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Remote Working in Ireland During Covid-19 – Initial Findings from WDC/NUIG Survey

Introduction

The WDC in partnership with Whitaker Institute NUIG has just published initial findings of its survey Remote Working in Ireland During COVID-19, see here. These are the summary results from the national survey of 7,241 individuals across a wide range of industries and occupations over a one-week week period in April-May 2020. This is a very high response, well in excess of the number surveyed for the CSO Quarterly Labour Force Survey. The survey was led by Tomás Ó Síocháin and Deirdre Frost at WDC and Professor Alma McCarthy, Professor Alan Ahearne and Dr Katerina Bohle-Carbonell at NUI Galway.

The survey results show that 87% of respondents are now working remotely because of Covid-19. Over half of those surveyed (51%) had never worked remotely before the Covid-19 pandemic. Of those who had never worked remotely, 78% would like to work remotely for some or all of the time after the crisis is over.

Advantages to Remote Working

  • The top three advantages of working remotely were: no traffic and no commute (76%);
  • Reduced costs of going to work and commuting (55%);
  • Greater flexibility as to how to manage the working day (48%).

Over two thirds say their productivity is the same or higher working from home. 37% of respondents indicated that their productivity working remotely during COVID-19 is about the same as normal and 30% report that their productivity is higher than normal.  25% report that their productivity is lower than normal and 9% of respondents indicate that it is impossible to compare productivity as the demand for products/services/business has changed.

Close to half (48%) say it is easy or somewhat easy to work from home while 37% find that it is difficult or somewhat difficult to work from home.

Challenges to Remote Working

The top three challenges of working remotely included:

  • Not being able to switch off from work (37%);
  • Harder to communicate and collaborate with colleagues and co-workers (36%);
  • Poor physical workspace (28%).
  • Internet connectivity is a challenge to working remotely with close to 1/5 (19%) reporting this as an issue, which highlights the importance of the speedy rollout of the National Broadband Plan.

The challenge of juggling childcare with work commitments was cited as a key issue in the open-ended comments received. The provision of better ergonomic equipment is one of the key changes suggested by employees to help with their well-being and productivity while working remotely.

Remote Working in the Future

The majority (83%) indicated that they would like to work remotely after the crisis is over.  Of these:

  • 12% indicated they would like to work remotely on a daily basis
  • 42% indicated they would like to work remotely several times a week
  • 29% indicated they would like to work remotely several times a month
  • 16% indicated they do not want to continue working remotely.

Those with dependent children aged between 6 and 12 years are most likely to want to continue working remotely following Covid-19.

In a recent WDC blogpost, I noted regional patterns in working from home, pre Covid-19, see here. In this survey while a significant majority of workers across all regions want to continue some type of remote working (83%), even more workers in the West (85.7%) and Midlands (86.8%) want to continue the practice.

Just over half (51%) would like to work from their home, with the balance seeking a mix of home, a hub/work-sharing space and the office. The practice of remote work will be important in sustaining regional and rural communities as well as reducing congestion on key routes.

Of the 16% who do not want to continue any type of remote working, there is a higher share of women (17%) compared to 13% of men. There is also a higher share among those without dependent children, indicating that one of the benefits of remote working is that it helps those juggling work and family life.

Further Analysis of Survey Findings

The results presented in the initial report, publicly available here are just the summary findings. Must more extensive analysis is to be undertaken and this will help inform the future policy direction of remote work generally and how remote work can help as we emerge from the Covid-19 restrictions. The following themes will be explored.

  • Geographic analysis of the 19% who indicate internet connectivity as a challenge.
  • Geographic profile of other challenges, advantages and preferences for remote working post Covid-19.
  • Given the extent to which ‘no traffic and no commute’ was expressed as an advantage, analysis of the data on commute times/distances will be useful.
  • Further analysis of the profile of companies where respondents indicate their organisation or line manager would not support future remote working arrangements.
  • Preference to continue remote working by organisational size, age profile, gender, with dependent children or not.
  • Profile of those who do not want to continue remote working post covid-19.

In addition, the WDC would welcome any suggestions for further analysis.

Future Outlook for Remote Working

In a recent blogpost in relation to remote working, I asked What will be the New Normal? see here. I examined trends in the numbers working from home and how the numbers have changed with changing economic circumstances with an indication that there is a correlation between economic growth and employment levels.

One of the trends seems to be that with a tight labour market, and high employment levels, there are greater levels of working from home. More employees seek the opportunity of working from home especially given the longer journey times associated with full employment and congested transport networks. It is also argued that employers are more receptive to the practice, in part related to the need to retain skilled workers.

However, following the crisis, the unemployment rate is likely to be much higher than pre-crisis levels. How will this impact on the demand for remote working? The results from the WDC/NUIG survey indicate that the demand for continued remote work will continue.

Furthermore, in the short to medium term there will be physical/social distance requirements that will likely impact on the numbers who can return to their workplace. So, it is likely that for a transition period at least, there will be much higher levels of working from home than pre Covid-19.

In future blogposts the WDC will highlight findings from more detailed analyses of the WDC/NUIG survey.

 

Deirdre Frost

May 2020

 

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the WDC.

Working from Home – What are the Regional Patterns?

Introduction

In a recent blogpost I examined the data on working from home and the trends that have occurred up to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The data over the last two decades suggest that there may be a correlation between economic growth, unemployment levels and the numbers working from home. So, for example, as the unemployment rate declined the percentage engaged in working from home increased. When unemployment was at its lowest, in 2019 at 5%, the percentage working from home was at its highest at approximately 20% nationally, see here.

In this blogpost I examine previously unpublished data to see if there are regional differences. Are there regional patterns? Are there different levels of working from home in more urban or rural regions or those regions considered ‘commuter regions’ such as the Mid-East?

Labour Force Survey: Working Sometimes or Usually from Home

The CSO Labour Force Survey asks how often did you work at home. If the response is that you worked for at least one hour from home in the last four weeks then it is categorised as ‘sometimes works from home’. If the respondent reports that ‘At least half of the days worked at home’, then the response is categorised ‘as usually works from home’.

Examining both these groups to capture all those who work from home; nationally over a fifth of the population (21.5%), report sometimes or usually works from home. These data include all sectors (including Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing). Note the data reported in the previous blogpost see here, reported a slightly lower working from home rate of 20%, but this excluded the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector[1].

In 2019, all regions report greater levels of working from home than in 2012, see Table 1 below. In 2019, two regions have levels above the national average (Dublin and the West region), both at 23.9%. This is followed by the Mid-East region (21.4%), followed by the South-East and South West regions, both with 20% working sometimes or usually from home. The regions with the lowest rates in 2019 are the Midland region (19.1%) and the Border region (17.3%).

