Employment by Sector in the Western Region & its counties

The Western Development Commission today (6 Sept) published two new WDC Insights publications:

Both are based on an analysis of data from Census 2016 on employment by economic sector (industrial group).  The first looks at the sectoral pattern of employment in the Western Region as a whole compared with that elsewhere in the country, while the second focuses on the sectoral profile of employment in each of the seven individual counties in the Western Region.

Some of the main findings are:

  • Total employment in the Western Region grew by 7.5% between 2011 and 2016; substantially less than the 11.8% growth experienced by the rest of the state.
  • Five of the six counties in the country with the lowest employment growth are located in the Western Region.  Sligo had the smallest employment growth nationally.
  • The region had stronger employment growth than elsewhere in four sectors (Industry, Health, Transport & Storage and Other Services) but performed less well in the other ten sectors with declining employment in Financial services, Public Administration, Agriculture and Wholesale & Retail.
  • The Western Region and its counties tend to rely more on traditional sectors, public services and some local services while it has far lower shares working in knowledge intensive services, though these are growing in the region with the exception of Financial.
  • Public Services (Health, Education and Public Admin) is the largest area of employment in all western counties with Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon and Donegal having the highest shares working in Public Services nationally.
  • Industry was the best performing sector in four of the seven western counties (Leitrim, Galway, Roscommon and Mayo). Knowledge services grew strongly in Donegal with Administrative & Other Services the best performing in Clare and Sligo.  Agriculture was the poorest performer in all counties but Sligo.

Both publications can be downloaded here

Get Detailed Census Data for Settlements

On 20 July the CSO released the Small Area Population Statistics (SAPs) from Census 2016. This is Census data at its most detailed geographic level; data across all demographic and socio-economic themes is available at spatial scales down to Small Areas.  There are 18,641 Small Areas across the Republic of Ireland, each generally comprising between 80 and 120 dwellings.  The Small Area data is of huge value for mapping and detailed GIS analysis, such as that carried out by AIRO.


For many data users however, Small Area scale is too detailed.  Data at other spatial scales was also released with the SAPs, including Gaeltacht areas, Municipal Districts (95) and Settlements (846). Data for Settlements is a hugely useful resource and is also the spatial scale that many people feel most attached to, and indeed curious about.

It is an important resource for many stakeholders, including local authorities, community and voluntary groups, local development agencies, chambers, policy makers and others. But how to access the data may not be a very well-known, as it is separate to the Statbank system where all other Census data can be downloaded.

Downloading Census 2016 Settlement Reports 

Step 1: Go to SapMap

Step 2: Click ‘Find Your Area’ (icon that looks like a blue thumbtack)

Step 3: Choose ‘Settlements’ from dropdown and type in name of settlement e.g. Gort, Swords.

Step 4: Map will zoom to show outline of the ‘Settlement’ boundary and the key population data. Click ‘For more information on Small Area Population Statistics 2016 click here’.

Step 5: You will get a detailed data report for that Settlement that you can download as a PDF file or an Excel Spreadsheet. You can download a full report of all data or individual reports for each data theme. Data on the following themes is available.

  • Theme 1: Sex, Age and Marital Status
  • Theme 2: Migration, Ethnicity, Religion and Foreign Languages
  • Theme 3: Irish Language
  • Theme 4: Families
  • Theme 5: Private Households
  • Theme 6: Housing
  • Theme 7: Communal Establishments
  • Theme 8: Principal Status
  • Theme 9: Social Class and Socio-Economic Group
  • Theme 10: Education
  • Theme 11: Commuting
  • Theme 12: Disability, Carers and General Health
  • Theme 13: Occupations
  • Theme 14: Industries
  • Theme 15: Motor Car Availability, PC Ownership and Internet Access

The same process can be followed to download data for different spatial scales e.g. counties, constituencies, Municipal Districts. At Step 3, simply select the scale you want from the dropdown and type in name.

It should be noted that while this data is also available for 2011, as the settlement boundaries can change between censuses direct comparisons are not always possible.

This is a link to the CSO’s SAPMAP User Guide.

An Example: Mohill, Co Leitrim

Mohill is a village situated in north county Leitrim.  Fig. 1 shows the initial SAPMAP image for Mohill. The settlement has a total population of 855 with 521 housing units.

