The Battle for Rural Ireland – RTE 1

RTE screened a documentary, The Battle for Rural Ireland, on 9th March 2015, to which Deirdre Frost contributed. Presented by Richard Curran, the programme highlights the challenges faced by rural communities and towns, both in the context of the recent recession and the outlook for further rural depopulation. Much of the projected population growth is to occur on the East coast.

You can watch the programme here (available until 30 March).

While urbanisation is not unique to Ireland, the programme shows the effects of population loss on rural areas, in terms of service provision and employment opportunities.

The Battle for Rural Ireland highlights some examples of innovative enterprise development and employment creation in rural areas but ultimately the need for stronger regional and rural policy is clear.

Deirdre Frost

New Regional FDI Targets

Yesterday’s announcement of IDA Ireland’s new 5-year strategy put considerable focus on the regional balance of future FDI investments.

The strategy includes a target to increase the number of investments in every region, outside of Dublin, by 30-40% over the lifetime years of the strategy. With Dublin maintaining a similar level to currently. For example for the West, which received 71 investments over the 2010-2014 period, the target is to achieve 92-99 investments over 2015-2019. For the Border region the target is 61-66 investments (it received 47 in the past five years). These targets do not just refer to new name investments, but include expansions by existing FDI companies and R&D investments.

Map of current IDA regional profile

Map of current IDA regional profile

The record in achieving regional FDI investment targets to date has not been particularly good and it is interesting to note the IDA states that it sees these regional FDI targets as ‘… collective targets for the stakeholders in each region to work together to achieve’. Together with considerable emphasis on the role of the upcoming Regional Enterprise Strategies (or Regional Action Plans) being prepared by DJEI, there seems to be more focus on the role of other actors in attracting FDI.

It has been highlighted elsewhere that Local Authorities, with their increased economic and enterprise development remit through the LEOs, could become more active in targeting smaller scale FDI opportunities, including through county diasporas.

In setting out how it plans to deliver on these targets, IDA Ireland refers to developing sectoral ecosystems in the regions by aligning IDA business sectors with regions and their strengths as well as working more closely with EI to maximise clusters and linkages with indigenous businesses. The €150m investment in property solutions in various locations, including Sligo, Castlebar and Galway in the Western Region, announced a few weeks ago, seems to be viewed as a key element in achieving the targets.

As we highlighted in our analysis of agency assisted employment, recent agency assisted jobs growth has been driven more by the foreign owned sector in the Western Region than in the rest of the state, largely because of the weaker performance of the region’s Irish owned assisted sector. Efforts to achieve the regional FDI targets hold particular importance for the Western Region.

Pauline White

Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Counties

The WDC published its report on ‘Trends in Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Region’ last week. This included an analysis of data for each of the seven western counties. The main findings for the western counties are:

  •  Galway: In 2013, there were 23,650 people working in agency assisted jobs. Galway has the third highest share in Ireland of agency assisted jobs as a share of total jobs at 23.5%. Over 60% of agency assisted jobs in Galway are in foreign owned companies (2013), this is the highest level for the past ten years. Since 2010 employment in assisted foreign owned companies grew by 19% while in Irish owned it only grew 3%. Modern Manufacturing, which includes medical devices and ICT, is Galway’s largest sector and in 2013 reached its highest level with 8,750 permanent full-time jobs.
  • Clare: In 2013, there were 9,250 people working in agency assisted jobs. Clare has the fifth highest share in Ireland of agency assisted jobs as a share of total jobs at 20.3%. Just over 40% of agency assisted jobs in Clare are in foreign owned companies (2013); this is considerably lower than ten years ago. Since 2010 jobs in assisted Irish owned companies in Clare have remained relatively stable, while foreign owned have continued to decline, with some slight recovery in 2013. Traditional Manufacturing is Clare’s largest sector and has grown since 2011, as has Modern Manufacturing. Assisted jobs in the international services sectors are declining however, which has meant that total assisted jobs have not grown.
  • Mayo: In 2013, there were 8,310 people working in agency assisted jobs. The total number in Mayo is close to the 2006/2007 peak and a higher share are now in permanent full-time jobs. Mayo had the second highest growth in agency assisted jobs in the Western Region in 2013 at 4.9%. There was stronger growth in foreign owned companies (6.1%) than Irish owned (2.7%) in that year. Assisted jobs in Mayo are almost evenly divided between foreign and Irish companies. Mayo’s largest assisted employment sector is Modern Manufacturing, which includes medical devices and chemicals, with almost 3,000 permanent full-time jobs. This is its highest level in the past ten years.
  • Donegal: In 2013, there were 7,850 people working in agency assisted jobs. The biggest change in the county over the past ten years is the rise in the share that are permanent full-time from 78% to 86.3% (2004-2013). The total number of agency assisted jobs in Donegal was up 4.4% in 2013. Donegal has the lowest share of its assisted jobs in foreign owned companies in the Western Region at 38.1%, although this is the county’s highest share of the past ten years. While assisted jobs in foreign owned companies have been growing since 2010, those in Irish owned companies showed their first increase since 2007 in 2013. Information and Communications is the assisted sector with the strongest recent jobs growth, up 30.9% between 2010 and 2013.
  • Sligo: In 2013, there were 3,880 people working in agency assisted jobs. 15.3% of total jobs in the county were agency assisted, which is below the state average (19.3%). Of total agency assisted jobs, 12.5% are temporary/part-time. This is below the Western Region average but the highest level in Sligo between 2004 and 2013. Some 55.6% of assisted jobs in Sligo are in foreign owned companies; lower than a decade earlier. Irish owned assisted employment has grown steadily since 2011 and was up 4.8% in 2013. Sligo’s second largest assisted sector – Traditional Manufacturing – has had the strongest recent growth, up a fifth (21.5%) between 2010 and 2013.
  • Roscommon: In 2013, there were 2,360 people working in agency assisted jobs. Roscommon had the highest growth in such jobs in the Western Region in 2013 at 6%. This growth was driven by Irish owned companies. 2013 was the first year that agency assisted jobs grew in Roscommon since 2007; later than in most other counties. In a national context, the county has a low share of agency assisted jobs. Agency assisted jobs in Roscommon are very concentrated in manufacturing. At 51.2%, the share of Roscommon’s agency assisted jobs that are in the Modern Manufacturing sector, which includes medical devices and pharma, is the second highest in Ireland. The sector showed strong growth in 2013 (6.6%), with Traditional Manufacturing also increasing (10.1%).
  • Leitrim: In 2013, there were 1,310 people working in agency assisted jobs. Leitrim has the highest share of its agency assisted jobs in foreign owned companies (62.9%) in the region and is third highest nationally. Despite this, agency assisted jobs in Leitrim declined in each year between 2004 and 2013. All other western counties, except Clare, have seen some recovery since 2010. While total numbers are declining, Irish owned assisted jobs in Leitrim have begun to recover, up 8.4% in 2013. International Services was Leitrim’s largest agency assisted sector for most of the ten years. In 2012 it was surpassed by Traditional Manufacturing which is now the largest. However, the Modern Manufacturing sector has performed best in recent years with permanent full-time jobs up 8.3% in 2013.

Download the two page WDC Insights, full report and 7 county profiles here

Trends in Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Region

The WDC has today published a new WDC Insights Trends in Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Region as well as a county profile for each of the seven western counties.

Employment in businesses which have received support from one of the main enterprise agencies, which are usually export oriented, is termed agency assisted employment. The WDC has published its analysis of data on these businesses for the Western Region for 2004 to 2013.

Our analysis has found that:

  • Lower recent growth: There was less volatility in assisted job numbers in the Western Region over the period. Assisted jobs in the region have not grown as strongly as in the rest of the country since growth resumed in 2010.
  • More permanent full-time employment: Recent assisted jobs growth in the Western Region is more likely to be permanent full-time with the share of temporary/part-time jobs lower now than at the start of the period.
  • Concentrated by sector: Assisted jobs in the Western Region are more concentrated by economic sector than in the rest of the state and manufacturing activities continue to dominate.
  • Foreign owned sector driving growth: The strongest recent assisted jobs growth has been in the modern manufacturing and information and communication sectors which are the sectors with the highest shares of foreign ownership. The foreign owned sector has driven recent growth in the Western Region to a greater extent than in the rest of the state.
  • Irish owned sector performing less well: There has been much greater volatility in the Irish owned sector over the ten year period and the region’s Irish owned sector is not showing as strong a recovery as in the rest of the country.
  • Urban concentration: Urban concentration, especially in the cities, is a feature of assisted jobs. The resumption of growth does appear to be spreading across the Western Region to some degree, although Clare and Leitrim have seen no increase in assisted employment.