As noted in the previous blog post, the trend in the national rate had been downward from 2012 through to 2014 with an upward trend in the latter half of the period to 2019, coinciding with rising employment levels and reduced unemployment. This pattern is also generally evident across most regions with the exception of the Midland region which has experienced a continuous upward trend.

Geographic Differences between Sometimes and Usually working from Home

Combining the categories of ‘sometimes’ and ‘usually’ working from home captures all those working from home but a closer look at the data highlights important differences. The chart below depicts those who sometimes and those who usually work from home in 2019 by region. It is clear that there are regional differences. It is also clear that there is a different regional pattern when examining the separate categories of usually and sometimes working from home.

So for example, those regions with the highest rate of sometimes working from home such as Dublin and the Mid-East are those regions with the lowest rate who usually work from home. Conversely those regions with some of the highest rates working usually from home (the Border and Midlands regions) are those regions with the lower rates of usually working from home. The West region is somewhat of an exception here with relatively high rates of both usually and sometimes working from home.

Examining the separate groups in more detail, it is worth repeating the definitions;

  • those who usually work from home are those who report having worked ‘At least half of the days worked at home’.
  • those categorised as sometimes works from home are those who have worked for ‘at least one hour from home in the last four weeks’.

Usually working from home

It is likely that those who usually work from home include those engaged in Agriculture and others who are self-employed and largely home based, for example home-based sole traders and self-employed such as GPs, childminders and construction workers. Previous work by the WDC Policy team have noted the relatively high rates of self-employment in more rural areas. A blogpost on Census data, see here notes the very strong spatial pattern to self-employment with the most rural counties having higher rates than the state average of 15.6%. For example, five of the Western Region counties are in the top ten nationally in terms of share of self-employment, Leitrim (20.3%), Roscommon (19.9%), Mayo (19.6%), Galway county (19.5%) and Clare (19.5%) all having in excess of or close to 1 in 5 of their workers self-employed.

As that analysis notes, the strong spatial pattern of self-employment in Ireland is related to many factors but notably the sectoral and occupational pattern of employment. Apart from Agriculture and Construction, 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 self-employment. Table 2 below shows the percentage of employment by region, usually working at home over the period 2012-2019.

The data certainly supports the rural/urban pattern with higher rates of those usually working from home in the more rural regions, such as the Border and West regions, while the more urban region of Dublin has the lowest rate of 6.4% in 2019.

The trend nationally has also shown a decline from 2012 to 2016 with an increase thereafter. This suggests that there is also some relationship with higher employment levels and low unemployment rates in 2019. This trend is also clear across every region, albeit with different levels in each, see table 2 above.

Sometimes working from home

Those categorised as sometimes working from home are those who have worked for at least one hour from home in the last four weeks. In 2019 the national average was 13.3%, with Dublin, the Mid-East and West regions having higher than average rates. The lowest rates are in the Border and Midland regions. This suggests that both opportunity (employers who are receptive to remote working) and traffic congestion/ commuting are factors influencing the rate of those sometimes working from home.

The levels of those working sometimes from home (Table 3) is somewhat higher than those working usually from home (Table 2). This is unsurprising as other data suggest that working from home is most common on a one or two-day week basis. For example, the CSO conducted a pilot survey in September 2018 see here. This found that among those at work, 18% declared they worked from home. Working from home 1 day per week was the most popular practice (35%), followed by 2 days a week (13%) and 5 days per week (by 11%).

Data on the impact of Covid-19 and Future Outlook

The most recent CSO data on working from home measuring the current situation due to the Covid-19 crisis, (data only at a national level) shows that, over two-thirds (69.0%) of enterprises indicated that they implemented remote working over the five-week period from 16 March to 19 April 2020. Almost three in every ten businesses (29.0%) had the majority of their workforce working remotely during that period, see here for full release. The practice of enforced home working is likely to change the overall levels of working from home, with huge sections of the workforce experiencing it for the first time.

So, if there is a correlation between economic growth, employment levels and the numbers working sometimes from home, what might happen once we emerge from the Covid crisis?  One of the factors seems to be that with a tight labour market, and high employment levels, there are greater levels of working from home. More employees seek the opportunity of working from home especially given the longer journey times associated with full employment and congested transport networks. It is also argued that employers are more receptive to the practice in part related to the need to retain skilled workers.

However, following the crisis, the unemployment rate is likely to be much higher than pre-crisis levels. How will this impact on the demand for home working? At a sectoral and regional level, if the sectoral patterns of employment are a factor in the rates of those usually working from home, what will the patterns be when we emerge from the pandemic? In future blogposts the WDC will continue to monitor trends and highlight issues as they emerge.

 

Deirdre Frost

May 2020

 

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the WDC.

[1] In this special run, it was not possible to provide a sectoral breakdown and examine regional data due to sample size.

 

Business Sectors and Employment in the Western Region: Exploring some potential impacts of the Covid 19 shock

While the detail and scale of the consequences of the Covid-19 containment measures are not yet clear, it is useful to consider, using available data, how the Western Region might be impacted.  There are many unknowns including in relation to the duration of the public health emergency and the speed and extent to which jobs will return once restrictions are lifted.

In this short series of blog posts I look at some of the WDC’s previous analyses[1] of our regional economy and society from the perspective of the potential impacts of Covid 19, so that we can begin to consider areas of priority for support and stimulation when opportunities again become available.  The first post in the series examined sectoral employment data from the perspective of the current economic shock, highlighted key areas of employment in the region and some potential implications of the crisis.

In this post, business demography data on enterprises, and those engaged in these in the Western Region, is examined from the perspective of the current economic shock, highlighting areas of potential vulnerability in relation to enterprises and the people they employ.  The data is from the CSO’s 2017 Business Demography report published last year[2].  This is the most recently available data.

 

Potential economic consequences of the containment measures.

As the Central Bank [3] and others have noted, the economic shock triggered by responses to Covid 19 has resulted in the widespread shutdown of businesses, mainly in the market services sectors of the economy with labour-intensive sectors, such as retail trade, food and beverage activities and accommodation, tourism and travel particularly affected.  These, as is discussed below, are key business and employment sectors in the Western Region.

The widespread restrictions on travel and mobility, along with financial market turmoil, have led to an erosion of confidence and heighted uncertainty[4] which in turn has led to a sharp contractions in the level of output, household spending, corporate investment and international trade.  The OECD notes that within service sectors, activities involving travel, including tourism, and direct contact between consumers and service providers, such as hairdressers or house purchases, are clearly adversely affected by restrictions on movement and social distancing.  Similarly, most retailers, restaurants and cinemas have also closed, although takeaway sales and on-line sales may prevent a full cessation of activity in some businesses.  Non-essential construction work is also being adversely affected.  The OECD assessment estimated that, taken together, the affected sectors account for between 30-40 per cent of total output in most economies.  They estimated that the potential initial impact on activity of partial or complete shutdowns on activity in Ireland would be just over 15% (over a number of years), which is the the least affected of the selected advanced and emerging market economies analysed.