Fig.1: Image from SAPMAP of Mohill settlement. Source:

By clicking ‘For more information on Small Area Population Statistics 2016 click here’ you are directed to a more detailed report. Fig. 2 shows part of this. At the top you can choose to download the PDF or Excel.  Scrolling down the page shows all the data for each of the 15 themes, with the option to download each table in PDF or Excel.

Fig.2: Image of top of page for detailed Mohill Settlement report. Source:

For example Theme 8: Principal Economic Status shows there were 282 people resident in Mohill who were employed at the time of the Census, 185 who were retired and 51 students.

Fig.3: Theme 8, Principal Economic Status for Mohill. Source:

All data can be downloaded in Excel to allow analysis. For example, Fig. 4 shows the percentage of families in Mohill who are in each stage of the ‘Family Cycle’ with 20.3% of families consisting of adults only who do not fall into other categories, 15.6% being ‘empty nest’ and 14.6% being retired households.

Fig.4: Percentage of families in each stage of family cycle, Mohill, 2016. Source:

The Settlements reports from the SAPMAP system are a very useful resource, particularly for local voluntary and community groups and others involved in planning and promoting development in town and village level.


Pauline White




Self-employment – What does the Census tell us?

Regular followers of the WDC Insights blog will know that self-employment is a topic we’ve examined a number of times before, drawing on Quarterly National Household Survey data.  However this can only tell us what is happening in the Western Region as a whole, not in the individual counties.

The publication of Census 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, included some initial data on labour force status including self-employment. Again, as mentioned in our previous post on Principal Economic Status, it must be remembered that the labour market definitions used in the QNHS and in the Census are different, so the figures are not directly comparable.  In the Census, self-employed are referred to as ‘Employer or own account worker’.

Share of self-employed in workforce 

In 2016, according to the Census, there were 61,107 employers or own account workers (self-employed) living in the Western Region. This was 18.3% of all working people in the region. As we’ve mentioned before, self-employment is a particularly important source of employment in the Western Region.

From Fig. 1 it is clear that there is a very strong spatial pattern to self-employment. The State average is that 15.6% of those in employment are employers/own account workers.  The cities are where this is least common. Only 10% or less of workers in Cork and Dublin cities are self-employed. Galway city is next lowest at 11.1% and shows a very different pattern to the rest of the Western Region.

Besides these three cities, it is the other Dublin local authority areas, counties in the Greater Dublin Area and the other two cities (Limerick and Waterford) which have the lowest incidence of self-employment. Indeed the 11 areas with the lowest share of self-employment are the five cities and the Mid-East.

Fig. 1: Percentage of all ‘at work’ who are employer/own account worker by county, 2016. Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ003:


At the other end of the spectrum are the most rural counties. Co Kerry has the highest share of self-employment nationally at 21.1%, followed by Leitrim (20.3%), Cavan (19.9%) and Roscommon (19.9%).  In total, five of the Western Region counties are in the top  ten in terms of share of self-employment, with Mayo (19.6%), Galway county (19.5%) and Clare (19.5%) also having almost 1 in 5 of their workers self-employed.

The strong spatial pattern of self-employment in Ireland is related to many factors but notably the sectoral and occupational pattern of employment. Agriculture is a major influence, with construction trades also having high shares of self-employed. These sectors play a more significant role in the economies of rural counties. The relative lack of alternative employment opportunities, especially in the more remote rural areas, means that more people choose (or are necessitated) to turn to the self-employment route.  The WDC will be conducting further analysis of the sectoral and occupational data from the Census and its link with employment status, over the coming months.

Change in the share self-employed

In every county in Ireland, a smaller share of the workforce was self-employed in 2016 compared with five years earlier.  The national average declined from 16.9% of workers to 15.6%, with a decline from 19.9% to 18.3% in the Western Region (Fig. 2).

Leitrim, Galway county, Roscommon, Mayo and Clare all had shares above 20% in 2011, with only Leitrim remaining over 20% by 2016.  Among the western counties, Sligo had the smallest change in the share self-employed, declining from 18.2% down to 18%. From Fig. 2 it is also clear how strongly Galway city differs from the rest of the region.


