, Leitrim and Donegal have the highest vacancy rates in the country and this was also the case in 2011. Figure 8 below shows the vacancy rate by county in 2016.


These data, though preliminary highlight a couple of important themes.

The first is that it is very clear that there are huge differences in housing stock and vacancy rates across the country.

There are also differences within Regions, for example though most counties in the Western Region report negative or less than 1 % growth in housing stock, Galway city on the other hand had the highest growth in housing stock across the country.

This analysis also highlights the value of a five yearly census. As Table 1 illustrates the difference evident in the last 5 years, compared to the previous 5 years is particularly evident in examining the changes to the hosing stock.

Deirdre Frost

Census 2016 Preliminary Results – What does it say about the Western Region?

The headline figures from the preliminary Census 2016 figures show a population that is growing, nationally by 3.7% over the last 5 years. However it is not evenly spread and it is clear that much of the growth is on the East coast and in urban centres.

Nationally the population is now 4.75 million, an increase of 3.7% on the 2011 figure of 4.58 million. The Western Region’s population grew at a much slower rate, by just 0.9% over the period, to 828,124 – amounting to 7,244 more persons than in 2011.

Where is this growth occurring?

The Map below highlights the spatial distribution of population growth.


While most counties experienced some level of population growth just three counties, all in the Western Region, witnessed population decline over the five years, namely Donegal (-1.5%), Mayo (-0.2%) and Sligo (-0.1%).

From a Western Region perspective, the other four counties of the Western Region all recorded population increases over the period; Clare (+1.2%), Leitrim (+0.5%), Roscommon (+0.6%), Galway county (+2.2%), Galway city (5.3%).

It is clear from the map that the particularly high growth rates, in excess of 4% are all, apart from Cork and Longford, occurring on the East coast.

Aspects of Population Change

Net migration and natural increases are the two components of population change.


Migration, especially in an Irish context can vary a lot and is heavily influenced by the rate of economic growth. Nationally net migration over the past 5 years is estimated at -28,558. This compares with net inward migration of 115,800 over the previous five years from 2006-2011.

The migration figures include international migration as well as migration within Ireland. It is clear that a key driver for migratory flows is employment opportunity. As the map below illustrates, most counties – coloured red and orange, experienced net outward migration. Dublin and Cork city along with Kilkenny, Laois and Longford experienced net inward migration. It is most significant in parts of Dublin. All other counties experienced net outward migration and this is particularly stark on the West coast, in Donegal (-6,731), Mayo (-3,246), Galway (-3,168) and Limerick.

Net migration by county 11-16

Natural Increase

The natural increase (births minus deaths) is the other component of population growth or decline. While natural increases are evident across the country, it ranges from an annual average rate of 3.3 per 1,000 in Cork city to a rate of 15 per 1,000 in Fingal. This range is evident in the chart below.

From a Western Region perspective, all counties except Galway city have an annual average rate less than the state average which is 8.5 (on the chart between Offaly and Westmeath).

natural increase by county

So what are the policy implications?

There are many implications across a whole range of policy areas. The greater detail which will be available from the detailed Census outputs later in the year will help inform specific policy areas.

It is clear that, so far, the preliminary results from Census 2016 highlight the need for a new spatial plan which can help direct where population and economic growth should occur. Economic and population growth need to be supported to ensure optimum growth across all regions.

Deirdre Frost

Impact of Sectors on Western Region’s Jobs Recovery

Our last blog post examined the role that sectors play in regional GVA. Sectors also have a huge impact on the pattern of jobs growth.  Following on from our April WDC Insights publication ‘Jobs Recovery in the Western Region’, the WDC has just published new analysis examining the role that sectors have played in recent jobs trends.

‘Impact of Sectors on Western Region’s Jobs Recovery’ examines some of the causes for the region’s slower jobs recovery.

Lower jobs diversity

There is greater concentration of employment in a few sectors in the Western Region.  62.2% of jobs in the region are in its top five sectors (Industry, Health, Wholesale & Retail, Agriculture and Education) compared with 53.6% in the rest of the state.  Greater diversity in employment across sectors is an important aspect of regional resilience and growth.