More recently the Stability Programme Update prepared by the Department of Finance outlines that as the economic landscape has fundamentally changed in Ireland and across the globe, Irish GDP could fall by 10.5 per cent this year and Modified Domestic Demand, perhaps the best indicator of domestic economic conditions, is projected to fall by 15 per cent this year.  The labour market will the brunt of the economic shock, going from full employment to a peak unemployment rate of 22% in the current quarter, with annual unemployment rate in 2020 projected to be in the region of 14%.  If recovery in second half of year gains momentum, next year with economic growth is projected to be 6 per cent, and numbers out of work to fall below 10 per cent.  The Update notes that recovery over the second half of 2020 rests on successful virus containment and stresses that the level of uncertainly is such that the projections in the should be considered a scenario rather than a forecast as such.

 

What are key business areas in the Western Region?

Against the background of these economic projections it is useful to examine the type and scale of enterprises in the Western Region, those engaged in these in the Western Region and the sectors the businesses operate in.

The latest CSO Business Demography data on enterprises in the Western Region (2017) shows there were 57,951 enterprises[5] registered in the seven-county Western Region (location of an enterprise is based on its address as registered with Revenue[6]).  In total, more than a quarter of a million people were working for enterprises registered in the region (255,261).

Of all enterprises registered in the Western Region 92.9% were micro-businesses employing fewer than 10 people. This was a slightly higher share than nationally (92.1%). As each micro-enterprise is small in scale however, despite their accounting for 92.9% of enterprises, only 35.8% of those who work for an enterprise, works for a micro-enterprise.  Of course, direct employment is just one of the economic and social impacts of micro-enterprises and they play a particularly vital role in smaller centres and more rural areas, as well as in particular sectors e.g. Construction, Professional Services.

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

In terms of the number of enterprises, Construction is the largest sector in the Western Region accounting for 20.4% of active enterprises registered in the region.  Wholesale & Retail (15%) and Professional, Scientific & Technical activities (9.4%) are next largest (see Fig 1 below).  They are also the four sectors (including Accommodation and Food Service (7.8%)) nationally with the most enterprises  but greater concentration in the Western Region is evident with the top three enterprise sectors accounting for 52.6% of enterprises in the Western Region and 49.8% in the State as a whole.  These top sectors, in terms of business numbers include many sole traders and micro-enterprises e.g. construction trades, solicitors, architects, small shops, B&Bs and restaurants and cafes.

 

Figure 1: Percentage of enterprises in each sector in 2017, in the Western Region and State

Source: CSO, Business Demography 2017,Business Demography / BRA18 / Published 2019

 

The picture is different when we look at the number of people engaged in enterprises (Fig. 2)[7], and this is key to understanding the consequences of the current crisis.  Wholesale & Retail is the largest enterprise sector in employment terms (17.8% of all people working in enterprises in the Western Region) followed by Industry (17.2%) which is mainly Manufacturing, and Accommodation & Food Service (13.4%).  These three sectors include many larger businesses e.g. factories, hotels, large retail stores, so account for a greater share of employment than of enterprises.

The Western Region is more reliant on more vulnerable sectors for employment than the rest of the state although there is variation within sectors.  For example, the extent to which the ‘Industry’ sector will be affected is not clear.  The strong med tech sector in parts of the Region may provide some stability in this area.  Likewise, parts of wholesale and retail (food supply) are performing well while other retail trade has ceased.  Nonetheless, as the ESRI noted, many outlets particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors have simply stopped trading, while the fall in consumption and restrictions on international and domestic travel also mean that tourism (Accommodation and Food Service) is likely to collapse over the quarter[8].

The fourth most important sector in terms of employment both in the Western Region and nationally is Health and Social care which will also provide some stability.

 

Figure 2: Percentage of people engaged in enterprises in each sector in 2017, in the Western Region and State

Source: CSO, Business Demography 2017,Business Demography / BRA18 / Published 2019

 

Concentration is more evident in relation to employment with the top four sectors nationally employing just over 50% of those working in enterprises, but they account for more than 60% of employment in the Western Region (and just over 66% in Sligo and almost 64% in Mayo).

Enterprise and employment in enterprise in Western Region counties

There will be variations in the impact of the response to Covid 19 across the Western Region counties, reflecting differences in the composition of enterprise, employment and output.  For example, where tourism or non food retail is relatively important these areas will potentially be affected more severely by shutdowns and limitations on travel.  In contrast, counties with strong med tech industry, greater reliance on agriculture (not covered by this data) or significant food retail may experience smaller initial effects from containment measures.

Looking at the key sectors in terms of enterprise numbers (Fig 3) in the Western Region counties shows Construction, Wholesale and Retail and Professional and Technical services have most enterprises in all Western Region counties and nationally.  As mentioned before, this is in part because of the prevalence of sole traders and very small business in these sectors.  As only essential construction is currently allowed to continue, and most retail (aside from food) is also closed, these businesses are experiencing the immediate shock of the restrictions from the pandemic, and are also likely to suffer from a fall in demand which will follow rising unemployment.  There is also likely to be a fall in demand for many Profession and Technical services in future, but at present a significant proportion of these jobs may be done remotely from home.

 

Figure 3: Percentage of enterprises in key sectors in 2017, in Western Region counties and State

Source: CSO, Business Demography 2017,Business Demography / BRA18 / Published 2019

 

Looking at top sectors for those engaged in enterprises, the importance of the most vulnerable sectors (Wholesale and Retail and Accommodation and Food Service) is clear.  They are in the top four (see Fig 4) in all Western Region counties (and nationally).  While for most western counties Wholesale & Retail, Industry and Accommodation & Food Service are the three largest enterprise sectors for employment, for Galway and Roscommon, Health & Care is in the third biggest employer in the enterprises being examined.

 

Figure 4: Percentage engaged in enterprises in key sectors in 2017, in Western Region counties and State

Source: CSO, Business Demography 2017,Business Demography / BRA18 / Published 2019

 

Industry is the most important sector for employment in Sligo (28.3%) and Clare (18.8%), with Wholesale and Retail particularly important in Mayo (22%) and Roscommon (22%).  Accommodation and Food service is particularly important in Donegal (15.9%) and Leitrim (14.3%).  The Health and Social Care sector may provide some stability especially in counties where it is relatively important (Roscommon (15%) and Galway (13.7%).