Fig. 2: Percentage of all ‘at work’ who are employer/own account worker in western counties, Western Region, State and Rest of State, 2011 and 2016. Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ003:


One of the key reasons for the declining share of self-employment in the inter-censal period is the recovery in the jobs market.  During the depth of the recession 2008-2011 employment declined hugely.  Self-employment was not quite as impacted as some people who lost their job turned to self-employment, existing employers and own account workers may have been able to sustain their own jobs while having to let to employees, and there was the continuation of the trend of some jobs becoming contract/self-employment that would previously have been employees. Therefore as overall job numbers fell, the relative importance of self-employment as a share of total employment remained strong. As the jobs recovery began from 2012 and more employment opportunities emerged, the relative importance of self-employment declined.

Change in numbers self-employed

From Fig. 3 it is clear that between 2011 and 2016 the number of employees grew far more strongly than the number of self-employed. Nationally the number of employees in 2016 was 12.9% higher than in 2011, whereas the number of self-employed was only 2.3% higher.  In the Western Region the number of self-employed actually declined in this period, down -1% while the number of employees grew by 9.8%.  It is notable that for both forms of employment, the Western Region’s performance was weaker than the State average and the Rest of State.  The decline in the numbers self-employed in the region is of some concern given its continuing greater significance in the labour market, especially in more rural counties (see Fig. 1 above).


Fig. 3: Percentage change in number of employer/own account workers in western counties, Western Region, State and Rest of State, 2011-2016. Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ003:


Across the region, Mayo, Galway county, Roscommon and Leitrim, the four counties where self-employment continues to play the largest role in their labour market (see Fig. 1) and the most rural, experienced declines in the actual number of people self-employed between 2011-2016.  All other western counties had some growth in the numbers self-employed with the strongest growth in Galway City (2.8%), which nevertheless continues to have a low share of self-employed.

In all cases the growth in self-employment was always substantially less than the growth in the number of employees.  The main exception to this was Sligo, which had very low growth in employees at only 2.6%. Indeed Sligo had the lowest growth in employee numbers in the State in this period.


While the relative importance of self-employment within the labour market declined between 2011-2016, largely due to the strengthening jobs market, it remains a very significant form of employment. In the five most rural western counties of Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway county Clare, 1 in 5 of those at work, work for themselves.  Nationally there is a very strong spatial pattern of higher rates of self-employment in rural counties, with the lowest shares in the cities and Mid-East.

Some of the region’s most rural counties experienced a decline in the numbers self-employed between 2011 and 2016, the underlying reasons for this will only be apparent when the sectoral and occupational pattern of employment change in these counties is explored.



Pauline White




Census 2016: Principal Economic Status in the Western Region

The CSO has just issued the second set of summary results from Census 2016.  ‘Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2’ gives initial results of some of the socio-economic indicators from Census 2016. More detailed results for each theme will be released in ‘Profiles’ between now and December.

The summary results include data on:

  • Principal Economic Status
  • Employment by sector, occupation and nationality
  • Socio-economic groups and social class
  • Education
  • Travel patterns
  • Health, disability and caring

This initial blog post will examine the Principal Economic Status results and other themes will be analysed in future posts.

What is Principal Economic Status?

Principal Economic Status (PES) measures the economic status e.g. at work, retired, student etc. of the entire population aged 15 years and over.  It is a self-assigned measure in that the person selects the category they believe applies to them. It differs from the ILO definition that is used in the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) and the official employment figures. This difference mainly impacts on the numbers counted as in employment – for the ILO definition, if a person has worked for payment or profit for 1 hour or more in the previous fortnight they are counted as employed. This will result in a higher number being counted as employed than when people are asked to give their own status as in the PES question in the Census.  Therefore the PES data from the Census will not match the official employment statistics for that period. For more see the Appendices to the report.

PES in the Western Region 2016

In the Western Region in 2016 there 653,749 persons aged over 15 years.  Fig. 1 shows their economic status.

