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Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region

The WDC has just published the latest in its series of Regional Sectoral Profiles analysing employment and enterprise data for economic sectors in the Western Region.

It examines the Financial & ICT Services sector which covers two sub-sectors: ‘Financial & Insurance Activities’ (banks, mortgage brokers, insurance and pension funding) and ‘Information & Communication’ (publishing, film, video, TV and music, telecommunications, computer programming (software) and IT services/support). Both are knowledge intensive services sectors, relatively high value, high skill and highly paid and tend to be quite concentrated in larger urban centres.

Two publications are available:

Employment in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region

According to Census 2016, 17,884 people worked in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region. This was just 9.9% of everyone working in this sector in Ireland, compared with the region’s 16.6% share of overall employment.

Financial & ICT Services plays a significantly smaller role in the region’s labour market than nationally (Fig. 1); 5.4% of total employment compared with 9%.  The balance between ‘Financial & Insurance’ and ‘Information & Communication’ also varies in the region.  Nationally, each accounts for the same share of total jobs (4.5% each) however in the Western Region ‘Information & Communication’ is notably more important than ‘Financial & Insurance’ (3% of all jobs v 2.3% of all jobs). This reflects the concentration of financial services activity in Dublin and particularly around the IFSC.

In the region Financial & ICT Services is most important in Galway City (9.1%), followed by Donegal (6.2%), Clare (5.6%) and Galway County (5.5%) with large urban centres and the Shannon Free Zone influencing the pattern.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in Financial & ICT Services in Western Region and state, 2016

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

 

At a more detailed level, ‘Computer Programming & Consultancy’[1] is the largest employer among Financial & ICT Services activities (36.8% of all employment in the sector) and accounts for a higher share in the region than nationally (32.8%).  In contrast the region has a notably lower share in the next largest activity of ‘Financial Services’[2] (25.1% in the region v 31.3% in the state).  The two other ICT Services activities of ‘Audio-visual, Publishing & Broadcasting’[3] and ‘Telecoms’[4], also account for a greater share in the region, whereas the other financial activity of ‘Insurance, Pension & Fund Management’ accounts for a similar share in both.

Employment in western towns

At 14.3% (1,111 people) of total employment Letterkenny has by far the highest share of residents working in the sector (Fig. 2) and is the eleventh highest of Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population).  Most of the towns with a higher share surround Dublin city. Within the region, Bearna (11%, 98 people) and Oranmore (10.6%, 275 people) have the next highest shares working in Financial & ICT Services, likely due to commuting to Galway City.

Four towns in the Western Region are among the bottom ten nationally (Ballyhaunis, Bundoran, Ballyshannon and Ballymote) at less than 2.6% working in Financial & ICT services. All are rural towns at some distance from larger urban centres.  It is clear there is limited activity in this sector in such towns or commuting to work in other centres.  Remote work offers the possibility for more people working in this sector to live in such locations.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total employment in Financial & ICT Services in towns in the Western Region, 2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Change in employment in the Western Region and its counties

There was 4.6% jobs growth in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region between 2011 and 2016 (Table 1). This was less than half the 12.1% increase that occurred nationally and significantly lower than overall jobs growth in the region (7.5%).  Galway City (14.5%) and Donegal (12.9%) experienced jobs growth higher than the national average and this sector exceeded overall jobs growth in both counties.

Mayo, where the sector is least important as an employer, had the largest job losses with a fall of 9.1% in the number working in Financial & ICT Services.  Leitrim (-6.8%) and Sligo (-6.6%) also saw large declines between 2011 and 2016 and in all cases this sector performed worse than jobs overall.  It is important to note that this data is from 2016 and there have been some significant job announcements in this sector since that time, particularly in Sligo.

The performance of the individual activities varied very significantly with a 49.3% increase (2,176 people) in employment in ‘Computer Programming & Consultancy’ in the region contrasting with a 22.8% decrease (1,330 people) in ‘Financial Services’.  Regardless of whether an activity grew or declined, its performance in the region was weaker than nationally, particularly for those activities which declined. The region was closer to the national average for the two growing activities

‘Computer Programming & Consultancy’ showed strong jobs growth across every western county, growing by 60+% in Roscommon, Donegal and Galway City. ‘Financial Services’ saw significant job losses across all western counties, declining by over a quarter in Galway City, Donegal, Sligo and Clare.  One of the main reasons for this was the closure of many bank and building society branches, particularly in smaller towns, growing online banking and increased automation reducing staffing levels.