Agency assisted employment is a key policy tool for job creation and unemployment reduction.  Recent growth in assisted jobs in the Western Region has not been as strong as elsewhere, particularly among Irish owned businesses.  Agency assisted job creation in the Western Region needs to focus on increasing sectoral diversity and strengthening the Irish owned sector.  Addressing the lower levels of assisted employment in the counties of the North West should also be a policy priority.

Download the two page WDC Insights, full WDC Report and/or 7 county profiles here

Employment Trends in Co. Mayo and the Western Region

The WDC recently made a presentation about employment trends in Mayo and the Western Region at an Education, Training and Jobseekers Expo held in Kiltimagh.   We outlined the current employment profile of Mayo and the Western Region as well as national trends in job vacancies and skill shortages.

  • Wholesale and retail, Industry, Health and Agriculture are the largest employment sectors in Co. Mayo (Census 2011).
  • Agency assisted companies (companies who have received assistance from EI, IDA or Udarás na Gaeltachta) employed 8,300 people in the county in 2013 and Modern Manufacturing and Agri-food are its largest assisted employment sectors (Forfás Annual Employment Survey 2013).
  • All agency assisted sectors (except Agri-food) showed stronger employment growth in Mayo between 2012 and 2013 than the state average.
  • In the Western Region, Wholesale and retail, Industry, Health, Agriculture, Education and Accommodation and food service are the largest employment sectors in 2014 (QNHS, Q1 2014).
  • Agriculture, Wholesale and retail, Professional, scientific and technical activities, Accommodation and food service and Construction showed employment growth in the region over the past year. Industry, Education and Health showed the largest declines.
  • Life sciences, ICT, engineering, food, green economy, care, tourism and the creative sector are among the sectors predicted to grow in the Western Region.

Download the presentation here

Pauline White

Rural Commuting to Urban Jobs

Data recently published by the WDC examines the extent of rural commuting to urban centres for work.

The WDC Policy Briefing No. 6 Commuting to Work, Rural Dwellers, Urban Jobs shows that over a third (35.5%) of workers live in rural areas, but just over a fifth of jobs (21.3%) are in rural areas.

This Policy Briefing shows that many rural dwellers commute to work over long distances and shows the importance of urban based employment as a very important element in sustaining rural communities. It highlights the need for job creation strategies to focus on where people live, in rural areas and towns across the country, and not just on the larger cities. Without greater efforts to disperse employment growth there is likely to be more pressure on rural dwellers to commute or move to take up jobs in the larger gateways.

The WDC Policy Briefing notes that

  • nearly one in five (19%) of all rural dwellers commute to work in one of the nine NSS gateways; and
  • one in four (24.4%) commute to work in towns
  • over a quarter of rural dwellers commuting to work in the Galway (25.6%) and Waterford (24.9%) gateways, work in IDA business parks
  • over 18% of rural dwellers commuting to work in Sligo work in IDA business parks

Based on analysis of Census 2011 Place of Work data (POWSCAR), the data show that across the country the most significant employment destination for rural dwellers is urban areas. These workers are profiled and case studies provide further insights.

The Policy Briefing can be downloaded from

Deirdre Frost


  • The Gateways are the nine National Spatial Strategy Gateways of Dublin, Cork, Limerick/Shannon, Galway, Waterford, Dundalk, Sligo, Letterkenny/(Derry) and Athlone/Tullamore/Mullingar.
  • Towns are those population centres of 1,500 and above and excluding the nine NSS gateways.
  • Rural is defined using the CSO classification where settlements with a population of less than 1,500 and open countryside are defined as rural.