 

Conclusion

As the Central Bank noted, when it emerges the pace of recovery is likely to depend on factors such as the extent to which households and firms have been scarred by the downturn, the degree to which precautionary behaviour unwinds, the recovery in employment and incomes and, possibly also, the degree of stimulus in place to provide some impetus to recovery.

Clearly micro-enterprises, which play a very significant role in the Western Region’s enterprise base, are likely to have fewer reserves making them more vulnerable to the cessation of trading.  While enterprises in the Region were hit very hard during the previous recession, there had been recovery, accelerating in recent years. It is to be hoped that recovery in the Region following this crisis will be quicker than that which followed the financial crash.

While there will be some variation in the impact of the Covid 19 restrictions in Western Region counties, the consequences for the Region will be significant.  As the ESRI noted, there has been an almost total decline in certain types of economic activity from mid-March onwards. Many outlets particularly in the retail, food and hospitality sectors have simply stopped trading and in these key sectors remote working is generally not an option.  It is not clear how many of these will be in a position to resume trading when the shutdown period has ended but it is likely that some of these enterprises will not reopen.

Enterprises form the backbone of the local and regional economy.  Supporting the establishment and growth of sustainable enterprises across the Western Region is a key priority for the WDC and we hope that this analysis of enterprise data will help to inform ourselves and other organisations, individuals and policy makers about enterprise patterns in the Region.

This series of posts brings together previous WDC analyses and examines them from the perspective of the possible impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic on the economy.  In the next post on the topic I will look at what we know about regional sectoral output and how it might be affected.  The posts aim to develop our understanding of what may be happening at a regional level and what will need to be done after the public health emergency, but they are early interpretations and should be viewed as a work in progress rather than a definitive commentary.

 

Helen McHenry

 

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the WDC.

 

If you are interested in more detailed analysis of the Business Demography data (carried out in 2019), a comprehensive ‘Profile of Enterprise in …’ document is also available for each Western Region county. Each 12-page Profile includes data on:

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

Download the ‘Profile of Enterprise in …’ CLARE, DONEGAL, GALWAY, LEITRIM, MAYO, ROSCOMMON and SLIGOKey Statistics’ for each Western Region county (one page) is also available for download from the WDC.

If you are interested in reading more about the economic impacts of Covid 19 and government responses the ESRI scenario for the rest of the year is here.  The OECD has updated their report Covid-19: SME Policy Responses and has published an Evaluation of the initial impact of COVID-19 containment measures on economic activity.  The Department of Finance published its projections for key indicators in the Stability Programme Update.

[1] Thanks to my former colleague Pauline White for her original data analysis.

[2] https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/bd/businessdemography2017/

[3] https://www.centralbank.ie/docs/default-source/publications/quarterly-bulletins/qb-archive/2020/quarterly-bulletin—q2-2020.pdf

[4] https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/view/?ref=126_126496-evgsi2gmqj&title=Evaluating_the_initial_impact_of_COVID-19_containment_measures_on_economic_activity

[5] ‘Total Enterprises’ includes all economic sectors except Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Public Administration & Defence, Households as Employers and Extraterritorial Organisations(that is NACE Rev 2 sectors B to N(-642) and P-S).  in the discussion and the charts some of the sector titles have been abbreviated.

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

[7] People ‘engaged’ in enterprises which included both those owning and operating the business as well as those employed by it.  In this post the term employed covers all those engaged in the enterprise.

[8]  Quarterly Economic Commentary Spring 2020

Exploring some potential impacts of the Covid 19 shock on the Western Region – revisiting sectoral employment patterns

The Corona virus pandemic and consequent shutdown is bringing, and will bring, a massive economic shock globally, nationally and regionally, but the detail and scale of the consequences are not yet clear.  There are many unknowns including in relation to its duration, and the speed and extent to which jobs will return once restrictions are lifted.  Nonetheless, it is useful to consider, using available data, how the Western Region may be impacted.

In this short series of blog posts I look at some of our previous analyses of our regional economy and society from the perspective of the potential impacts of Covid 19, so that we can begin to consider areas of priority for support and for stimulation when opportunities once again become available.

Please note that this post was originally published on 30th March, and is being republished now but has not been updated.  The data remains the most recent available and there will be discussion of more recently published analyses of the potential economic, employment and sectoral impacts of Covid 19 in future posts.

An overview of potential national impacts

The Quarterly Economic Commentary  (QEC) recently published by the ESRI (26.03.20) notes that authorities response to the spread of the virus, while absolutely necessary from a general health perspective, will result in millions of jobs being lost globally in the coming weeks and months and a sharp contraction in global economic activity.  They highlight that the swiftness of the economic deterioration is unprecedented in modern times and in many respects exceeds that of the financial crisis[1] (pg 1).

The ESRI examined the impact of the current restrictions on economic life with the assumption that the restrictions are in place over a period of 12 weeks. Under such a scenario the domestic economy would contract by 7.1 per cent and national unemployment increase significantly from 4.8 per cent in February to 18 per cent in Q2 2020 before falling back to just under 11 per cent by the end of the year (pg 2).

In this post I revisit some of the sectoral employment analysis carried out by the WDC insights team in the last few years from the perspective of the current economic shock, highlighting key areas of employment in the region and some potential implications of the crisis.  The data is from Census 2016, collected almost four years ago and while there will have been changes since, it still gives a good picture of sectoral employment patterns in the Western Region.

 

Employment in high level sectors

Differences between the Western Region counties and the Rest of the State[2] in sectoral employment is shown in Figure 1.  In order to make the chart easier to read, some sectors have been grouped together to create these ‘high level sectors’ which give a useful overview of employment characteristics (see foot note for detail of what is included in each high level sector.[3]).

 

Figure 1: Percentage in total employment by high level sector in seven western counties, Western Region and the Rest of State

CSO, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2. Table EZ011.  A table is also provided at the end of the post.

Public Services is the largest source of employment in all western counties. It ranges from 32.6% of all jobs in Sligo to 24.6% in Clare.  Public Services includes Health, Education, and Public Administration.[4]  Counties Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon and Donegal are the four counties in the State with the highest shares of their population employed in Public Services.  In the short term these public sector jobs will provide some employment stability, though employment in the childcare sector, which is included here, has been devastated.

The next largest employment sector in all western counties is Locally Traded Services which includes the three sectors Wholesale & Retail, Accommodation & Food Service, and Transport & Storage.  These sectors are being very significantly affected by the shutdown and may face particular difficulties recovering.

The Western Region is weaker in Knowledge Intensive Services than the rest of the state.  While there will be significant variation, many Knowledge Intensive services (Financial, Insurance & Real Estate, Information & Communications, and Professional, Scientific & Technical activities ) lend themselves to remote working and so employment may be able to continue in this sector during the shutdown.