Traditional and public sectors more important; services less so

The region has higher shares working in the traditional sectors (Agriculture, Construction, Industry) and also Public Services (Health, Education, Public Admin) than in the rest of the state (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Percentage of employment by broad sector, Western Region and Rest of State, Q1 2015

Fig. 1: Percentage of employment by broad sector, Western Region and Rest of State, Q1 2015

At the same time, there are lower shares employed in Locally Traded (Retail, Accommodation, Transport) and Knowledge (ICT, Finance, Professional) Services.  For Locally Traded Services, as these rely on domestic demand, lower incomes in the region  compared with much of the rest of the state may be a factor in this.  It also helps to explain the region’s higher youth unemployment as these are areas (shops, bars) where young people often find work.

The high-value Knowledge Services sectors is where the region lags the rest of the state most significantly.  These are seen as key sectors for growth and their poor performance is a cause for concern.

Strength in manufacturing

Manufacturing plays a more important role in the region’s employment, accounting for 15.6% of jobs compared with 12.2% in the rest of the state.  Between 2012 and 2015 growth in manufacturing jobs in the Western Region was more than twice that as in rest of state – 8.3% v 3.4% (Fig. 2).  The region’s manufacturing strength has been a key factor in the West’s relatively strong recovery in GVA.  Manufacturing is a key regional strength.

Decline in market services sectors

Between 2012 and 2015 there was jobs decline in the three market services sectors (Administration and Other, Locally Traded and Knowledge) in the Western Region, while they grew elsewhere in the state (Fig. 2).  This is the main reason for the Western Region’s slower jobs recovery.

Fig. 2: Percentage change in employment by broad sector, Western Region and Rest of State, Q1 2012 – Q1 2015

Fig. 2: Percentage change in employment by broad sector, Western Region and Rest of State, Q1 2012 – Q1 2015

Similar to the rest of the state, Agriculture and Construction saw the largest increases in job numbers in the Western Region, driven by strong agri-food exports and a resurgence in building activity.


This WDC Insights shows that slower jobs recovery in the Western Region is mainly due to contraction in market services sectors, in contrast with growth elsewhere.  In every year since 2011, the numbers working in the Western Region in both Knowledge Services and in Administration and Other Services has declined. This was during a time of recovery nationally.

While the region’s strong manufacturing base and Public Services employment have compensated to some extent, it has not been enough to allow the region to enjoy a similar rate of jobs recovery as elsewhere.  Optimising growth across all sectors, and addressing challenges in the market services sectors in particular, will be required for a healthier and more resilient regional labour market.

Pauline White


Source: All data taken from a special run of the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 1 2012-2015 for the seven county Western Region.

Jobs Recovery and the Western Region

New WDC Insights publication

Ireland has been experiencing a gradual recovery in employment since 2012.  While jobs growth is occurring in the Western Region, it is not following the same pattern, nor occurring at the same rate, as elsewhere.

A new WDC Insights publication examines some of the distinctive aspects of the Western Region’s labour market.  Some key points are:

Lower jobs growth:  Between 2012 and 2015, there was 2.8% growth in total employment in the Western Region, less than half the jobs growth experienced in the rest of the state over the same period (6.3%) (Table 1).

Table 1- Selected employment indicators 2012-2015

Jobs growth driven by self-employment:  The jobs growth that is occurring in the region is strongly driven by self-employment.  Between 2012 and 2015 the number of self-employed in the Western Region grew by 13.6%, much higher than the 8.6% increase in the rest of the state.  On the other hand, the number of employees only grew by 0.7% in the region compared with 5.8% growth in the rest of the state over the same period.

Higher youth unemployment rate:  Young people (15-24 yrs) in the Western Region face an unemployment rate of 30.8% compared with 20% for those living in the rest of the country (Fig. 1).  Young jobseekers in the region are facing considerable barriers to accessing a job.

Fig 1 - Youth unemployment rate 2006-2015

The Western Region is experiencing a jobs recovery but this is occurring at a slower pace than elsewhere.  The key role of self-employment in the region’s jobs growth shows that it is a key route to employment, especially in rural areas with fewer job options.

The region’s young people are facing particularly stark labour market challenges.  Young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) for an extended period of time, face considerable barriers in accessing work.  This is likely to be compounded by the overall slower jobs recovery occurring in the region.

