Posts

Travel to Work Areas and Border Labour Catchments

The WDC will present analysis on Travel to Work Areas (TTWAS) and the smaller labour catchments located along the Border at a conference in Derry, organised by NERI on 1st May see here for more details.

This work is part of a larger piece of work examining the smaller labour catchments across the Western Region which in turn is part of the WDC programme of research on Travel to Work Areas and Labour Catchments which has been a key element of the WDC Policy Analysis work programme for the last 10 years.

The work on smaller labour catchments follows on from the WDC report published in 2018, Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments (2018). This provides a detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region, based on travel to work patterns, namely: Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon and is available for download here. (14.2MB)

The map below illustrates all the labour catchments across the Western Region, arising from the analysis of Census 2016 data.

Map 1 Labour Catchments across the Western Region 2016

The analysis of smaller labour catchments reviews the remaining 26 complete labour catchments contained within the Western Region and the 26 reports will be published shortly. Here is a sneak preview of some findings and points of interest.

The 26 complete smaller labour catchments are distributed across each of the counties of the Western Region as the table below shows.

Table 1 The 26 smaller Labour Catchments in Western Region Counties, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The smaller labour catchments range in size from the largest, Ballina in Co. Mayo with 9,034 resident workers, to the smallest, Charlestown-Bellahy with 962 resident workers.

Each labour catchments has a greater number of workers living there compared to the figure reported in the Census for the town at its core, indicating a greater labour supply available than might otherwise be considered.

Of the 26 smaller labour catchments 15 reported an increase in numbers over the 10 year period from 2006 to 2016, while 11 of the smaller labour catchments reported a decline in numbers over the same period.

Generally, those that reported a decline are somewhat remote, for example five of those that reported a decline are located in Co. Donegal, namely, Ballybofey-Stranorlar, Buncrana, Killybegs, Bunbeg and Ballyshannon. Belmullet in west Mayo also recorded a decline in the number of resident workers living there over the 10 year period. A further four catchments in east Mayo/Roscommon reported a decline; namely Charlestown, Ballaghaderreen, Boyle and Castlerea, while Gort in co. Galway also had a decline in resident workers living there over the 10 year intercensal period.

In the case of the labour catchments in Co. Donegal, the larger labour catchments of Donegal town and Letterkenny, both recorded an increase over the period indicating move from the smaller more rural catchments in the county to the larger centres and this in part accounts for the changes.

For the centres in Mayo and Roscommon which reported a decline in numbers, some of this can be accounted for by growth in adjacent centres such as Castlebar and Carrick-on-Shannon but further analysis is needed to explain the changes in detail.

There is also some evidence of greater levels of longer distance commuting to Dublin and other locations, for example, the numbers travelling from the larger catchments of Galway city, Sligo and Ennis to work in Dublin has more than doubled over the 10 year period. This trend is likely to be evident for the smaller centres also.

However, it is also true that rural areas remain very important places of work. Across many of the 26 labour catchments the second most important place of work after the town itself is the rural parts of the county. Smaller centres and rural areas are very important employment centres and the analysis will show that this employment extends across sectors such as Education, health and Social Work, Manufacturing and Wholesale, Retail and Commerce.

Further detail will be available following the presentation at the NERI conference and will be posted here

 

Deirdre Frost

 

 

How important is Industry as a regional employer?

We’ve just published the fourth of our ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing employment and enterprise data on specific economic sectors. The latest report examines Industry which is the Western Region’s largest employment sector, with 45,754 working in it.  Industry includes mining, utilities and waste management but by far the largest element is manufacturing.  Three publications are available:

Trends in Industry employment in the Western Region and its counties

Industry’s share of total employment has changed considerably over the past two decades (Fig. 1).  Ireland’s move to a more service-based economy, with substantial losses of traditional, lower skilled Industry and a growing focus on high value, high-tech manufacturing, has substantially changed the significance and nature of industrial activity in Ireland and the region.

In 1996 21% of total employment in the Western Region was in Industry, the share declined in every Census to a low point of 13% in 2011, increasing somewhat to 13.7% by 2016.  The state showed a similar pattern declining from 20.4% in 1996 to 11.4% by 2016.  While both region and state followed similar patterns, the gap between them widened over the period so that in 2016 Industry was notably more important as an employer in the Western Region.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in Industry in Western Region and state, 1996-2016

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

At a county level, the most dramatic change occurred in Donegal; from over 1 in 4 working in Industry in 1996 to less than 1 in 10 twenty years later.  Donegal’s economy has been dramatically restructured, with a strong shift from manufacturing to services.  At just 9.2% of all employment, Donegal has the smallest share working in Industry in Ireland, outside of Dublin.

In 1996, Clare had the second highest share in the region working in Industry, largely due to the Shannon Free Zone. With the dramatic decline in Donegal, Clare had the region’s highest share for much of the period but was overtaken by Galway County in 2016.  From having the region’s second lowest share in 1996, Galway County now has the highest share working in Industry in the region at 16.3%.  Industry is the single largest employment sector for Galway County, Galway City and Clare.

At town level, Ballyhaunis in Co Mayo has the highest share of its employment in Industry among Ireland’s 200 towns and cities, where it accounts for 41.9% of total employment.  Shannon in Co Clare is fourth highest nationally at 31.9% with Tuam also in the top 10 towns at 25%.  The region is also home to the two towns in Ireland with the lowest shares working in Industry in Bundoran (3.5%) and Carndonagh (4.9%), both in Co Donegal.  It must be noted that this refers to the town where a person lives though they may work elsewhere.

Employment in Industry sub-sectors in the Western Region

The Medical & Dental Instruments (MedTech) sector is by far the largest industrial activity in the Western Region accounting for 27.7% of the region’s total Industry employment (Fig. 2), more than twice the national average (12.1%).