Industry (largely manufacturing) is the third largest employment sector (see more discussion below).  15.8% of all jobs in Galway are in Industry, with Donegal having the second lowest share (9.2%) nationally.

The relative importance of different sectors varies in the seven western counties, though Public and Locally Traded services are the two largest employers in all.  The dominant role of Public Services in the counties of the northwest shows the relative weakness of private sector activity in the area.  Worryingly, five of the six worst performing counties in terms of employment growth between 2011 and 2016 (the period of recovery from the financial crash), are located in the Western Region.  This vividly illustrates the job creation challenge still faced by the region and the importance of maintaining as many jobs as possible in the next few months.

In terms of the more immediate consequences of the Covid 19 shutdown, the high dependency on public service employment should provide more stable employment in the region in the short term but the lower level of employment in Knowledge Intensive services may make a return to economic growth more difficult.  Some manufacturing, particularly in the medical device sector, may be well placed to benefit from the crisis.

There is more detailed discussion on sectoral employment pattern in Western Region counties in this WDC Insights post.

 

Detailed sectors Western Region and Rest of State

Combining sectors allowed us to see consider the county data more easily.  However, it is important to look at employment in more detailed sectors and their importance in the Western Region to get a better understanding of potential employment consequences.  The two long established patterns of greater concentration of employment (with more employment in fewer sectors) and more reliance on traditional and public service sectors in the Western Region are still evident in 2016 (Fig. 2).

 

Figure 2: Percentage of total employment in each broad sector in the Western Region and Rest of State, 2016

CSO, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2. Table EZ011

 

The Western Region’s jobs profile relies more on traditional sectors and public services.  Industry’s share of total employment in the Western Region (13.7%) is considerably higher than in the rest of the state (11%). Manufacturing has consistently played a greater role in the Western Region’s jobs market and this intensified between 2011 and 2016.   The region’s Industry sector has performed very strongly. The high-tech medical devices cluster is a major influence, employing 28% of everyone working in Industry in the region and growing by 30% since 2011.  While many of the jobs in this medical devices sector may be maintained throughout the shutdown, and indeed there is some expansion in response to the crisis, other industrial jobs are more vulnerable.

Agriculture, Health, Education are other sectors that are more important in the region than elsewhere and are ones which are, in the short term at least, less likely to be affected by the shutdown (with the exception of childcare, which is included here).  In contrast, Accommodation & Food service which accounted for almost 7% of employment in the region is likely to lose almost all employment in the short term.

The Knowledge Intensive Services sectors of Financial, Insurance & Real Estate, Information & Communications, and Professional, Scientific & Technical activities are all considerably larger employers elsewhere. Combined, they employ 9.7% of workers in the Western Region, but 16.2% in the rest of the state.

Conclusion

As the ESRI noted (Pg 10), there has been an almost total decline in certain types of economic activity from mid-March onwards. Many outlets particularly in the retail, food and hospitality sectors have simply stopped trading. This will inevitably result in a dramatic increase in the numbers of workers in these sectors being made unemployed. In particular, the wholesale and retail trade and the accommodation and food service activities, which together employed over 65,548 people in the Western Region in 2016 (almost 20% of the 333,919 in employment then), look set to lose a substantial number of workers over a very short period of time.  Supermarkets, some food retailers and pharmacists are, however, increasing employment.

The pattern of employment in the Western Region compared to the Rest of the state has both positive and negative aspects in this current crisis.  Higher dependence on Accommodation and Food services means more vulnerability but in the short term the greater reliance on public service employment will provide more stability and resilience.

Yet the dominant role of public service employment in the region is also an indication of the relative weakness of private sector activity and opportunities.  The region’s slower recovery from the financial crash many mean it is more vulnerable in this crisis

If you are interested in reading more about the economic impacts of Covid 19 and government responses the ESRI scenario for the rest of the year is here.  The OECD has updated their report Covid-19: SME Policy Responses.  Potential business impacts and the pattern of business demography in the Region will be discussed the next post.

 

This series of posts brings together previous WDC analyses and examines them from the perspective of the possible impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic on the economy.  The posts aim to develop our understanding of what may be happening at a regional level and what will need to be done after the public health emergency, but they are early interpretations and should be viewed as a work in progress rather than a definitive commentary.

 

 

Helen McHenry

 

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the WDC.

 

 

[1] Quarterly Economic Commentary Spring 2020

[2] Rest of state refers to all counties in the Republic of Ireland except for the seven counties of the Western Region (Counties Donegal, Sligo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Mayo, Galway and Clare.)

[3] Locally Traded Services includes Wholesale & Retail, Accommodation & Food Service, and Transport & Storage; Knowledge Intensive Services includes Financial, Insurance & Real Estate, Information & Communications, and Professional, Scientific & Technical activities;  Public Services includes Health, Education, and Public Administration; Administrative and other services includes a wide variety of services including personal services, sporting activities, creative and other services.

[4] The Health and Education sectors also include substantial private sector employment e.g. private nursing homes, childcare, training providers.  It is not possible to separate this out however.

 

Table of Data from Fig. 1.

Does a Rising tide lift all Boats? A look at the latest CSO data on Poverty and access to Services

The CSO released the latest data on Income and Living Conditions (Survey on Income and Living Conditions SILC) last week, see here. The headline figures indicate a continued rise in incomes between 2017 and 2018 which in turn was higher than the figures five years earlier, in 2012 (see earlier post on this here). This is in line with other national economic indicators such as continuing economic growth, employment growth and decreasing unemployment. To what extent is a rise in incomes reflected in a decline in poverty rates and how is this distributed at a spatial level within Ireland? This post highlights some recent data and asks does a rising tide lift all boats?

Poverty Rates

The CSO produce data on three different poverty measures and here we will examine the different rates as they apply to rural and urban areas.[1]

At Risk of Poverty rate[2]

The at risk of poverty rate nationally decreased from 15.7% in 2017 to 14.0% in 2018.The at risk of poverty rate in rural areas in 2018 is 14.7% compared to 13.6% in urban areas. In both rural and urban areas, the trend is downward – in rural areas (down from 17.2% in 2017), and in urban areas 13.6% (down from 15.1% in 2017). This is illustrated in Chart 1 below.

Deprivation Rate

The CSO also measure the deprivation rate, which is a broader measure than poverty and is defined as follows: Households that are excluded and marginalised from consuming goods and services which are considered the norm for other people in society, due to an inability to afford them, are considered to be deprived.  The set of eleven basic deprivation indicators are detailed below[3]. Individuals who experience two or more of the eleven listed items are considered to be experiencing enforced deprivation.