Download WDC Insights: Jobs Recovery and the Western Region

The West in 1916

For the week that’s in it, we thought we’d turn our attention to 1916.  The CSO recently launched a very interesting resource that’s well worth investigating Life in 1916 Ireland: Stories from statistics that highlights just how much life has changed over the past century.

A lot of the data is for Ireland as a whole, but there’s county information on many topics.  Understandably much of the analysis focuses on living conditions for people in Dublin city at the time of the 1916 Rising, especially those living in the tenements, but some very interesting patterns for the West also emerge.

Shift in population

The past century has seen a fundamental shift in Ireland’s population towards the East coast, with Leinster’s population more than doubling (up 116%).  Munster meanwhile had a 20% increase.  In contrast, both Connacht and the counties of Ulster in the Republic both experienced an 11% fall in their population over the past 100 years.

At a county level, all counties of the Western Region, except Galway and Clare, had a fall in population ranging from -50% in Leitrim to -4% in Donegal (Fig. 1). Within the region, the population tended to shift southwards.

Map of population change in Ireland, 1911-2011

Fig. 1: Change in population by county, 1911-2011. Source:

Housing conditions

There were 176,659 housing units in the Western Region in 1911. There was a 69% increase over the following century, but this increase is dwarfed by the 222% increase in housing units in the Rest of the State, clearly a consequence of the shifting population patterns.

The region was also characterised by fewer ‘big houses’ with less than 5% of all houses having 10 rooms or more compared with 11.5% in the Rest of the State.  Mayo, Leitrim and Roscommon had the lowest shares of large houses.

At the other end of the scale, there were 10,080 one room dwellings in the Western Region in 1911. If we specifically consider one room dwellings which housed three or more people (Fig. 2), the impact of Dublin’s tenements is clear. Over half of one room dwellings in the city had three or more people.

For the Western Region it was quite a mixed picture with the large rural counties of Donegal and Mayo having the next highest shares after Dublin, while Roscommon and Leitrim had among the lowest.  Birth rates were a key factor here, as Roscommon (18.1 per 1,000 population) and Leitrim (19.2) had some of the lowest birth rates in the country in 1916, while Mayo (21.8) and Donegal (21.2) had among the highest.

Fig. 2: Percentage of one room dwellings with three or more people by county, 1911. Source: and WDC calculations

Fig. 2: Percentage of one room dwellings with three or more people by county, 1911. Source: and WDC calculations

Seasonal Agricultural Work

The prevalence of large numbers living in one room dwellings in Donegal and Mayo could be linked to the phenomenon of seasonal agricultural workers which was strongest in these counties. In 1914, approximately 13,000 people migrated to Britain for seasonal agricultural work.  The county of origin for 7,246 of these migrants is known and Mayo and Donegal accounted for over 80% of the migrants (4,282 and 1,640 respectively).  As these workers would be absent from the home for long periods, the actual number of people living in some of these one room dwellings during these periods would have been lower.

The CSO quotes the Department of Agriculture & Technical Instruction reporting that labourers “…save usually from half to three-quarters of their earnings, and some return home with as much as £20 saved in the season.” This report also noted that 97% of migrants from Donegal went to Scotland while 93% of the migrants from Mayo went to England and Wales.


This pattern of seasonal agricultural work was also likely a factor in these counties having the highest rates of illiteracy in the country with Donegal (16.8%), Galway (15.3%) and Mayo (14.6%) having the highest (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Percentage of population by literacy level by county, 1911 (note: there were a considerable number of persons where this information was missing). Source: and WDC calculations

Fig. 3: Percentage of population by literacy level by county, 1911 (note: there were a considerable number of persons where this information was missing). Source: and WDC calculations

Infant Mortality

While the West may have had higher illiteracy rates, one area where it performed well was in infant mortality.  Ireland’s infant mortality rate in 1916 was 81.3 i.e., for every 1,000 babies born during 1916, 81 died before they reached twelve months of age. The infant mortality rate was truly shocking in Dublin City at 153.5, followed by Dublin County at 102.2 and Limerick at 101.1 (Fig. 4).

Counties in the Western Region had the lowest rates of infant mortality with a rate of 34.6 in Roscommon, 45.9 in Leitrim and 51.4 in Mayo. The CSO notes it is likely that higher population densities in urban areas (such as in the tenements in Dublin City) contributed to the spread of diseases. While poverty was widespread in both urban and rural areas, there would have been greater access to fresh air and better quality food in rural areas.