The region’s second largest (14.1%) is Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Rubber & Plastics (Chemicals & Pharma) which is the largest in the country (18.4%).  The manufacture of pharmaceuticals is the main activity.

Food, Drink & Tobacco (Agri-food) is the region’s third largest sub-sector with meat processing, bakery/confectionary, seafood and beverages the main activities. Agri-food’s share of industrial employment in the region (11.2%) is considerably smaller than nationally (17.1%). This is partly due to the strong concentration of such activity in the other regions and the nature of the Western Region’s farming.

There are differences across counties in the relative importance of the sub-sectors. For Galway City, Galway County and Leitrim, the MedTech sector is the largest industrial employer.  For Sligo and Mayo, it is Chemicals & Pharma, while for Donegal and Roscommon Agri-food is largest.  Computer & Electronic Equipment is Clare’s main industrial employer. Further detail on the industrial profile of the western counties can be found here.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total Industry employment in each sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2016

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

Transport Equipment experienced the largest percentage growth in employment in the Western Region between 2011 and 2016, increasing by 52.7% (+451 people).  The region had far greater growth than nationally (15.5%). This sector includes companies such as Valeo Vision Systems in Tuam, Mirror Controls International in Leitrim, McHale Engineering in Mayo and Lufthansa Technik Turbine in Clare.

The next highest growth was in the region’s largest sub-sector, MedTech where employment grew by 30.2% (+2,935 people), followed by Computer & Electronic (21.2%, +633 people).  Very strong growth in these three high-tech manufacturing sectors contributed substantially to the region’s stronger than average performance, with total Industry employment growing by 13.7% compared with 9.4% in the country as a whole.

Key Policy Issues

Industry plays a considerably greater role in the region’s economy and labour market than nationally.  Its performance, and future trends in manufacturing, will have a greater impact in the region.  Given the growing role of services nationally, and increasing policy focus on attracting and growing international services, it is vital that manufacturing’s central role in the Western Region’s economy is fully recognised and supported in policy decisions.  There also needs to be a strong focus on developing new growth areas to increase industrial diversification.

The region has a higher reliance on foreign owned firms.  Global developments which impact on the extent and nature of foreign owned investment in Ireland would have very significant knock-on impacts on the regional economy, not only for direct jobs in foreign owned manufacturing, but also Irish owned sub-suppliers.

Digital transformation poses a threat to certain jobs but also creates new occupations and activities.  Manufacturing has already evolved substantially and adopted many digital technologies.  Processing and operations jobs, especially manual work e.g. packing, are now most at risk from automation.  Upskilling of the current industrial workforce should be a key regional priority.

The nature of work and skills needs are changing.  The share of jobs that are permanent full-time is declining and it is important that policy adapts to ensure that the rights and obligations of individuals and employers are clearly outlined and protected, for example in relation to training and upskilling. Industry’s skill needs are changing with areas of current demand including science and engineering, craft skills and operatives with digital skills.  As Ireland’s manufacturing sector continues to evolve there will be growing demand for STEM qualifications.

The Western Region is a global location for MedTech. The cluster includes multinationals and Irish start-ups supported by a strong skills base and research infrastructure. Life Sciences, including MedTech and Chemicals & Pharma, is present in all counties but strongest in Galway, Sligo and Mayo. It is a key regional asset but its dominant role presents some risk. Opportunities for convergence with other sectors and dissemination of its expertise should be supported to promote industrial diversification.

Activities which rely on domestic demand or the UK market face challenges. These sectors play a larger role in rural counties, have high levels of Irish SME activity and are important for male employment.  Manual tasks are vulnerable to automation and Brexit presents a threat, especially for Agri-food.  Improving the competitiveness, as well as market and product diversification, of such firms will be important to sustaining the regional and rural economy.

The region has an emerging strength in Transport Equipment. For Galway County, Mayo and Roscommon it was the strongest growing sector and Leitrim has the highest share in the country.  Many of the companies are located in medium-sized or small towns and opportunities to further embed and strengthen this emerging cluster should be supported.

For more detailed analysis see ‘Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

Data on agency assisted jobs in Industry in also analysed in the report, and will be the topic of a future blog post.

Pauline White

The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region

Today we published the second in our series of ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing employment and enterprise data for the Western Region on specific economic sectors and identifying key policy issues. The new report examines the Health & Care Sector, the Western Region’s third largest employer.

The full report ‘The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ and the two-pageWDC Insights: The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region’ which summarises the key points can be downloaded here

Health & Care is a broad sector including all those working in hospitals, nursing homes, crèches, day facilities, dental, medical and physiotherapist practices etc.  It includes professional healthcare occupations e.g. nurses, doctors, as well as clerical and administrative roles and care assistants, home carers, childminders and childcare workers.

Discussions of the Health & Care sector generally focus on provision of vital healthcare services. This ‘Regional Sectoral Profile’ however focuses on its role as a key economic sector and regional employer.