Nationally, the deprivation rate has decreased over the last few years. In 2016 it was 21% and it has since decreased from 18.8% in 2017 to 15.1% in 2018. At a spatial level it appears that there is a higher rate of deprivation in urban areas than in rural, in 2018 the urban deprivation rate was 16.0% while in rural areas it was 13.4%. Both of these rates have also shown a decrease from one year earlier, in 2017 the rates were 20.2% and 15.9%. This is also shown in Chart 1 below.

Consistent Poverty

Finally, the other commonly used measure of poverty, is the consistent poverty rate. An individual is defined as being in ‘consistent poverty’ if they are

  • Identified as being at risk of poverty and
  • Living in a household deprived of two or more of the eleven basic deprivation items discussed above

Nationally the rate went from 8.2% in 2016 to 6.7% in 2017 to 5.6% in 2018. In urban areas the consistent poverty rate declined from 7.4% in 2017 to 5.5% in 2018. In contrast the consistent poverty rate in rural areas increased slightly; from 5.3% in 2017 to 5.8% in 2018.

Regional Difference

The CSO also publish produce data at NUTS 2 regional level for the different poverty measures.

At Risk of Poverty rate

The regional data indicates that the at risk of poverty rate is higher in the more rural regions (Northern and Western) with 20.1% or a fifth of the population there at risk of poverty in 2018. There was a slight decline on a year earlier (21.8%). This consistent poverty rate in the Southern region is considerably lower 15%, down from 16.8% a year earlier. The Eastern and Midland region has the lowest rate 11.1%, down from 12.8% in 2017.

Deprivation Rate

The deprivation rates are more similar across regions (compared to the at risk of poverty rate), as chart 2 shows, though both the Southern and Eastern and Midland regions recorded more significant declines than that experienced by the Northern and Western Region, so in 2018 the Northern Region has the highest deprivation rate (17.2%), compared to the Southern region (15.2%) and the Eastern and Midland region (14.4%).

Consistent Poverty

A similar pattern is evident when examining the consistent poverty rates by region. In 2017 the Northern and Western Region had the lowest rate (6.4%) but a year later the region reported the highest rate – up to 7.8%. This contrasts with the performance and trends in the other regions both of which recorded declines in consistent poverty levels. The Southern region rate declined from 7.1% in 2017 to 6.5% in 2018. The Eastern and Midland region rate declined from 6.6% to 4.2% in 2018.

Overall the CSO recent data show that rural areas have a higher at risk of poverty rate, compared to their urban cousins, but have lower deprivation rates while the consistent poverty rate is most recently showing an upward trend in rural areas and the Northern and Western region and is higher than urban areas and the Eastern and Southern regions.

Measuring Deprivation: Access to Services?

In a previous blogpost in early 2019, see here, I argued that any measurement of deprivation and poverty is more complicated and other considerations such as access to services need to be taken into account.

Access to services

It is often said that rural poverty and deprivation is more hidden or less visible than that in urban areas and one aspect of this is access to services. The CSO SILC definition of deprivation is based on enforced deprivation where there is an inability to afford goods and services. But what of the inability to access goods and services because they are not available in the locality. The case of broadband is a good example. Most people who cannot access good quality broadband see it as a deprivation. It impacts on a person’s ability to access goods and services on-line and often impacts on their ability to generate their incomes, for small businesses and the self-employed.

What about access to other services? Can limited or no access be considered an indicator or measure of deprivation? The CSO have just published data which provides insights into access to a wide range of services, including transport, health and other services see here. There is extensive data and mapping resources which the WDC will revisit but a snapshot illustrates some interesting differences:

  • The average distance to most everyday services was at least three times longer for rural dwellings compared with urban dwellings. For a supermarket/convenience store, pharmacy and a GP, the average distance for rural residents was about seven times longer.
  • Examining differences by county, residents in Galway County, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim and Roscommon had higher average distances to most everyday services when compared against other counties.
  • The average distance to 24-hour Garda stations ranged between 1.5km in Dublin City to 19.3km in Donegal, while the average distance to a GP was 3.1km, but was more than 5km in Roscommon, Galway County and Cork County.
  • Half of the people living in Roscommon had to travel 5km or more to visit a GP, followed by Monaghan (48%), Leitrim (43%) and Galway County (43%) as illustrated in the Map below. The darker the colour the higher the percentage of the population living 5km or more from a general practitioner.

Map 1  Percentage of Population 5km or more from a GP location by county

The CSO also provide a useful data dashboard to illustrate in a visual way access to services, see here.

Also this November Trinity published data on data on health and Health services, The Trinity National Deprivation Index 2016 see here . This research examines health and health services at a detailed spatial level (Electoral Division) and highlights regional inequalities.

Conclusions

These different data sources provide really useful insights into the geographic distribution of poverty, deprivation and access to services. Overall, the CSO SILC data indicate that along with rising incomes nationally there is evidence of a decline in poverty rates. However, the exception to this is evidence of rising consistent poverty rates in rural areas and in the Northern and Western region.

After a period of sustained economic growth and rising incomes, it is clear that not all boats are being raised in the rising tide. These data provide a wealth of information highlighting regional and spatial difference and an evidence base for effective policy change. This is a tool to inform Government policy to focus on eradicating poverty and in doing so being cognizant of the spatial patterns of poverty. Various policies ranging from consideration of a new Rural Strategy in the short term to Project Ireland 2040 over the medium to long term are some of the policy frameworks which need to respond to these findings.

 

Deirdre Frost

[1] Urban or Rural are defined as follows: Urban – population density greater than 1,000. Rural is Population density <199 – 999 and Rural areas in counties.

[2] This is the share of persons with an equivalised income below 60% of the national median income.

[3] Two pairs of strong shoes, A warm waterproof overcoat, Buy new (not second-hand) clothes.

Eat meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day, Have a roast joint or its equivalent once a week. Had to go without heating during the last year through lack of money, Keep the home adequately warm. Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year. Replace any worn out furniture. Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month, Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight for entertainment.

How are we doing? Annual earning in Western Region and other counties

Data on earnings of employees in different counties has just been released by the CSO, providing another important contribution to our understanding of local and regional economic development.

Earnings Analysis Using Administrative Data Sources (EAADS) provides statistics on earnings for which the primary data source is the Revenue Commissioner’s P35L dataset of employee annual earnings which is linked to CSO and other data to provide economic and demographic characteristics.  This new data, along with the Geographical Profiles of Income (also released for the first time this year and discussed on the blog here) and the County Incomes data (discussed here) gives us an opportunity to triangulate different data and gain a better understanding of patterns in earnings and some of the factors contributing to income differences in the region.  Having this data at county level allows for a more nuanced understanding of the situation and trends in the Western Region.

In this post the EADDS annual earnings data is discussed for Western Region counties.  It should be remembered that this data is specifically employee earnings data which is just one element of individual or household incomes.  Other incomes sources (e.g. social welfare, earnings from wealth or profits from business) are not included in this data set.