Agency Assisted Jobs in Financial & ICT Services

In 2017, there were 12,844 agency assisted[5] jobs in Financial & ICT Services based in the Western Region.  Jobs in Financial & ICT Services account for 19.3% of all assisted jobs in the Western Region, but 32.4% of all assisted jobs in the state, consistent with the sector’s lower importance to total employment.

The relative importance of different activities varies (Fig. 3).  The share of total assisted jobs accounted for by ‘Computer Programming’ is essentially the same in both the region and state, indicating that this sector is well developed in the region.  For all other Financial & ICT Services activities, their share of total assisted jobs in the region is considerably lower than nationally. This is particularly the case for ‘Computer Consultancy’ which accounts for 8% of all assisted jobs in the state, making it the largest among these five activities, but less than half this share in the region.  Indeed, for all other activities, their share of assisted jobs in the region is roughly half that nationally.

Fig. 3: Percentage of total assisted jobs in each Financial & ICT Services activity in Western Region and state, 2017

Source: Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2018), Annual Employment Survey 2017, special run

Ownership of Agency Assisted Jobs

Financial & ICT Services has a very high level of foreign ownership with 79% of jobs in foreign owned agency assisted companies, among the highest shares of foreign ownership across all sectors.  The level of foreign ownership has risen, in 2008 71.6% of jobs in the sector were foreign owned.

The balance between Irish and foreign ownership varies across the different sub-sectors (Fig. 4).  All assisted jobs in ‘Computer Facilities Management’ in the region are in foreign owned firms.  The largest activity of ‘Computer Programming’ is strongly foreign dominated with 97.6% of all assisted jobs in this activity in foreign owned firms.  International ‘Financial Services’ is another area of high foreign involvement, with 91.3% of all jobs in the region in foreign owned firms.

‘Computer Consultancy’ has considerably greater Irish owned involvement with only 49% of jobs in foreign owned firms.  In this activity the region has a lower foreign owned share and therefore greater Irish owned involvement.  This activity saw large job losses in the early part of the recession, only recovering somewhat in more recent years. The greater level of Irish ownership within this activity contributed to greater losses of Irish owned Financial & ICT Services jobs during the recession than foreign owned.

Fig. 4: Percentage of total assisted jobs in Financial & ICT Services activities in foreign owned companies in Western Region and state, 2017

Source: Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2018), Annual Employment Survey 2017, special run

 

Key Policy Issues

Low current level of activity in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region and the gap is widening as the rate of growth in the region significantly lagged that nationally between 2011 and 2016.  Given that this is a high value, high skill and highly paid sector, increasing the level of activity in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region could make an important contribution to regional economic development, productivity and income levels. However as this is not a highly labour intensive sector it plays a modest role in direct job creation.

Lower level of international activity in the region but internationally trading firms performed better than domestically trading sector, particularly in financial services.  Sustaining and accelerating this growth in internationally trading Financial & ICT Services firms is the main route to increasing the sector’s regional economic impact.  Access to talent, high quality telecommunications, research capacity and a supportive business ecosystem, as well as an attractive quality of life, are critical to this growth.

High level of foreign ownership means there is a need to stimulate the Irish owned sector.   Stimulating start-ups and the scaling of Irish owned technology and finance companies, to a stage where they have the capacity to trade internationally, is important to creating a more sustainable balance in the structure of this sector in the region.  This is particularly important in light of planned changes to international corporation tax rules, developments in the US and Brexit.  Current initiatives such as NUIG’s TechInnovate[6] are trying to address this by facilitating technology start-ups in the region.

There is a growing gender imbalance as the male share of all employment in Financial & ICT Services rose from 50.9% in 2011 to 54.9% by 2016 mainly because of stronger growth in male dominated ICT Services (67.9% male) compared with large job losses in the more female dominated Financial Services (62% female).  Ongoing initiatives to encourage greater participation by women in computer science, technology and finance courses, addressing the perceived male culture within the sector, raising awareness of female role models and female entrepreneurship programmes can all help to redress this imbalance.

Key urban locations play a critical role as centres for Financial & ICT Services activity with Galway City and Letterkenny two key locations particularly in ICT Services, Shannon/Ennis also having notable activity especially in Financial Services and a number of high profile recent announcements for Sligo. The availability of suitable office space, physical and digital infrastructure, links with education and training providers, access to talent and quality of life, as well as addressing issues such as traffic congestion and rising costs, will be important to ensuring these key urban locations can enhance their regional and national role as centres for Financial & ICT Services activity.