Fig. 1: Principal Economic Status of all persons aged 15 years and over in the Western Region, 2016. Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2, Table EZ002

Change in economic status in the Western Region 2011-2016

Just over half (51.1%) the region’s adult population stated that they were ‘at work’ (employed or self-employed) (Fig. 2). This was an increase from 2011 when 48.2% of the region’s adult population was working. Since 2011 there has been a notable decline in the share of the population unemployed (having lost or given up a job) from 11.2% down to 7.4%.

The other category showing considerable change is the number who are retired, rising from 14% up to 16.6%. This is in line with a national trend of an increasing number of retired people, partly driven by rising life expectancy, recent early retirement schemes in the public sector and also the fact that the historical trend of rising female labour force participation is now leading to increasing numbers of women in retirement. Women who are engaged in home duties tend to continue to report themselves as such, even into their older years, whereas women who have participated in the labour force would report themselves as retired when they retire from paid employment. The downward trend in the number of people engaged in home duties continued in this Census, declining from 9.4% to 8% in the region.

There was a slight decline in the share of the population unable to work due to illness or disability (4.6% to 4.4%), while the share of the population (15+ yrs) who are students was exactly the same in 2016 as in 2011, though of course the actual number of students would have changed (it increased by 1.5%).

Fig. 2: Percentage of all persons aged 15 years and over by Principal Economic Status in the Western Region, 2011 and 2016. Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2, Table EZ002

Economic Status in the Western Region by gender

The PES composition of the adult male and female population in the Western Region is shown in Fig. 3.  One of the most notable gender differences is in the share of males and females who are ‘at work’, 55.3% compared with 47%. The trend in the share of women at work has been increasing over time due to rising female labour force participation, however there continues to be a lower share of adult women at work.  Between 2011 and 2016 the number of males at work in the Western Region increased by 8.4% while the number of females only rose by 6.5%. Though it must be taken into account that the decline in the number of males at work during the previous intercensal period was far higher. There is a lower share of women who are unemployed, both having lost a job (5.9% v 9%) and first time jobseekers (0.7% v 0.9%).

As noted above, the ongoing increase in female labour force participation has led to a rising share of women who are retired. The share of all women who are retired (16.1%) is now closer to men (17.1%). Since 2011 there has been a 16.9% increase in the number of retired men in the Western Region but a 23.3% increase in the number of retired women, both increases are quite close to what happened nationally over that period.

Fig. 3: Percentage of males and females aged 15 years and over by Principal Economic Status in the Western Region, 2016. Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2, Table EZ002

The biggest gender difference continues to be in the category ‘Looking after home/family’ with 14.3% of women compared with 1.4% of men with this status.  The ongoing decline in the share of women engaged in home duties continued in this period with a 15.1% decline in the Western Region since 2011, higher than the 11.5% decline that occurred nationally.  There was some growth in the share of men who are on home duties, up 3.3% in the region, though this is considerably less than the 15% growth experienced nationally.  Even though the region had lower growth, the share of men engaged on home duties in the region (1.4%) is greater than in the State (1.0%)

Economic status in the Western Region compared with State

Comparing the PES of the adult population of the Western Region with the State average (Fig. 4), the main difference is in the share ‘at work’. At 53.4%, the State is higher than the Western Region (51.1%).  The other category where there is a notable difference is retired. In the region, 16.6% of adults are retired, compared with 14.5% in the State. This would be linked to the region’s older age profile. The region also has a slightly higher share of its population unemployed having lost/given up a job and those unable to work due to illness/disability.

Fig. 4: Percentage of all persons aged 15 years and over by Principal Economic Status in the Western Region and State, 2016. Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2, Table EZ002

Economic status in different area types

Details on the economic status of the population by town size is also available. The detailed information for individual towns will be released in future Profiles, but the Summary Results provide details for the five cities (with their suburbs), and then various town size categories and rural areas.

From Table 1 it can be seen that Dublin city and suburbs has the highest share of its population at work (56.1%) while Limerick city has the lowest (47.2%).  Among the five cities, Galway has the second highest share (53.5%).

There is a general pattern that the share of the population at work declines from the larger towns of 10,000+ (53.1%) down to the smaller towns, and then villages (49.4%). It must of course be remembered that these size categories would include towns within the hinterlands of the cities which function as commuter towns. The open countryside (beyond areas of 50 inhabited houses) has a high share of its population at work. This is likely linked to both farming and commuters living in rural houses.