Employment & Enterprise in Health & Care

A few of the key findings from the report on employment and enterprise in the sector include:

  • 42,027 people were employed in the Health & Care sector in the Western Region in 2016. This was 12.6% of total employment in the region, higher than the 11.1% share nationally.
  • At 15.5% of all employment, Sligo has the highest share working in this sector in the country, while Leitrim (13.5%) has the second highest share nationally with Galway City and Galway County (both 13%) jointly fourth.
  • Health & Care is the largest employment sector for six out of the region’s 40 urban centres – Letterkenny, Sligo, Ballinasloe, Bearna, Strandhill and Collooney. It must be notes that this data refers to residents of the towns, although some may travel to work elsewhere and proximity to a large hospital is a key factor.
  • The number of people working in Health & Care in the Western Region grew by 14.8% between 2011 and 2016, close to double the growth of total employment in the region (7.5%). All western counties experienced far stronger growth in Health & Care jobs than in jobs generally
  • ‘Residential care & social work’ (nursing homes, crèches, home care) is the largest element of Health & Care in the Western Region accounting for 47.6% of all employment in the sector. ‘Hospital activities’ is next largest (37.2%).
  • 4% of all working women in the Western Region work in Health & Care and it is the largest employment sector for women in the region.
  • In 2016 there were 3,485 Health & Care enterprises registered in the Western Region; that was 6.4% of total enterprises in that year.
  • Sligo (7.8%) and Galway (7.6%) have the highest shares of enterprises in Health & Care across all counties in Ireland, again reinforcing the substantial role played by the sector in the region’s economy.

Key Policy Issues for the Western Region’s Health & Care Sector

As the third largest employer in the Western Region and an area showing strong jobs growth in recent years, the Health & Care sector plays a pivotal role in the regional economy, in addition to providing vital services. Therefore future trends in the sector will have significant regional implications.

Higher reliance on Health & Care in the Western Region:  Health & Care is a more significant employer in the Western Region than nationally.  It plays a critical role in providing opportunities for professional careers, especially in more rural areas where there may be fewer alternatives. It also offers jobs at lower skill levels which are important in providing employment for all sections of the labour force. However this greater reliance on the sector in the region increases its vulnerability to any jobs decline.  While the primary policy focus for Health & Care must be on the provision of quality services, the sector’s parallel role as a provider of jobs, particularly in the Western Region, should also be a factor in policy decisions.

Central role in female employment: The Health & Care sector is the largest employer of women in the Western Region and any future developments in this sector will have a far greater impact on female than male employment levels.

Key driver of job creation: Employment growth in Health & Care in the Western Region was almost twice the region’s average employment growth (2011-2016).  Its role may often be overlooked in debates on recent job creation trends, with more focus on exporting and high-tech businesses.  The role of Health & Care in job creation, as well as future growth opportunities in the sector, should be fully explored in national, regional and local economic development strategies.

An ageing population and growing demand:  Over 16% of the population of Mayo, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo are aged 65+ years.  Increased longevity means there is a growing share among the ‘older old’ (80+) with Roscommon (4.4%), Leitrim (4.3%) and Mayo (4.25) the highest in the state.  ‘Residential care & social work’ grew by almost a quarter in the Western Region (2011-2016).  Responding to the needs of an ageing population is one of the greatest challenges facing the Health & Care sector and significant job and growth opportunities exist in effectively meeting this challenge. The Western Region’s older age profile and high level of rurality means it is at the forefront of this growing demand and has an opportunity to develop new and innovative solutions such as learning from successful models across Europe.

Loss of rural GP practices: ‘Medical practice’ was the only Health & Care sub-sector which saw a decline in employment.  It is estimated that 50% of GPs in Leitrim will retire over the next five to seven years, 41% in Mayo and 38% in Roscommon.  If reported difficulties in finding GP replacements persist, this could mean that medical practices in neighbouring towns and villages may close.  The impact on the delivery of health services in rural areas of the loss of medical practices needs to be considered in Government policy, with options such as online delivery of GP services explored as part of the solution.

Skill shortages:  A number of skill shortages exist in the sector and healthcare professionals (nurses, doctors) accounted for a higher share of all employment permits (for non-EU residents) issued for the West and Border regions than nationally.  Care workers and childminders are occupations characterised by high turnover and some employers may be experiencing difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified care and childcare workers. Changing demographics, along with Government policy, will impact on the demand for Health & Care skills.  Initiatives to increase the number of people with qualifications in care, as well as to improve working conditions and increase its attractiveness as a job option, are important for the sector’s capacity to meet future needs.

Download the full report ‘The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ and the two-pageWDC Insights: The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region’ which summarises the key points, here

 

Is e-Working on the Increase?

There has been much talk recently of an increase in e-working but does the evidence support the idea that it is more prevalent?

Technology development and in particular high speed broadband enables much office based work to be conducted remotely or away from the office. This, coupled with increased journey times to work has led to a greater demand for the opportunity for staff to work remote from the office and closer to home on a one or 2 days a week basis. Companies are reportedly increasing the availability of e-working in part as a means to retain key personnel[1].

The growth in employment opportunities in the shared or gig economy is another factor driving broadband demand to support employment growth and there is evidence that work and income generation in this sector is an important feature in rural areas such as the Western Region, see here.

Regional employers also value the ability to provide remote working opportunities, for example, Shopify recently announced the addition of 100 remote working jobs in the west of Ireland due to the presence of high-speed broadband, while Pramerica, a US multinational in Letterkenny, employ at least 20 e-workers who work from a well-established hub in Gweedore, Co. Donegal. Wayfair has also recently announced their intention to add over 200 jobs to their “Virtual” workforce in the west of Ireland (https://www.idaireland.com/newsroom/wayfair).

Benefits from e-working

Analysis for the Department of Communications measured benefits arising from delivery of high speed broadband planned under the forthcoming National Broadband Plan[2];

  • found that each house could yield a benefit of €89.00 per household per annum resulting from journey time and fuel cost savings from increased e-Working as a consequence of the availability of high speed broadband. This does not include other benefits such as carbon emissions savings etc.
  • Increased productivity is also forecast, generated from improved productivity of white collar workers living in rural areas but commuting to work in urban areas. This shows the benefit to the enterprise expressed as an increase in GVA per employee of 1.53% (€1,342) per worker, working from home or remote working on a 1 day per week basis. This does not capture benefits such as increased staff retention and more satisfied employees[3].