Opportunities for growth exist beyond large urban locations, including remote workDevelopments in technology, the world of work and the need to develop more sustainable approaches means that remote work (from home, a co-working hub or other location) holds considerable potential for smaller urban centres and rural areas to host increasing activity in this high skill, high value and highly paid sector. Initiatives such as Grow Remote[7] are currently highlighting the potential for increased remote working and also highlighting key policy changes needed to facilitate its expansion and wider acceptance among employers.  Access to high speed broadband is one of the most critical factors.

Limited self-employment activity in this sector, but higher incidence in the Western Region, particularly for ICT Services in Sligo, Leitrim and Mayo. This implies the structure of the sector in these counties differs from that elsewhere with many sole traders or freelancers engaged in AV production, IT services or software development and fewer large employers. An opportunity exists to target these ICT entrepreneurs, many of whom may be based in quite rural areas and smaller towns, by providing networking opportunities, business support, co-working space and opportunities to collaborate.

Access to talent is critical.  A co-ordinated approach between education and training providers in the region, in collaboration with employers, is needed to ensure an adequate supply of the necessary skills including a strong focus on upskilling and lifelong learning.[8]  Attracting talent to relocate to the region is the complementary approach.  Promoting the quality of life, lower cost of living and shorter commuting times in the region, as well as the job and entrepreneurship opportunities available, are important to attracting people to relocate.  [9]The demand for talent is also increasing the incidence of permanent full time jobs and wages in the sector.[10]

For more detailed analysis see ‘Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

Pauline White

 

Image by Free Photos at Pixabay

 

[1] Software and app development, IT services, data analysis consultancy etc.

[2] Banks, building societies, credit companies, venture capital, mortgage advisors etc.

[3] Publishing, newspapers, film, photography, music recording, TV production, TV and radio broadcasting etc.

[4] Wired, wireless and satellite telecommunications (phone, broadband).

[5] Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (DBEI), Annual Employment Survey 2017. A survey of all firms in Ireland who have ever received support from IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland or Udarás na Gaeltachta.

[6] See http://techinnovate.org/

[7] See https://growremote.ie/

[8] See https://www.regionalskills.ie/

[9] See www.LookWest.ie

[10] ‘Information & Communication’ had the highest growth in average weekly earnings nationally over the past five years increasing 21.1% Q1 2014 to Q1 2019. CSO, Earnings, Hours and Employment Costs Survey Q1 2019, Table EHQ03

The Benefits as well as the Costs of the National Broadband Plan

There are significant benefits associated with the planned rollout of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), though the recent media coverage seemed to focus largely on the costs.

A review of newspaper headlines over the period following the announcement of the preferred bidder and the likely cost of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), suggests that the overall benefit is significantly lower than the cost. For example some of the headlines included;

  • Its wrong to endorse broadband plan and ignore officials’ warning on costs, Independent, 12 May 2019
  • National Broadband Plan, labelled ‘the worst deal ever seen’ Irish Examiner, 13 May 2019
  • Government to press ahead with €3bn broadband plan despite cost warnings, 26 April, 2019

But in reality, the cost benefit analysis (CBA) conducted by consultants on behalf of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, found that under all three different scenarios considered, the benefits outweigh the costs. The CBA also made clear that many benefits were not included in the computations and some of the benefits were estimated on a very conservative basis.

The Costs and Benefits of the National Broadband Plan

The table below shows the costs and benefits anticipated under three different scenarios; pessimistic, central and optimistic. There is a detailed analysis showing how each of the costs and benefits are computed, all of which is published and available for download on the Department of Communications website, see here  (825KB)

Costs: The total project costs include both costs to the State and costs to the operator.

Benefits include benefits to residents and enterprises. The residential benefits refer to the residents who will benefit from the NBP through various savings which will be made in communications services, time savings through online access of services as well as time and cost savings from remote working.

The enterprise benefits refer both to benefits to all firms, those within the NBP area and those outside it.

For firms outside the NBP area one of the largest benefits to be realised is that many of their staff (who live in the NBP area) will now have better broadband access enabling productivity gains from remote/tele-working.

For firms within the NBP area, all SMEs will benefit. Farm enterprises will be able to engage in smart farming, while all SMEs will benefit from higher upload and download speeds to serve their clients and suppliers more efficiently.

Scope of Costs and Benefits

Table 1 shows that under all three scenarios the benefits of the NBP exceed the costs. In the analysis, the entire range of costs have been considered and furthermore they are capped and there are various clawback mechanisms to ensure limited and capped costs to the State.