Table 1: Percentage of all persons aged 15 years and over by Principal Economic Status by town size, 2016. Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2, Table EZ014

In terms of unemployment, Cork, Dublin and Galway have the smallest shares of their population unemployed (having lost/left a job), at under 7%, compared with 10% in Waterford. Among towns, the share who are unemployed generally increases as town size declines, though villages and open countryside have lower shares unemployed. This is partly explained by the higher share of retired people. Towns of 1,000-1,499, followed by villages and open countryside, have the highest shares of their population retired at over 16%.

Galway on the other hand has the lowest share of retired among its population (12.2%).  This is mirrored by Galway also having the highest share of students (17.1%), which strongly shows the influence of both NUIG and GMIT on the city. Limerick and Cork have the next highest shares of students again highlighting the importance of their higher education institutions.  The category of towns of 10,000+ would include those which have an Institute of Technology e.g. Sligo, Dundalk, so it does show a higher share than smaller towns but still considerably less than in the cities. When the details for individual towns are released it will be easier to see the impact of individual IoTs.

The share of the population looking after home/family has a quite strong pattern, increasing steadily as town size declines from 10,000+ (8.3%) to open countryside (9.3%).  The share in all cities is below 7.5% and in Galway, again reflecting its young age profile, the share is only 5.5%.  A quite similar pattern can be seen for those unable to work due to illness or disability, which generally increases as town size declines though falls again for villages and open countryside, where it is particularly low. This may be linked to accessibility issues as those with a disability and their families may choose to live in a town or city for easier access to services. The highest rate in the country is in Limerick city, with Galway having the lowest.


This initial look at the PES data from Census 2016 confirms the general trend of improving labour market conditions, with an increase in the share of the adult population who are working and a fall in unemployment.  Increasing life expectancy and the consequence of increasing female labour force participation has also led to a strong growth in the retired population, a trend with clear policy implications.  While there continue to be significant gender differences in terms of economic status, the difference is reducing, though a substantially higher share of women than men are still engaged in home duties.

Compared with the national picture, the region has a lower share at work and higher share who are retired, partly linked to the region’s age profile and weaker labour market.  Future blog posts will examine in detail the Census data on the region’s labour market (labour force participation, employment, industries, occupations and unemployment), to examine what has occurred within the ‘at work’ and ‘unemployed’ groups.

Pauline White

Census 2016: Profiling Age and Dependency

The most recent release from Census 2016 Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements contains data on the age categories of the population by county.  Different age groups have different needs and opportunities so this information is important for planning services for the future and understanding social and economic development issues for our region.

Population in key age categories

The key age categories for analysis are shown in Figure 1 for the Western Region, the Rest of State[1] and for the EU28 (in 2015) along with the projected age structure for the EU 28 in 2080.

The Western Region has 21.1% of its population in the 0-14 age group (the same as the Rest of State), while 15.6% of the EU28 population is in that age category.  The county with highest share of young people in its total population in 2016 was Donegal (22.0%) while the lowest were Mayo and Sligo (20.3%).


Figure 1: Population Structure by Age Group

Source:  CSO, 2017, Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements  E2022  and Eurostat (demo_pjangroup) and (proj_13npms)


The category ‘15-64 years’ covers most of the economically active population.  In the Western Region the Galway has the largest proportion in this category (65.6%) but this is still lower than the average for the Rest of State (65.9%).  Leitrim has the lowest proportion in this age category (61.5%).

There is significant variation among counties in the proportion of the population over 65 years, but all counties have more people in this category (between 13.6% in Galway and 17.5% in Mayo) than the Rest of State (13.0%).  Counties, including those such as Mayo, Roscommon and Leitrim which we consider to have high concentrations of older people, have fewer in the older age categories than the EU 28 (18.9%) which is turn is much less than that projected for the EU 28 (28.7%) by 2080.

Population Pyramids

The population pyramid below (Figure 2) shows the age distribution for the Western Region and the Rest of State in more detail.  A peak of births in 1980 shows up in the 35-39 age category, and another peak in the number of births occurred in 2009[2] and shows up in the 5-9 age category.  The smaller numbers in both the 20-24 age category relates to a falling birth rate in that period while the lower number in the 25-29 age categories, and to some extent in the 30-34 are the result of high outward migration.  The difference in proportions in these age categories for the Western Region and Rest of State indicate greater out migration from the Western Region.