Annual Earnings, 2018

Looking first at median[1] annual earnings[2] for 2018 (Figure 1), even though all Western Region counties (green) are below the national figure of €36,095 both Galway (€35,632) and Clare (€35,568) are only slightly below, in sixth and seventh place nationally.

Note Total includes Northern Ireland counties not listed above.

Source: CSO Ireland, 2019, Earnings Analysis Using Administrative Data Sources Table 8.15 Median1 annual earnings by county and sex 2018

Donegal had the lowest earnings (€29,298), almost a thousand euro less than Monaghan, the next highest, and more than €10,000 less than the earnings in Dublin (the highest county (€39,408).  Earnings in Roscommon are higher than might have been expected (€34,082, 13th place) from other data such as that for County Incomes, though  in line with Geographical Profiles of Income.

Annual Earnings in Western Region counties

Focussing more specifically on the range of earnings per employee in the Western Region (Figure 2), the gap between the lowest (Donegal) and the highest (Galway) is a €6,334 per year while annual earnings in Mayo and Leitrim are both around €2,500 less than in Galway.  There is only €64 difference in the annual median income per person in Clare and Galway.

Note Total includes Northern Ireland counties not listed above.

Source: CSO Ireland, 2019, Earnings Analysis Using Administrative Data Sources Table 8.15 Median1 annual earnings by county and sex 2018

Changes in Mean Earnings 2016-2018

This data is available for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018.  While this covers a relatively short period it is interesting to examine the change in mean[3] annual earnings over this period throughout Ireland (Figure 3).  Nationally earnings grew by 6.1% over the period with the highest growth rate in Dublin (7.6%) followed by Cork (6.6%) and Kilkenny (6.2%).  The lowest rates of growth were in Cavan (4.4% and Longford (4.4%).

Note: Total includes Northern Ireland counties not listed above.

Source: CSO Ireland, 2019, Earnings Analysis Using Administrative Data Sources Table 8.14 Mean annual earnings by county and sex

Looking more closely at the Western Region (Figure 4), the highest rate of earnings growth was in

Galway (5.8%), and the lowest in Roscommon (4.7%) and Sligo (4.7%).  No Western Region county had earnings growth higher than the national rate.

Note: Total includes Northern Ireland counties not listed above.

Source: CSO Ireland, 2019, Earnings Analysis Using Administrative Data Sources Table 8.14 Mean annual earnings by county and sex

Gender Differences in Earnings

County data is also available by sex, so it is possible to compare earnings in each county for males and females (Figure 5).  In all counties male earnings were higher than female earnings in 2018, with the largest difference in Cork, a very significant €10,205 per year (female earnings were only 76% of male).  Nationally the difference between male and female earnings was €7,394 and the smallest difference in both amount and proportion was in Donegal (€3,153, female earnings 90% of male).  In general, the largest differences between male and female earnings were in the highest earning counties, but Waterford (€8,511), Limerick (€8,318) and Kerry (€7,234), which has the third lowest medial annual earnings, were exceptions to this.

Source: Source: CSO Ireland, 2019, Earnings Analysis Using Administrative Data Sources Table 8.15 Median annual earnings by county and sex

Gender Differences in Earnings in the Western Region

The difference between male and female earnings was smallest in the Western Region.  Six of the nine counties where female earnings were 85% or more of male earnings were in our Region.  Sligo had the narrowest gap nationally (female earnings 91% of male), followed by Donegal (90%), Leitrim (89%), Galway and Mayo (86%) and Roscommon (85%)[4].  Clare was the exception in the region, with female earnings only 80% of male earnings.

The difference in the Western Region are shown more clearly in Figure 6 which highlights the earnings gap (percentage difference in what females earn compared to males).  Clearly Sligo (9%) and Donegal (11%) perform best.  Nationally the picture is bleaker with a 23% annual earnings gap, and in Clare males earn 25% more than females.

Source: Source: CSO Ireland, 2019, Earnings Analysis Using Administrative Data Sources Table 8.15 Median annual earnings by county and sex

Some of this earnings gap is likely to be accounted for by the higher instance of part time working among females. The differences may also relate to earning levels in the different sectors where men and women tend to work, as well as differences in employment types.  Nonetheless, the gap in earnings is very significant but, at least in relation to this statistic, the Western Region is a good performer.  The prevalence of public sector employment in the Western Region (discussed here), along with employment in Education (3 out of 4 people working in the Education sector in the Western Region are women) and Health (21.4% of all working women in the Western Region work in Health & Care, it is the largest employment sector for women in the region), probably influences this.

Changes in male and female earnings over time.

There is no clear pattern for the growth in mean earnings for males and females between 2016 and 2018 in the Western Region counties (Figure 7 below).  In four of the seven Western Region counties female earnings increased by more than male earnings between 2016 and 2018.  This was also the situation nationally (though the difference is small (0.1%)).   Female earnings in Sligo grew by 5.0% while male earnings in the same period grew by 4.0%.  In Clare the difference in earnings growth was more significant (5.7% for females and 4.3% for males).  Galway had the largest growth in female earnings over the period in the region at 6.1%, while male earnings grew by 5.3%.  If this pattern were to continue the gap in male and female earnings would narrow, or even disappear.

Source: Source: CSO Ireland, 2019, Earnings Analysis Using Administrative Data Sources Table 8.14 Mean annual earnings by county and sex

In contrast in three Western Region counties (and a total of nine counties nationally) male earnings grew by more than female earnings between 2016 and 2018.  Leitrim and Roscommon had the lowest female earning growth (4.4%) in the region and nationally.  The difference was most significant in Leitrim where male earnings grew by 5.3% over the same period.  In Donegal the difference was less marked (4.8% for males and 4.6% for females).  Unlike the other Western Region counties discussed above, if this pattern persists in these counties the gap in male and female earnings will widen.

Conclusion

This data set is focused on earning for those in employment rather than broader income data covering households or adults not in employment so it does not give a full picture of income levels.  It is, nonetheless, very useful to have this data at county level.  We can now make robust comparisons between counties and see some of the changes over time.  In future analysis it may be possible to consider in more depth how the different employment patterns and sectors in the counties in turn influence earnings.  Similarly correlations between education and training levels, and skill sets in the counties will help us better understand the needs and opportunities for counties and regions.

In the New Year I hope to have time to compare the data in this release with the other income data available at county level to get a better understanding of what each source is telling us about the trends and differences in the earnings and incomes in the Western Region.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] 1Median annual earnings: Half of the employees earn more than this amount and half earn less.  Median is used as it reduces the influence of outliers, in particular exceptionally high earners who could increase the mean significantly.