Demand for e-working/co-working spaces/ Hubs

The success of initiatives variously called e-working spaces/ co-working spaces/ hubs also suggests e-working is on the increase. However the various terms are used to describe a variety of uses, only some of which may actually support the individual e-worker.

There are working spaces in the enterprise space some of which are funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Hubs variously classed as innovation, enterprise or community hubs, many are focussed on start ups and incubation spaces rather than providing e-working spaces for individual employees.

In the Western Region, the success of Digital hubs in County Clare, https://www.digiclare.ie/  where there are spaces in three sites across the county, Kilrush, Miltown Malbay and Feakle suggest an increased demand for e-working spaces.  Many of these types of hubs are providing high speed telecommunications access to communities that do not yet have access and are (still) awaiting the rollout of the National Broadband Plan. Initiatives such as Grow Remote suggest e-working  is an increasing phenomenon.

 The evidence on e-Working

However as the WDC pointed out in its e-working policy briefing, the evidence on e-Working in Ireland is limited and complicated by different definitions. The most comprehensive data is collected in the Census and the same question has been asked on previous Censuses. The question asked is ‘how you usually travel to work?’ with one of the answers being ‘work mainly at or from home’.

According to the Census, nationally, in 2011, 4.7% (83,326) of all those at work, stated they worked mainly at or from home. By 2016 there were 94,955 persons working ‘mainly at or from home’ in April 2016, an increase of 14%. There was a 11% increase in the numbers at work over the same period, indicating an increasing prevalence of working from home.

However, the Census definition is a very broad definition in that it includes all those that are self-employed and work from home (such as childminders, home-based GPs, farmers and sole traders across all sectors) and not just e-Workers. Moreover, the Census definition only captures those employees that work from home most of the working week and excludes those who e-Work even one or two days per week, which some studies suggest is the most common pattern of e-Working.

In 2016 an IBEC survey of their membership found that 30% (110) of companies had a practice of e-Working/ home-working, on one or two days per week. At a regional level, 21% of companies in the West/North-West report a practice of e-Working one or two days per week, lower than the national average. The likelihood of e-Working among companies increases with company size so that 40% of companies with 500+ employees cite a practice of e-Working nationally. The trend is for continued growth in the practice with 31% of companies’ surveyed planning to increase their use of e-Working, with a forecast that 60% of office based workers will work remotely regularly by 2020, see here.

Examining e-Working in rural Ireland, a report commissioned by Vodafone, found that nearly one in four broadband users in rural Ireland use the internet at home in relation to their work (about 430,000 people) and one third have remote access to their company network for work purposes. These e-Workers report that e-Working means they can avoid commuting to work, typically about two days a week. An estimated 150,000 workers avoid commuting some or all of the time because they can connect to work remotely.

However, the same report found that a quarter of those who work from home – or nearly 100,000 adults – say their current broadband service is not sufficient to meet their requirements for e-Working, and that it limits the work-related activities they can do from home. This share rises to nearly half of those living in detached houses in the countryside. 30% report that slow and unreliable speeds currently prevent them and/or family members from working from home.

Conclusions

It is clear therefore that the incidence of e-Working is greater than the measure of ‘those working mainly at or from home’, as captured by the Census. It is also likely that the trend is generally upward.

It is also clear that the rollout of the National Broadband Plan remains a vital infrastructure investment needed to support employment growth and retention, apart from the various and widespread social benefits it can yield.

Better data is needed to capture the actual extent of e-Working. The CSO should consider revising the Census question as it currently only captures those ‘who work mainly at or from home’. Data should measure the incidence of e-Working on a one day, two days and more frequent basis. This will also provide a useful baseline for measuring trends.

[1] https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC_Policy-Briefing-no-7.pdf, https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC-Insights-Home-Based-Working-July-2017.pdf  IBEC HR Update Survey 2016, Issue 2.

[2] Indecon International Economic Consultants, July 2012. Economic / Socio-Economic Analysis of Options for

Rollout of Next Generation Broadband. http://www.dccae.gov.ie/communications/SiteCollectionDocuments/Broadband/National%20Broadband%20Plan.pdf

[3] See footnote 3. There is also an increase in productivity at the enterprise level – measured at 0.67% increase in GVA per small non-farm enterprise in the Intervention Area. This is as a result of productivity gains through improved businesses processes, online sales and owner managers having the flexibility of ‘always-on’ connectivity.

Enterprise in the Western Region 2016

Earlier this week we published our latest 2-page WDC Insights publication.  ‘Enterprise in the Western Region 2016’ analyses the latest data from the CSO’s Business Demography which measures active enterprises in 2016.  This data assigns enterprises to the county where they are registered with Revenue, so if they have multiple locations (e.g. banks, chain stores) they are only counted as one enterprise in whichever county they are headquartered (often Dublin).   Therefore the county data presented here measures businesses which are registered in the Western Region.

In 2016 there were 54,410 total enterprises registered in the Western Region.

To examine the size of enterprises, we can only consider ‘business economy’ enterprises which are a subset of total enterprises (excluding Education, Health, Arts & Entertainment and Other Services).  There were 42,737 ‘business economy’ enterprises in the Western Region in 2016 and 92.7% were micro-enterprises.  Roscommon (94.6%) and Leitrim (94.4%) have the highest shares of micro-enterprises in the state.

Between 2008 and 2016 there was a 4.3% decline in the number of ‘business economy’ enterprises in the Western Region, compared with 3.9% growth in the rest of the state (all other counties) (Fig. 1).  Donegal, Mayo and Roscommon suffered the largest declines in enterprise numbers over the period.