Fig. 4: Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 births) by county, 1916. Source:

Fig. 4: Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 births) by county, 1916. Source:

While we’ve highlighted some of the most striking figures showing what life was like in the West in 1916, there’s a lot more you can discover in this fascinating resource.

Pauline White

Uneven regional impact of Ireland’s jobs recovery

There was a lot of discussion of the jobs recovery during the election campaign. In fact ‘Jobs’ was consistently ranked No. 2 in Google searches related to the Irish election this year (just behind Taxes). And much of the discussion was about where those jobs were being created.

The results of this year’s Census will give a great opportunity to really interrogate the spatial patterns of Ireland’s recent jobs performance and what has happened since 2011, especially to consider how any recovery has benefitted rural areas, villages, small towns, disadvantaged urban areas etc. However those results will not be available until 2017 so in the meantime we need to rely on survey based data, which is limited in its availability at regional or county level.

As the labour market is extremely complex, it’s difficult to fully capture that complexity, especially at smaller spatial scales where a single employer or event can have a major impact. In this blog post therefore I’ve taken a very broad look at regional job trends to try to provide a snapshot of what’s happening. The latest available regional employment data was published last week (CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 4 2015) and is used here.

Percentage change in employment 2006-2010 and 2011-2015

Fig. 1 shows the percentage change in the number of people at work in each of the NUTS3 regions. It compares two five-year periods, the crisis (Q4 2006 – Q4 2010) and the recovery (Q4 2011 – Q4 2015). As we know, during the crisis the South East, Midlands and Border were particularly hard hit by job losses. This included people who had been commuting from these regions into Dublin, many of whom had bought houses at the edges of the ever expanding Dublin commuter belt. Intimately linked to this, these regions also had a high reliance on the construction sector.

It was the Mid-East and West which had the smallest employment declines, the strength of Galway and its medical devices cluster is known to have contributed to this in the West. However, one of the most noticeable patterns in Fig. 1 is that the Mid-West and West do not seem to be benefitting from the jobs recovery, having employment decline in both periods. For a number of other regions, the growth they have experienced between 2011 and 2015 is less than their previous percentage decline. This is the case for the Border, South-East, South-West and Mid-East.  Only the Midlands has experienced stronger jobs growth than its earlier decline.

Fig. 1: Percentage change in employment by NUTS3 region, Q4 2006 – Q4 2010 and Q4 2011 – Q4 2015. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q4 2015

Fig. 1: Percentage change in employment by NUTS3 region, Q4 2006 – Q4 2010 and Q4 2011 – Q4 2015. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q4 2015

Regional employment trends 2006-2015

Fig. 2 shows the number of people in employment in each of the NUTS3 regions except Dublin (which is excluded due to scale) from 2006 to 2015. The South West, with 284,000 has the highest employment of the regions shown. The South-West shows a clear pattern of decline followed by gradual recovery, but in 2015 remains below its 2007 peak. The South-East, Border and Midlands follow a similar pattern as does the Mid-East though it did have a slight decline in 2015. The only region to regain its 2007 level of employment is the Midlands.

Again, the West and Mid-West stand out as having a different experience. While they had a similar decline from 2007, their employment trends do not show any real signs of recovery. For the Mid-West, employment has remained almost unchanged since 2012, while in the West it has declined notably since 2013.

Fig. 1: Employment by NUTS3 region (excluding Dublin), Q4 2006 – Q4 2015. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q4 2015

Fig. 1: Employment by NUTS3 region (excluding Dublin), Q4 2006 – Q4 2015. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q4 2015

The reasons for the weak performance of the West and Mid-West would need to be further explored. In their 2015 end of year statement, Enterprise Ireland reported that the North-West, Mid-West and West had the lowest jobs growth in companies assisted by the agency, while the poor performance of the North-West region in total agency assisted employment since 2005 has been discussed in a previous blog. The Western Region clearly faces some very serious challenges in its ability to fully benefit from the national jobs recovery.

Others have also been examining the uneven regional distribution of jobs growth, such as It is a topic that clearly must be a priority for the next Programme for Government and central to the development of the new National Planning Framework, which will have to be taken up by the new Government and Minister.