[2] Employees who worked for less than 50 weeks in the reference year are excluded from the calculations for annual earnings. This is done to improve comparability of the data over time.

[3] Mean is used here for comparison over time to maintain consistency with gender data discussed later.

[4] Monaghan (86%), Cavan (85%) and Kilkenny (85%) were the other counties.

e-Work, Remote work and Hubs, Some Recent Evidence

Introduction

The WDC produced the Policy Briefing e-Working in the Western Region in March 2017, see here. This briefing aimed to quantify the extent of e-working in the Western Region and nationally and set out policy recommendations. Since then e-working or remote working and co-working spaces such as hubs have received a lot of attention, but to what extent is the activity on the increase?

In the Policy briefing, the WDC noted that the extent of e-Working is hard to measure, in part because of the paucity of data, and in part because the practice is sometimes not very visible; it is often in the absence of company policy and at the discretion of local management. Some recent data in relation to official statistics and company practice is presented here.

CSO Pilot for Census 2021

There has been limited official statistics measuring the incidence of working from home. To date the Census has asked the question ‘how you usually travel to work’? with one of the answers being ‘work mainly at or from home’. This is very limited as it only captures those that work from home most of the working week and excludes those who work from home one or two days per week, which some suggest is the most common pattern.

The CSO invited submissions to the consultation on questions for inclusion in Census 2021. In its submission, the WDC advocated for the inclusion of a question to more effectively capture the extent of Working from home/ e-working. Following the consultation exercise and a pilot exercise the CSO have now agreed to include a question measuring the number of days people work from home on a weekly basis in Census 2021. The results of the pilot survey were released earlier this year and they provide an insight into e-working. Some of the findings are highlighted below.

Among those at work, 18% declared they worked from home. The level of non-response among workers was low at 3%. Of those working from home, the breakdown by number of days was as follows:

Working from home 1 day per week was the most popular practice (35%), followed by 2 days a week (13%) and 5 days per week (by 11%). It should be noted over a quarter of those who said they worked from home did not state the number of days. One possibility may be that their pattern changes on a weekly basis.

Profile of those working from home

  • The pilot results showed that the percentage of those working from home increased as age increased, peaking at 19.6% of those at work in the age group 45-49. The proportion of home workers decreased among workers in older age groups. Among those in the 45-49 year age group, 32% worked one day from home.
  • Approximately 60% of people who work from home were male.
  • There were notable differences in the occupation of those who worked from home. e.g. 13.5% of those who worked from home worked in the ‘Science, research, engineering and technology professional’ occupation category.
  • In contrast only 0.6% of those who worked from home indicated they were in the ‘Process, plant and machine operatives’ occupation category
  • Over half of those who worked in ‘Computer programming, consultancy and information service activities’ indicated that they worked from home. This industry comprised 3% of all workers in the Pilot but 11% of all home workers were in this industry.
  • Of those who worked from home, 79% had fixed broadband internet, 18% had mobile broadband internet, and 3% indicated they had no internet connection. It is possible that that much of this 3% do not depend on internet access to conduct their work, for example those engaged in agriculture. See the CSO release here.

The WDC very much welcomes the inclusion by the CSO of the question on working from home in the next Census. This will allow a more thorough analysis of the practice based on comprehensive Census data.

Company Practice- Incidence of e-work in Ireland

Another part of the evidence base is data collected by companies on the extent to which they provide for flexible work practices such as e-working and the extent to which this is practiced by their employees.

IBEC have collected survey data on the extent of e-working for a few years now. Data has been recently published which shows an increasing prevalence of the practice based on a survey of IBEC members. For example,

  • In 2018, 37% of IBEC members (152 companies) had a practice of e-Working/ home-working, on one or two days per week basis, up from 30% (110) in 2016.
  • In 2018, 7% had a practice of e-Working five days per week, up from 5% in 2016.
  • The IBEC survey shows that the likelihood of e-Working among companies increases with company size, so that 54% of companies with 500+ employees cite a practice of e-Working on a 1 or 2 days a week basis.
  • There is a slightly higher rate of e-Work among foreign owned compared to Irish owned companies, 40% and 33% respectively, and both these figures are up on two years previously – 34% and 27% respectively.
  • Sectorally the highest rates are within the Electronic services sector (69%), followed by the Financial services sector (58%).
  • At a regional level IBEC members in the Dublin region have the highest incidence, with almost half (49%) report having an e-working policy of 1-2 days working from home per week. This rate drops to one-third of companies in the Cork region, one-quarter in the Mid-West and South-East and 24% in the West/North West.

This regional variation supports the idea that at least some of the e-working demand and take-up by employers is driven by congestion in larger urban centres.

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

Another aspect of e-working or remote working is where the worker works from a hub rather than home. The success of initiatives variously called e-working spaces/ co-working spaces/ hubs also suggests e-working is on the increase. Some working spaces are funded by Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and some by the Department of Rural and Community Development. The hubs are variously classed as innovation, enterprise or community hubs, and many are focussed on start-ups and incubation spaces as well as providing e-working spaces for individual employees.

The Western Development Commission is coordinating an initiative with the Department of Community and Rural Development (DCRD) called the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) Enterprise Hubs project. This three year project aims to create an interconnected community network from the 101 hubs identified in the AEC region (the region from Donegal to Kerry) along the Western Seaboard.

This week the WDC is convening two workshops, one in Limerick (19th November) and the second in Sligo (Thursday 21st November) aimed at bringing all key stakeholders together to work together to optimise the operation of the hubs and how they can support regional and rural development, e-workers and remote workers throughout the region. For further information see here for more information.

 

 

Deirdre Frost

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

Agency Worker Employment

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

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

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

CSO definition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regional Share of Agency Workers

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

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

Proportion of employees who are agency workers

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

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

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

 

 

Deirdre Frost

Aviation trends, Government Policy and Ireland’s airports

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

Aviation Trends & Implications

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

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

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

Government Policy: Project Ireland 2040

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

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

Policy and funding alignment

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

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

Airport Catchments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Industry view

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

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

These views are likely to be attenuated with Brexit.

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

 

Deirdre Frost

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

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

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

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

Regional Sectoral Profiles: The Complete Collection

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

So it all began in October 2018 with …

Wholesale & Retail (Oct 2018)

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

Health & Care (Nov 2018)

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

Education (Jan 2019)

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

Industry (Feb 2019)

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

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

Accommodation & Food Service (Mar 2019)

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

Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing (Apr 2019)

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

Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services (May 2019)

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

Financial & ICT Services (Jun 2019)

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

Public Administration & Defence (Jul 2019)

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

Professional Services (Jul 2019)

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

Construction (Aug 2019)

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

And finally …

Transportation & Storage (Sep 2019)

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

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

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

Wishing you all the best

Pauline White