The 2016 data confirms an ongoing recovery in enterprise numbers that began in 2014, with all counties experiencing an increase over that two-year period, Clare and Donegal most strongly.  Although all western counties (and all but seven counties nationally) still had fewer enterprises in 2016 than they had in 2008.

Fig. 1: Percentage change in ‘business economy’ enterprises in western counties, Western Region and rest of state, 2008-2016 and 2014-2016.  Source: CSO, Business Demography 2016

Compared with the rest of the state, the Western Region has a higher share of enterprises in traditional sectors, as well as local and public services (Fig. 2).  With 1 in 5 enterprises in the region involved in Construction, it is the region’s largest enterprise sector and plays a larger role in the region’s enterprise profile. Accommodation & Food Service is another area where the region has a significantly greater share of enterprises, an indication of the important role of tourism.

The knowledge intensive services sectors are of less significance to the region’s enterprise profile, with lower shares in Professional Services, Information & Communications and Financial Services.

The relative importance of sectors to the enterprise profile of individual western counties varies, although Construction and Wholesale & Retail are the two largest for all counties, with Professional Services third largest for all western counties except Donegal where Accommodation & Food Service is third.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total enterprises in each sector in the Western Region and rest of state, 2016. Source: CSO, Business Demography 2016

As noted above, the period 2014-2016 showed growth in enterprise numbers. At a sectoral level, there was growth in all sectors in the region except for a small decline in Transportation & Storage.  The largest percentage growth, albeit from a low base, was in Financial Services with an increase of 15% in the number of enterprises registered in the region, followed by Real Estate (11.5%) and Administrative Services (8%).

For these three sectors, the growth in the region was higher than in the rest of the state, with the number of Financial Services firms actually declining elsewhere in that time. The region also experienced stronger growth than the rest of the state in Industry, Education, Professional Services and Arts & Entertainment.

The CSO also produces data for a composite ‘ICT’ sector which combines elements of ICT hardware manufacturing with IT services, the number of ICT enterprises in the Western Region increased by 11.4% between 2014 and 2016 compared with 9.8% growth in the rest of the state.

The profile of the Western Region’s enterprise base contributes to a number of the issues and challenges faced by the region’s SMEs which the WDC highlighted in its recent submission to the Seanad’s public consultation on SMEs in Ireland. See the blog post here.

Download ‘Enterprise in the Western Region 2016’ here.

Travelling from the Western Region to work in Dublin. How has it changed and Why?

The Western Development Commission (WDC) recently published a report on Travel to Work patterns in the Western Region. Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments (2018) is available for download here.

The report draws on Census 2016 POWCAR data to examine the travel to work patterns in centres with a population greater than 1,000 across the Western Region. The analysis, undertaken by the All Island Research Observatory (AIRO), contains a detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region, namely: Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon.

Travelling to Dublin City for Work

Of particular interest is the place of work of residents living in the Western Region and how this has changed in the last 10 years when the WDC conducted the same analysis based on Census 2006 data. In this blogpost we examine the numbers travelling to work in Dublin city from these seven centres and the extent to which this has changed over the last decade.

From the analysis of 2006 Census of Population data and accompanying report, (published in 2009), see here , the numbers travelling to work in Dublin city from each of the catchments in the Western Region ranged from 73 (Roscommon) to 411 in the Galway city labour catchment. These figures represented 1.0% and 0.63% of the total catchment size respectively, see Table 1 below.

Table 1. Numbers travelling to Dublin city from labour catchments in Western Region, Size of catchment and Share of catchment travelling to work in Dublin, 2006 and 2016.

Examining the same data 10 years on there is quite an obvious change. Though both periods are similar in that they are characterised by strong employment and economic growth, across each of the catchments there is a considerable increase in the numbers travelling to work in Dublin city. It is also notable that while the relative population size of each of the catchments all increased, the rate of increase is not that significant. Therefore the share of the total in each catchment travelling to work in Dublin city is much greater in 2016 than it had been in 2006, now ranging from 1% in Letterkenny to 3.5% in Carrick-on-Shannon.

So the numbers and the share of all resident workers in each catchment travelling to work in Dublin has all increased considerably and has generally doubled or in some cases nearly trebled (for example Ennis and Roscommon).

So what are the factors behind this change?

  • Improved transport between Dublin and the regions is also important; the example of Carrick-on- Shannon and Letterkenny applies here. The improved road and motorway networks serving Limerick (Ennis), Galway and to a lesser extent Sligo as well as intercity rail services, all make journey times quicker.
  • Better job opportunities and the relative the lack of opportunities in the regions is another key factor. There is no doubt that especially for more senior or more specialised positions, most of these are located in Dublin. For those living in the Region and who want to progress up the career ladder, work in Dublin may be the only option.
  • The economic crash between 2006 and 2016 and ensuing high unemployment, may have forced people living in the Western Region to take up positions in the Capital, ‘in the short-term’, but the short-term has turned into the long-term, especially in the absence of good opportunities closer to home.
  • It is also possible that many of these positions, while based in Dublin, allow for some degree of flexibility and working from home for a day or two during the week. This can make the long commute on the alternate days more manageable for some. There is a range of data attempting to measure the incidence of e-working or teleworking and most suggest that it is on the increase. It is also likely to be a factor in retaining key personnel during periods of skills shortages and low unemployment. See WDC publications on e-working here, the Gig economy here and Home-based working here.
  • Finally, geography is an important factor in the relative differences. It is no surprise that the share of the total catchment working in Dublin from Carrick-on-Shannon (3.5%) is much higher than Letterkenny, given its relative proximity.