The benefits that have been measured are just some of the range and a whole range of benefits have not been included. As the CBA report notes, in including and profiling benefits, the consultants adopted a deliberately conservative approach to ensure benefits were not overstated. As a result, there are important categories of benefits which are not quantified and therefore not included in the CBA analysis. Table 2 below provides an overview of these benefits and examples of how households and enterprises in the NBP area may benefit.

Measuring benefits – Other international examples

In making the case for various state supports and state aid for broadband investment, other countries have also grappled with how to measure and capture benefits. While investment in fibre networks can be evaluated in a similar fashion to investment in other infrastructure, technological innovation and new product and service developments are continually extending the range of benefits from investment in broadband infrastructure generally and fibre deployment in particular. Consideration of these other benefits is not new and other countries have valued the benefits of fibre rollout across various sectors.

For example, research undertaken in Sweden provides some economic calculations on additional returns to fibre which need to be captured in evaluation. In Sweden, higher rents are charged for homes with fibre connectivity. Tenants pay an extra €5.50 per month for a home with a fibre connection and this is valued at €267 million per year for all fibre connected homes, which yields €185.6 million per annum return on investment.

Investment in fibre networks can also reduce telecommunications costs to the user, for example the Stockholm Regional Council (regional government) reduced its telecommunications costs by 50% following deployment of the fibre network. This is attributed to increased efficiency and greater competition with more telecommunication operators providing services on the high capacity fibre network.

The development of eHealth technologies including remote monitoring and diagnosis will provide opportunities to deliver some healthcare direct to the community rather than through hospitals. Community care is generally significantly less expensive than hospital care. The greater bandwidth and symmetrical (upload and download) speeds with fibre networks can support those applications requiring very good upload and download speeds. As many of these applications such as eHealth are still being developed, it is difficult to estimate their full value and benefit.

At a wider economy level, the OECD has examined the benefits arising to other economic sectors (transport, health, education and electricity) of a national ‘fibre to the home’ network. The analysis examines the cost of deploying ‘fibre to the home’ across different OECD countries, including Ireland, and has estimated that the combined savings in each of the four sectors over a 10 year period could justify the cost of building a national ‘fibre to the home’ network. These examples are outlined in the WDC report, Connecting the West, Next Generation Broadband in the Western Region, see here (1.5MB).

Measuring the benefits of State investment should also take account of the impact on other Government policy objectives. More balanced regional and rural development and greater regional economic growth are important Government policy objectives.

State Aid

The Telecoms sector just like most other economic sectors are subject to strict EU State Aid Rules. State aid is subject to very strict criteria, one of which is that there is market failure. In the NBP areas, defined according to a detailed mapping process which was undertaken as part of the requirements for State aid, it is clear that no commercial deployment of high speed broadband has been or is likely to occur. This is then a case of market failure. Just as with other utility provision (transport, water, energy) the State intervenes where commercial provision does not occur.

One of the other criteria for State aid is that the aid serves an Objective of Common Interest. The European Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) is an objective of common interest to which Ireland has committed and this sets out a minimum of 30Mbps download for all homes and businesses by 2020. Given the increasing demand for higher speeds the EU Commission has revised upwards the target for member states which is now to achieve a basic service of 100 Mbps for all households by 2025. This objective and need to reduce the current digital divide complies with State aid requirements.

Conclusions

The NBP has been subject to probably the most extensive, thorough and comprehensive evaluation both within various Government Departments as well as across the wider public domain.

When the benefits exceed the costs, and the costs are capped while the benefits that are measured are only partial and conservatively estimated then the results of the CBA are positive and clearly make the case to proceed with the investment.

The full report on the benefits from the NBP (February 2019), is available for download on the Department of Communications website, available here (2.5MB).

The NBP Cost Benefit Analysis report (April 2019), is available for download for the Department of Communications, see here  (825KB).

 

 

Deirdre Frost

Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services rely on local demand from businesses & consumers, but potential to expand international activity

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published the latest in its series of Regional Sectoral Profiles which analyse employment and enterprise data for economic sectors in the Western Region.  This report examines the Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services sector, and two publications are available:

This sector includes three sub-sectors which provide services to both businesses and individuals:

  • ‘Administrative & Support Services’ primarily provide ‘outsourced’ type business services (property management and landscaping, contract cleaning, ‘back office’ business processing/call centres, recruitment, leasing and security) but it also includes travel agents and tour operators;
  • ‘Arts, Entertainment & Recreation’ (creative arts, cinemas, gyms, sports activities, amusements, museums and gambling); and
  • ‘Other Services’ (hairdressing and beauty, laundry, repair services, funeral services, unions and business groups and domestic staff) mainly provide services to individuals and households.