Pauline White


The changing face of export sector jobs

The nature of Ireland’s exporting sector – and jobs in that sector – has been changing over the past decade (or more), with an ever expanding role for international services. The shift towards a greater share of service jobs is of course evident across the entire economy, but is particularly noticeable in the exporting sector as an increasing number of new job announcements are service-based. The so-called Silicon Docks area of Dublin is where this pattern can be most clearly seen.

Is this change in the nature of export sector jobs occurring to the same extent in the Western Region? To analyse what’s happening at a regional and county level, we’ll use the Annual Employment Survey 2014 conducted by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation (special run of county data). This counts all jobs in companies which have received any assistance from Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland or Udarás na Gaeltachta (which are primarily exporting companies).

Assisted jobs – Manufacturing v Services

Comparing the broad sectoral structure of agency assisted jobs in 2005 (Fig. 1) shows how the pattern differed between the Western Region and the rest of the state. In 2005, 77.4% of assisted jobs in the Western Region were in manufacturing, with Traditional and Modern Manufacturing both having a similar share of around 30%. In the rest of the state, a lower share (66.7%) was in manufacturing. The pattern of a greater role for manufacturing in the Western Region’s export sector was firmly in place at that time.

Fig. 1: Total agency assisted jobs in each broad sector in the Western Region and Rest of the State, 2005 (DJEI, 2015, Annual Employment Survey 2014, special run)

Fig. 1: Total agency assisted jobs in each broad sector in the Western Region and Rest of the State, 2005 (DJEI, 2015, Annual Employment Survey 2014, special run)

By 2014 (Fig. 2) the pattern in the rest of the state had changed substantially with manufacturing’s share declining to 54.4% of jobs. Whereas the balance between manufacturing and services changed very little in the Western Region with manufacturing still accounting for 74.7% of export employment. The share of export service jobs only rose slightly from 22.6% to 25.3%.

Fig. 2: Total agency assisted jobs in each broad sector in the Western Region and Rest of the State, 2014 (DJEI, 2015, Annual Employment Survey 2014, special run)

Fig. 2: Total agency assisted jobs in each broad sector in the Western Region and Rest of the State, 2014 (DJEI, 2015, Annual Employment Survey 2014, special run)

In the rest of the state, in 2005 the ratio of manufacturing to international services jobs was exactly 2:1 but by 2014 it had shifted far closer to 1:1. For the Western Region however manufacturing continues to dominate export sector jobs at a rate of 3:1.

While the total share of export jobs in manufacturing in the Western Region changed little between 2005 and 2014, the composition of those jobs has changed. Modern Manufacturing has greatly increased its share of assisted jobs to 35%, while the shares of both Traditional and Primary/Agri-food manufacturing declined. The decline in Traditional Manufacturing in particular was closely tied to declining demand from construction, although more recent figures show some recovery in elements of this sector such as precision engineering.

The growing role for Modern Manufacturing indicates an improving level of technology and value in the region’s manufacturing sector which can be seen by the role of manufacturing in the region’s GVA.   In the latest GVA figures for the West region, 40.2% of its GVA came from Manufacturing – the second highest share nationally with only the South West having a higher share. In the Border it was 28.4%. See the WDC’s recent report on regional income and output.

Dominance of manufacturing in export businesses in western counties

This pattern of greater dominance of manufacturing in the export sector jobs profile is even stronger in some individual western counties (Fig. 3). In Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo over 85% of assisted jobs are in manufacturing. While its share declined slightly between 2005 and 2014 in these counties, overall there was little sign of growth in international services employment in these areas.

Donegal and Leitrim are the western counties with the lowest shares of their export sector jobs in manufacturing, but both are still above the rest of state average. The strong increase in the share of assisted jobs in manufacturing in Leitrim between 2005 and 2014 mainly resulted from a decline in international services jobs, a pattern which can also be seen to a lesser extent in Clare.

Among the western counties, Donegal and Galway showed the most significant declines in the share of jobs in manufacturing and consequent rise in the share of international services jobs between 2005 and 2014. These two counties appear to be the ones most closely following the national trend towards a greater role for international services.