Accessibility to Jobs

Recent research by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, National Road Network Indicators 2017, see here, shows the changes that have occurred in the road network between 2006 and 2017 and how this has influenced accessibility to jobs, see Page A1 showing the impact of the improved road network linking Dublin and the regions.

The report notes that A significant proportion of the road capital spend from 2013 to 2017 was within the West of the country and this has resulted in improved employment accessibility for these areas. This is to be welcomed but the report also notes that despite this peripheral areas in the North-West, West and South-West and South-East still tend to suffer from poor accessibility to jobs.

It is also worth noting that the decline in accessibility on routes into Dublin, due to ongoing traffic growth, are in part caused by the increased numbers of people from the Western Region travelling to the city to work.

To counter this, to help ease congestion and improve accessibility into Dublin, regional growth needs to be supported and accessibility within the Regions needs to be improved. This will improve interregional mobility, enhance labour catchments and supply in the Regions and make it more attractive to do business there.

Project Ireland 2040

The Project Ireland 2040 National Development Plan 2018-2017 commits to Enhanced Regional Accessibility as National Strategic Outcome 2. This recognises the importance of travel catchments and urban centres and their regions. From a Western perspective it is also welcome that it acknowledges the need to invest in transport to the North West which has been comparatively neglected until recently.

From an interregional perspective, the commitment to deliver the Atlantic Corridor, linking Cork, Limerick, Galway and Sligo is very important. Enhancing this network will improve travel to work times within the region, helping to improve accessibility and improving job prospects for residents within the Region. It will also hopefully make the region more attractive for new job creation. While the Plan notes that the Atlantic Corridor will be delivered progressively, it is hoped that it will be completed as timely as possible, both for those commuters who wish to find work closer to home and to realise the wider objectives of regional growth under Project Ireland 2040.

The National Broadband Plan, Ensuring it is Worth the Wait

The procurement process for the National Broadband Plan is well under way and an announcement on the preferred bidder is expected in the Autumn. It is planned that the network rollout will begin very soon after.

The National Broadband Plan, first announced by Minister Pat Rabitte in 2012, has gone through a very extensive and thorough process, examining the proposed State intervention from all aspects including EU state aid rules, procurement and governance among others. It is to be hoped that all the planning, research and analysis will yield a National Broadband Plan fit for purpose for the next 25 years.

The National Broadband Plan or a Rural Broadband Plan?

Reporting of the NBP is often expressed in the context of delivery to rural homes and businesses. In reality it is much more than this – broadband has been and continues to be the most pressing infrastructure requirement throughout the country and there are ‘intervention areas’ across every county, including Dublin.

By describing the deficit as a rural deficit it risks identifying the issue as soley a rural issue and implies that urban Ireland is well served. Take Oranmore for example, a commuter town a few kilometres from Galway city with a population of 4,990 (Census 2016). Nearly half (45.9%) of workers living there work in Galway city and suburbs while many others commute to Ennis, Limerick, Athlone and Dublin.

While most of Oranmore has access to high broadband speeds, there are several housing estates which are within the Intervention area. For example, one housing estate, comprising over 40 houses all occupied by young families is situated less than 1 kilometre from the local boys national school, 1.2 km from the local Gaelscoil and 1.3km from the local comprehensive secondary school established in 1861 and catering for 800+ day pupils. The estate is on the public sewage network and on the public water supply yet has to wait for the National Broadband Plan to access fit for purpose broadband. Other housing estates situated further beyond the centre receive commercially defined high speed broadband.

Many residents bought these houses in the expectation that services that are typically provided in urban settings would be available. Most residents, if not all, would subscribe to faster broadband speeds if they could and many work (or try to work) occasionally from home as some commute long distances to work. This estate is not unique, there are other estates like this in Oranmore and across the country that are in the Intervention Area.

A Future Proofed Network

At a recent conference, Helene Graham, an independent telecommunications consultant, (previously with Eir), noted that when making the announcement in 2012, Minister Rabitte set out a plan that was going to improve telecommunications for everyone in Ireland, no matter how far and remote. At the time the target was 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload. However the pace of change and evolution in services and technology has changed so much that as she noted there is really very little point in creating a service that gives you 100Mbps if it takes you two and a half years to build, because by the time you build it 100Mbps is irrelevant.

In considering the National Broadband Plan six years ago, the Department were looking for a way to provide a long-term solution, recognising the increasing demand for greater broadband speeds. The original target of 30Mbps was to be in line with the EU 2020 Digital Agenda targets. The Department are now talking about a future proofed network, without specifying speeds, again in recognition of the ever increasing demand.

This is very welcome, but will it be future proofed for everyone? The technologies and methods of rollout will have far reaching consequences for the 540,000 postal addresses in the Intervention Area over the next 25 years. There will also be consequences for new premises yet to be built in the Intervention Area over the next 25 years due to the choice of technology deployed now.

Future proofing telecommunications provisions is widely considered to mean using optical fibre, which involves laying cables, often via the road network. It is accepted that not every premises in the Intervention Area will be served by fibre as it would be very costly, especially in very remote areas. What is not clear yet however is the extent of fibre/non-fibre rollout. Some suggest that about 7% of homes in the Intervention Area are too remote and will be served by alternative technologies such as fixed wireless or 5G. The final figure is likely to be the subject of negotiation with Department officials and may also change during the course of the network rollout.

It will be important that the fibre rollout is as extensive and far reaching as possible given the long-term implications of the build. The National Broadband Plan is the Government’s attempt to deliver fit for purpose broadband for the next 25 years and while many have waited a very long time it is also important to ensure it is worth the wait.

Broadband benefits – but when?