Given the wide scope of this sector, it is particularly important to consider differences across the sub-sectors. Some of the key findings from the analysis are:

Sector plays a smaller role in Western Region’s labour market

Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services account for a smaller share of total jobs in the region than nationally (Fig. 1); 6.5% of total employment compared with 7.5%.  Large urban centres and global business services activity around Shannon influence its relative importance across western counties.

The region experienced lower jobs growth in this sector than elsewhere between 2011 and 2016 (8.9% compared with 13.6%).  As this sector relies heavily on local demand, slower economic recovery in the region was a factor in this.  Nevertheless as this sector grew more than total jobs in the region (7.5%), it contributed to the region’s jobs recovery.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services in Western Region and state 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

High and growing self-employment

This sector in the region is characterised by a high rate of self-employment, both compared with elsewhere (27.6% in region v 21.5% in state) and with other sectors. This is particularly the case in more rural counties and for locally provided services (38.1% of all employment in ‘Other Services’ is self-employment).

The number of self-employed in this sector in the region increased by 19.4% (2011-2016), the highest growth across all sectors, as many individuals responded to growing demand by setting up small-scale service businesses (e.g. gyms, barbers, HR services, phone repair).  Continuation of existing, and the development of new initiatives and soft supports, to support self-employment, including addressing issues of the quality and viability of some self-employment, is important particularly in smaller urban centres and rural areas where self-employment can be a key pathway to work.

Important contribution to town centre renewal

As online retailing grows, the availability and choice of local personal and recreational services is central to attracting people to visit and remain in town centre locations.  Facilitating such services, many of which are provided by sole traders and micro-enterprises, should be integral to local plans for town centre renewal.

At 11.2% of all employment Bundoran has the highest share working in this sector of Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population), largely due to ‘Arts, Entertainment & Recreation’ (Fig. 2).  Carndonagh (10.4%) and Ballyshannon (10.2%) are also in the top 10 towns in Ireland.  Shannon meanwhile has the second highest share working in ‘Administrative & Support’ in the state.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total employment in Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services in towns in the Western Region, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

The structure of the sector in the region differs from the national picture

The mainly locally traded personal and leisure services are more important for employment in the region, with less activity in business services (Fig. 3).  The single largest employment activity is ‘Hairdressing & Beauty’ which is significantly more important in the region than the state, the next largest is ‘Services to buildings & landscape’, followed by ‘Sport, amusement & recreation’. The greater importance of locally provided services means the sector relies more heavily on local demand and disposable income.

Fig. 3: Percentage of total Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services employment in each broad sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

Some of the implications of this are:

  • ‘Administrative & Support’ less developed but with growth potential: The ‘Administrative & Support’ sub-sector accounts for a lower share of total employment (see Fig. 3) and enterprises (33.5% of all AEOS enterprises v 35.8%) in the region than the state and also experienced lower growth. There is an opportunity to further develop this sector in response to increased outsourcing and strong growth in global business services.  High quality communications infrastructure and property solutions, as well as improved accessibility and the availability of suitable talent are important factors.  Within the region the Shannon Free Zone is a nationally significant location for global business services (e.g. aircraft leasing, e-commerce outsourcing).  Strengthening this cluster to adapt to technological change, meet emerging skill needs and increase collaboration are among the actions needed to support this key regional asset.
  • Local ‘Other Services’ more important and in particular for rural counties: These services largely rely on local demand and respond strongly to disposable income.  As they are often consumed at the same location as they are supplied (e.g. hairdressing, dry-cleaning, nail bars), they play a particularly important role in the local economy of towns and villages.   This sector however is generally quite low paid (at €17.13 per hour ‘Other Services’ has the second lowest average hourly earnings of all economic sectors.[1])  The greater importance of this sub-sector in the employment profile of the region therefore reduces the overall economic benefit of the sector to the regional economy.
  • Role of ‘Arts, Entertainment & Recreation’ in the regional economy is growing: It experienced the strongest employment (13.6%, 2011-2016) and enterprise (12.6%, 2011-2016) growth in the region, in both cases expanding more than nationally. This sector is highly responsive to local disposable income with tourism a key driver. This is clear from its importance in locations such as Bundoran, Strandhill and Clifden.  The Western Region is recognised as having a strong creative and cultural industries sector, as well as tourism industry. The WDC has supported the creative sector’s development through a range of initiatives[2] and the recent Regional Enterprise Plan for the West region[3] included it among its strategic objectives. Adopting a coordinated approach is critical to help realise the growth potential of the creative industries.