Figure 2: Population Pyramind for Western Region and Rest of State, 2016

Source:  CSO, 2017, Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements  E2022


The Western Region has a higher proportion of it population than the Rest of State in each of the age categories from 45 years and upwards for females and 40 years and upwards for males.  This is also the case for the 10-14 and 15-19 years categories but the more recent higher birth rate in other more rapidly growing counties (especially those surrounding Dublin) means there is a higher proportion of young children in the population in the Rest of State than the Western Region, but these differences are relatively small at the moment.

Dependency ratios

The Dependency ratio (Figure 3) shows the number of older and younger people compared to the working age population (which for this statistic is considered to be 15-64) as these are potentially the most economically active.  In reality many in the 15-19 and 20-24 categories will be in education but it is a useful statistic for comparison purposes.

It is also important to be aware of the differences in population structure among regions and counties when examining economic statistics such as those for income and output.  Counties a lower percentage in the economically active age groups have proportionally more dependents.  They will tend to have lower per capita income and output levels even where there is no difference in productivity.

Mayo has the highest old age dependency ratio (28.3%) in the country,  followed by Leitrim (27.4%) and Roscommon (26.8%) while the lowest nationally is in Kildare (15%).  Galway (20.6%) and Clare (23.4%) have the lowest age dependency ratios in the Region but all Western Region counties have a higher age dependency than that for the Rest of State (19.7%).


Figure 3: Old Age, Youth and combined Dependency Ratios, 2016

Source:  CSO, 2017, Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements  E2022, own calculations


The highest youth dependency ratio in the Region is in Donegal (35.3%) and Leitrim (35.1%) but other counties with particularly high birth rates have much higher youth dependency ratios (in Meath it is 39%, Laois 38.3% and Longford 37.2%).  In the Western Region the lowest is in Galway (31.8%) and Sligo (32.0%).  The Western Region as a whole has a youth dependency ratio of 33.2% compared to 32.1% in the Rest of State.

Combining the youth and old age figures gives an overall dependency figure which gives the proportion of both older and younger people compared to the working age population.  In the Western Region this was 57.4% while in the Rest of the State it was 51.8%.  This compared to a figure of 52.6% in the EU 28 in 2015.

The Oldest People

Some of the most significant change is population structure is occurring among the ‘older old’, those in the 80+ years category, with increased longevity and ageing of the older population.  In Roscommon 4.4% of the population is already in this older age category, while Leitrim (4.27%) and Mayo (4.24%) are the next highest in the state. In contrast, in Kildare only 1.91% are in this category while in Meath it is 2.21%.  Some 3.7% of the WR population is over 80 (3.0% in the Rest of State).  It is expected that by 2080 in the EU28 12.3% of the population will be over 80, which compares to 5.3% in the EU28 in 2015.

The percentage in the 80+ years category is rising in all counties and, while increased longevity is a significant human achievement, it can have important implications.  Those in this age group can experience more poverty and social isolation and poorer health that the ‘younger old’[3].  There is also a significant gender dimension with women having higher survivorship and a lower propensity to re-marry which means they are more likely to live alone.  It is important to respond to, and plan for, the needs of this age category and to endeavour to ensure that as many years as possible are lived with as good health and quality of life as possible.


A higher proportion of the Western Region population is in the older and younger age categories than in the Rest of State, in part reflecting the outward migration of those of working age.  It highlights the importance of a focus on regional employment provision as a key element of regional development policies.  Improving employment prospects would benefit those currently in the youth dependent category, as well as those who are already economically active.

The higher proportion of older people in many Western Region counties means that services for older people are crucial.  As much of the Region is very rural we should continue to learn from best practice elsewhere, particularly in Europe, where the ageing of the population is taking place earlier, on how to provide supports and services to an older population in rural areas.

While much of the thinking about ageing populations is on services and supports it should also be remembered that many people in this age category are likely to continue in employment and so this group would also benefit from improved employment opportunities.  Currently, 4.5% of the Western Region labour force is over 65[4], while 13% of those in the 65+ category are in the labour force.  This compares to 2.8% of the rest of State labour force over 65 and a 10% participation rate for that age category.