Recent statistics show that Ireland will not meet the EU 2020 targets for the universal availability of fast broadband[1]. Like other EU states, in Ireland there are particular challenges delivering fast broadband to rural areas and this is not helped by the complicated and lengthy procurement process.

Given the many initiatives in the recent past aimed at delivering better universal broadband, the WDC has believed that this current Plan, aimed at providing ‘future proofed services’ is the right approach, however given the fast pace of technological change, it is and will be imperative that future proofed technology is at the cornerstone of delivery to all.

There have been various analyses of the economic and social benefits of broadband and some Irish research was presented at a recent ESRI seminar. The seminar, titled Evidence of Some Economic effects of Local Infrastructure in Ireland focussed on the economic benefits of broadband infrastructure. Key findings included:

  • The availability of broadband infrastructure is a significant determinant on the location of new business, but its effects may be influenced by the presence of the levels of human capital and skill levels in the area.
  • Therefore when rolling out broadband in a structurally weak area, parallel measures to boost human capital should be deployed.
  • Human capital and proximity to third level institutions is important for all firms.
  • The effect of broadband depends on education levels within an area.
  • Infrastructure roll-out can help to re-balance economic activity.
  • Government departments and agencies usually have discrete mandates designed not to overlap too much.
  • Decisions to build infrastructure often not taken together (e.g. broadband or transport) or considered along with other factors such as health care provision or education.

The latter two points in particular highlight the need for co-ordination and the value of a comprehensive spatial and economic development plan such as Project Ireland 2040. See here for more information on the ESRI seminar.

Previously, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment conducted its own research which examined the benefits of high speed broadband and research and this is available here. In particular the research identified travel savings through more remote working and increased gross value added, see here.

The analysis measured benefits arising from delivery of high speed broadband planned under the forthcoming National Broadband Plan, to the ‘Intervention Area’ (IA), which comprises approximately 757,000 premises across rural areas throughout Ireland. These areas are not currently receiving high speed services from commercial providers.

The analysis found that each house in the IA could yield a benefit of €89.00 per household per annum resulting from journey time and fuel cost savings from increased e-Working as a consequence of the availability of high speed broadband. This would amount to an annual total saving of €48.39 million, which does not include other benefits such as carbon emissions savings etc.

Increased productivity is also forecast, generated from improved productivity of white collar workers living in rural areas (the IA) but commuting to work in urban areas. This shows the benefit to the enterprise expressed as an increase in GVA per employee of 1.53% (€1,342) per worker, working from home or remote working on a 1 day per week basis. This does not capture benefits such as increased staff retention and more satisfied employees.

Research elsewhere reflects some of the findings of the ESRI research. For example, work undertaken in the US by Professor Mark Partridge found that our review of the economic research finds that broadband’s contribution to economic development in rural regions is often overstated. Broadband expansion does produce positive economic effects in certain rural area, specifically more populated rural counties adjacent to metro areas.

The same research quantifies the economic benefits of additional consumer choice, produced when households are able to access a broader range of products and services at lower prices. The research conducted in Ohio, see here, estimates that reaching full broadband coverage there would generate between $1 billion and $2 billion in economic benefits over the next 15 years. This estimate does not include other potential benefits that broadband offers such as reducing the period of unemployment among job seekers.

Professor Mark Partridge is due to present at the forthcoming Regional Studies Association Irish Section Annual Conference, to be held in Sligo IT on Friday 7th September 2018.

The theme of the conference is ‘City-Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions’ and the call for papers is now open. Further details are available here.

The WDC believes that to realise all benefits from next generation broadband, it is imperative that the National Broadband Plan deploying future proofed broadband is delivered as soon as possible.

Deirdre Frost

[1] Reported in Irish Times 6th June 2018

‘Delivering Balanced Regional Development’ … 10 years on

I was recently reminded that it’s been ten years since the WDC’s conference ‘Delivering Balanced Regional Development’ in May 2008. The context at that time was that balanced regional development had been included as a key objective of the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and was to have been a key consideration in public investment decisions.  At the same time however, the economic crisis was beginning to unfold. The WDC therefore felt it was timely to provide a forum in which the policy issues involved in balanced regional development could be discussed and debated.

Held at the Hodson Bay Hotel in Athlone, speakers included academics and researchers Professor Neil Ward from the Centre for Urban and Rural Development Studies at Newcastle University, Professors Gerry Boyle (NUI Maynooth) and Michael Keane (NUI Galway), as well Dr. Edgar Morgenroth (ESRI).  The line-up also included a number of policymakers including Julie O’Neill, Secretary General of the Department of Transport, Mark Griffin (Department of Planning) and Dermot O’ Doherty (InterTradeIreland).  All the presentations can be downloaded from here.

The focus of this post however is the paper by the WDC Policy Analysis team, presented by Dr Patricia O’Hara, then Policy Manager of the WDC.  Looking back at the paper I’m struck by how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.  The past ten years have seen massive changes in the country – the recession and recovery, a return to emigration, Brexit, significant social changes (very evident from last week’s referendum).

While the initial years of the recession actually saw some narrowing of regional disparities as all regions took a hit, the recovery has been spatially uneven and it could be argued that some of the trends driving the recovery e.g. multinational IT services firms, is accentuating regional imbalance.

2018 has seen the launch of the new National Planning Framework and a new National Development Plan, with three Regional Economic and Spatial Strategies currently being devised.  Therefore it seems an opportune time to reflect on what we had to say about balanced regional development a decade ago.

Deirdre Frost, Helen McHenry, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, Patricia O’Hara, Pauline White at the ‘Delivering Balanced Regional Development’ conference, 23 May 2008

The WDC’s paper was titled ‘The Regional Development Challenge: A Western Region Perspective’ and it set out what we considered better regional balance might look like, i.e. what regional development policies should be trying to achieve.  The list still seems as relevant today as then (but replacing the word ‘Gateway’ with city and key regional centres).