Fig 3 Agency assisted jobs in manufacturing 2005-2014

Fig. 3: Total agency assisted jobs in manufacturing in western counties, 2005 and 2014 (DJEI, 2015, Annual Employment Survey 2014, special run)

Manufacturing activity remains the dominant driver of export sector jobs in the Western Region, at a rate of 3:1, with over 90% working in the sector in some counties. While the role of international services is growing, this is occurring to a far lesser extent in the Western Region.

Addressing issues of significance to the manufacturing sector, such as transport infrastructure, freight, engineering skills, energy, heat etc, must remain central to efforts to sustain and grow the region’s export base, both foreign and indigenous, within the national context of a growing focus on service sector jobs. At the same time, any barriers to the growth of the international services sector, such as high speed broadband, need to be investigated and addressed.

Pauline White

Job creation in 2015 – EI and IDA end-of-year statements

Both Enterprise Ireland (the state agency charged with supporting exporting indigenous enterprises) and the IDA (the state agency responsible for supporting Foreign Direct Investment) issued very upbeat end-of-year statements this week. So, how did the region’s fare?

Enterprise Ireland

In 2015 total employment in EI client companies was 192,223, of which 165,630 were full-time jobs. 2015 saw the highest level of new jobs created by EI supported companies in the agency’s history (about 17 years) with 21,118 new jobs created. Taking into account job losses over the year, the net increase was about half this at 10,169 net new jobs.

Of this net increase in EI client jobs, 64% occurred outside of Dublin. It is notable that the regional performance got considerably greater focus in this year’s end-of-year statement Press Release than has been the case for the past number of years. The evident dissatisfaction in many regional locations caused by a two-speed jobs recovery, which led to the preparation of the regional Action Plans for Jobs and several other regional EI initiatives last year, has led to greater emphasis on regional performance in this year’s end-of-year statement. As indeed has the fact that that performance has been quite strong.

While the overall regional picture may be quite strong, the relative performance across the various regions differs (Fig. 1). The increase in jobs in EI client companies in 2015, compared with 2014, varied from +36% in Dublin to just +2% in the North West. Indeed the North West, Mid-West and West – the three EI regions covering the Western Region – had the lowest increases in job numbers across the country at +2%, +3% and +5% respectively. Sticking with the two-speed jobs recovery metaphor, the Western Region appears to be running at the lowest speed of all, at least in the context of indigenous exporting companies.

Infographic from the Enterprise Ireland end-of-year statement 2015

Fig. 1: Infographic from the Enterprise Ireland end-of-year statement 2015

A previous WDC Insights Blog post highlighted the particular issue of the North West’s poor performance in terms of all types of agency assisted employment (EI, IDA and Udarás). Between 2005 and 2014 the North West experienced the largest decline in agency assisted jobs of any region in Ireland. And now in 2015 it’s the region with the lowest increase in EI supported jobs. This points to a very real concern for the North West’s capacity to generate new employment in export focused businesses, even when Ireland is experiencing some of its strongest ever jobs growth in this type of business.


2015 saw the highest level of employment in IDA client companies in the organisation’s 67 year history reaching 187,056. A total of 18,983 new jobs were created by their clients during 2015, when job losses are taken into account, there was net job creation of 11,833, slightly higher than that recorded by EI clients.

Similar to EI, the IDA’s end-of-year statement gives more focus to regional performance than in some previous years. Overall, 53% of all jobs created by IDA clients in 2015 were based outside of Dublin, which is an improvement over the 49% share in 2014.

While 53% of new jobs were created outside of Dublin in 2015, this area accounts for 59% of total employment in IDA backed companies. The legacy of past investments in more regional locations continues to influence the overall pattern of FDI jobs, even as new investments tend to be attracted to more urban areas.

The IDA end-of-year statement doesn’t provide detail on the differences across the regions, though it does note that every region experienced an increase in employment in IDA backed companies. It will be very interesting to see the detailed regional breakdown of this performance to see if it shows a similar inter-regional pattern to the EI client companies, with the Western Region having the lowest growth. Although the strength of Galway in attracting FDI means the West region may show a stronger performance in foreign owned employment in 2015 than in Irish owned.

While overall, 2015 was very positive in terms of regional job creation by both EI and IDA client companies, the inter-regional differences in the results for EI companies would indicate that more needs to be done to increase the pace of the jobs recovery in the Western Region.

Pauline White