Understanding trends in population and examining the detail for the seven Western Region counties helps us better understand the economy and society of the Region.  We will continue to provide analysis of the issues as more results are released from the 2016 Census of Population.



Helen McHenry


[1] Rest of State refers to the 19 counties which are not in the Western Region and is used for comparison rather than using a State figures which also include the Western Region.


[3] Ingham, B., Chirijevskis, A. & Carmichael, F. Pensions Int J (2009) 14: 221.’ Implications of an increasing old-age dependency ratio: The UK and Latvian experiences compared’ doi:10.1057/pm.2009.16

[4] CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey Quarter 1 2016- Special run for the Western Region.  See here for more detail

New WDC Publication: WDC Policy Briefing No.7 e-Working in the Western Region: A Review of the Evidence

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has published its latest Policy Briefing WDC Policy Briefing No.7 e-Working in the Western Region: A Review of the Evidence, which is now available for download at the following link here.

e-Work is a method of working using information and communication technology in which the work is not bound to any particular location. Traditionally this has been understood as working remotely from the office, usually from home, whether full-time or for a period during the working week. e-Working can provide particular opportunities in regions like the Western Region where many are living some distance from key employment centres.

The WDC Policy Briefing, which includes case studies from companies and individuals, examines:

  • The extent of e-Working.
  • The way in which weaker broadband access in more rural locations impacts on the rate of e-Working.
  • Factors driving e-Work.
  • Recommendations on how e-Working can be further promoted.

This Policy Briefing shows that e-Working is a widespread practice but somewhat hidden from official statistics. It also shows that while there is demand for greater e-working, broadband speeds need to be improved.

The WDC Policy Briefing contains recommendations to support more e-Working, including priority rollout of the National Broadband Plan to those counties with the lowest broadband speeds. Additional case studies are also available for download from here.

Deirdre Frost

So much data. So little time.

Feeling overwhelmed by all the data and analytics from your social media and website? How can you tell who’s genuinely interested and who’s just browsing? How do you know if your online promotion and paid posts/tweets are effective?

The Western Development Commission (WDC), through ‘a creative momentum project’, is organising a free seminar in Castlebar at 9.30 on Tuesday, 29 November to try to answer some of these questions. ‘So much data. So little time: Using your online data to grow your creative enterprise’ is open to anyone working in the creative industries sector including arts, crafts, design and media & technology. Visit for more information.

This half-day event will include expert presentations, business stories and an interactive workshop. Kevin Neary of Connectors Marketplace is among the speakers. Modern buyers are socially connected, digitally driven and very mobile. Kevin will show how creative enterprises can identify and engage with the modern buyer. Joanne Casey of Belfast-based GlowMetrics will discuss developing a digital marketing strategy suited to your creative business. She will also run a Google Analytics workshop on setting goals to measure your digital activity.

Kevin Neary, Connectors Marketplace

Kevin Neary, Connectors Marketplace

Two West of Ireland creative enterprises with a strong digital presence will share their experiences. Dina Coughlan of Leitrim-based Tremolo Music Publishing will show how they connect with and sell to clients worldwide. While Ainslie Peters of Galway’s Nádhúra design will outline the experience of a business providing customisable furniture and bespoke design services.  Nádhúra are one of the companies who have previously received a WDC Micro-Loan: Creative Industries.

Ainslie Peters, Nádhúra

Ainslie Peters, Nádhúra

Attendees can also book 1-2-1 mentoring sessions in the afternoon on digital marketing/online sales. They will also have a chance to book a session with a WDC Investment Executive to discuss the WDC Micro-Loan Fund: Creative Industries. The seminar takes place in the Breaffy House Resort at 9.30 on Tuesday 29 November. Attendance is free but as places are limited registration is essential. Book here

a creative momentum project is co-funded by the EU Interreg Northern Periphery & Arctic (NPA) Programme 2014-2020.  It supports the development of the creative industries sector in five countries across Europe’s Northern Edge. The project operates the website and in the West of Ireland is implemented by the WDC and NUI Galway.


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