  • Future population growth distributed more evenly across Ireland.
  • Gateway centres with sufficient critical mass to serve as drivers for their regions.
  • Population increase in hubs and in small and medium-sized towns across the regions based on inward investment and indigenous economic activity, including significant employment in the public sector and locally traded services.
  • The natural resources of rural areas utilised in a sustainable manner and such areas well-linked to local centres.
  • An infrastructure base that enables all regions to optimise their participation in, and contribution to, the knowledge economy.
  • Quality social provision at local level and efficient access to services in other centres so that location does not contribute to social exclusion.
  • Careful planning and management of the environment, including landscape, cultural and heritage resources.

Following a discussion of regional disparities and trends, as well as international insights, the paper concluded with seven policy recommendations on what was needed to achieve more balanced regional development:

  1. Political commitment and vision based on an understanding of the kind of spatial structure most suited to Ireland’s social values, history and geography.
  2. Clear responsibility for delivery of regional development policy so that key government departments ‘mainstream’ the regional dimension into their spending decisions. One government department should have the mandate and resources for this and ensure, for instance, that other relevant departments include regional development outputs in their Annual Output statements to the Oireachtas.
  3. Resources should be provided to address the research and intelligence gap for policy-making, especially the development of regional indicators, measures of output and urban-rural links. Robust analyses of policy successes and failures are also necessary.
  4. Regional investment strategies should be directed to improving regions’ infrastructure, skill endowment and quality of life as the key drivers of their capacity to maximise their resource endowment and attract inward investment. Spending decisions in transport, energy, telecommunications, human resources, research, development and knowledge issues should clearly target reducing structural disparities between regions and not reinforce them.
  5. The NSS provides a robust framework for balanced regional development, but its operationalisation needs to be informed by a thorough understanding of the investment and planning requirements at different spatial levels.
  • The new, smaller gateways need support appropriate to their scale and state of development that maximises the possibility of sustainable growth and encourages them to form strategic alliances.
  • The interaction between gateways, hubs, provincial towns and rural areas needs to be investigated and understood in order to construct effective policy to support their function in the spatial hierarchy.
  1. All levels of government and stakeholders should be involved with common purpose in structures that facilitate knowledge-sharing and efficiency. Pending other reform, ‘ad hoc coalitions’ of local authorities could be an effective way of tackling common problems and facilitating cross-boundary/border cooperation between towns and smaller centres.
  2. The north-west of Ireland has some particular weaknesses that could be addressed by acceleration of investment in infrastructure links which would facilitate crossborder links and act as a counterbalance to the Dublin-Belfast corridor.

It can be argued that some progress has been made in a number of these areas with efforts to more closely align the National Development Plan investment priorities with the National Planning Framework. However many of these recommendations remain relevant, the need to integrate regional development far more closely in the investment decisions of the main spending Departments, the need to understand the interactions between different levels on the spatial hierarchy far better and to develop effective policy for cities, towns and rural areas and of course the continuing challenge for development in the north-west, which has been further exacerbated by Brexit.

It seems that delivering on effective balanced regional development is still a work in progress.

Pauline White

 

 

 

New WDC report on Travel to Work Patterns in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) will shortly publish Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments (2018) which will be available for download here.

In this publication, the WDC draws on Census 2016 POWCAR data to examine the travel to work patterns in centres with a population greater than 1,000 across the Western Region. The analysis, undertaken by the All Island Research Observatory (AIRO), identifies 42 labour catchments ranging in size from the largest, Galway City, with over 70,000 resident workers, through to centres with fewer than 1,000 resident workers.

The report also contains a detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region, namely: Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon. Trends are also examined, drawing on the original travel to work analysis based on Census 2006 conducted by the WDC.

The report notes some key findings:

  • All seven town labour catchments have significantly more people at work than the resident population of workers in each town as identified in the Census. They therefore have access to a larger labour supply. For example, Galway city labour catchment has a population at work more than double the Census population of resident workers, while Carrick-on-Shannon labour catchment has a population at work approximately 4.6 times the population of resident workers.
  • Compared to a decade earlier the seven county town labour catchments account for an increase of only 0.5% in the to­tal share of the population at work and living in the Western Region. This shows the limited change that has occurred over a long period and the need for very strong policy intervention to effect change.
  • The analysis highlights the importance of rural areas (centres with less than 1,000 persons) as employment locations. Generally over one fifth (in excess of 22%) of those living in the town labour catchment are employed in rural areas. The highest level of rural employment is in the Ennis labour catchment with over one quarter (26.9%) employed in the Clare rural area.
  • North-east Donegal is strongly linked to Northern Ireland. The ‘Derry Rural’ labour catchment accounts for over 5,000 resident workers, an increase of approximately 10% since 2006. This region will be most impacted by BREXIT, therefore policy needs to be developed and implemented to mitigate the impacts.

There are two outputs;

(i)    the full report, provides an overview of the travel to work analysis, identifies the 42 labour catchments, and provides an overview of change between 2006 and 2016.  It contains the detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region (Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon).

(ii)   Individual bulletins containing only the labour market profile of the principal towns are also available.

These reports will provide information for prospective employers, develop­ment agencies and regional and local authorities. These data can also be used in determining catchments for various services which will be of interest to transport providers, planners and local authorities. The outputs of the report will also be a useful evidence base for researchers and planners en­gaged with the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES) for both the Northern and Western Region­al Assembly (NWRA) and the Southern Regional Assembly (SRA) and also for Project Ireland 2014, the National Planning Framework (NPF).