For more detailed analysis, including of enterprises in the sector and agency assisted jobs, download Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile here

Pauline White

 

[1] Only ‘Accommodation & Food Service’ is lower. CSO, Earnings, Hours and Employment Costs Survey Q4 2018, Table EHQ03

[2] See https://www.wdc.ie/regional-development/creative-economy/

[3] Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2019), Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020: West Region

Hospitality plays a larger role in employment & enterprise in the Western Region

The WDC has just published its latest Regional Sectoral Profile which examines the region’s fifth largest employment sector – Accommodation & Food Service.  Both the detailed report ‘Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profileand a two-page summaryWDC Insights: Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region’ can be downloaded here

Accommodation & Food Service includes all those working in hotels, guesthouses, pubs, clubs, restaurants, takeaways, coffee shops, catering companies and mobile food / coffee vans.  Essentially it is the hospitality industry.  The Western Region is home to 19.7% of everyone working in hospitality in Ireland and 23.7% of all of the sector’s enterprises.

Accommodation & Food Service as a share of total employment 

According to Census 2016, 23,038 people were employed in Accommodation & Food Service in the Western Region.  It plays a greater role in the region’s labour market than nationally (Fig. 1) accounting for 6.9% of total employment compared with 5.8%.  Among western counties, it is most important in Galway City at 9.9%, followed by Donegal and Mayo.  These three counties are among the top five in Ireland in terms of the share of their workforce engaged in hospitality.  Roscommon has the lowest share in the region and is fourth lowest in the state.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in Accommodation & Food Service in Western Region and state, 2016

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

At 27.6% of total employment, Clifden has the highest share working in hospitality of Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population) with Bundoran (21.7%), Westport (21.1%), Donegal town (20.3%) and Carrick-on-Shannon (15%) also among the top 10 towns in Ireland.   At under 6%, Ballyhaunis, Ballymote and Boyle have the lowest shares working in the sector in the region.

Employment by gender 

Hospitality is a more important employer for women than men (Fig. 2) with 8.2% of all working women and 5.8% of all working men in the Western Region working in the sector.  The sector plays a more significant role in both female and male employment in the region than nationally, most notably for women.

Galway City, Donegal and Mayo are where hospitality is most important for female employment employing close to 1 in 10 of all women.  In the case of Donegal and Mayo the sector is considerably more important for women’s jobs than men’s.  Galway City is the only area where hospitality is more important to male than female employment however the shares are quite similar indicating the sector is more gender-balanced, as it also seems to be in Sligo.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total male and total female employment that is in Accommodation & Food Service in Western Region and state, 2016

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

Self-employment in Accommodation & Food Service

14.1% (3,237 people) of people working in the sector are self-employed (employer or own account worker). The Western Region has a considerably higher incidence of self-employment than the national average (11.5%).  This could indicate that hospitality operations in the Western Region tend to be smaller in scale with fewer employees and that owner-manager/family-run businesses are more common.  The extent of self-employment declined between 2011 and 2016, most strongly in more rural counties.

Accommodation & Food Service Enterprises

In 2016 there were 4,358 Accommodation & Food Service enterprises registered in the Western Region which was 23.7% of all such enterprises in the state.  This is the sector where the region accounts for its highest share of all enterprises nationally.

Hospitality accounted for 10.2% of all business economy[1] enterprises registered in the Western Region 2016.  Donegal, Leitrim and Mayo have the highest share of enterprises in the sector at 11+% showing the importance of the sector in their overall enterprise profile.

Key Policy Issues for the Western Region’s Hospitality Sector

Accommodation & Food Service plays a larger role than nationally in the Western Region’s economy, in terms of its employment profile and enterprise base.  Any changes in demand for this sector e.g. from Brexit, an economic downturn, will have a particularly large impact on the region and national policy needs to address issues specific to the region such as improved accessibility for visitors and the viability of rural hospitality businesses relying on local demand.

As it is quite widely distributed, hospitality helps to sustain the regional and rural economy and is becoming an increasingly important reason for people to visit town centres. Therefore it is a critical element in town centre renewal efforts.  It is also an important source of jobs for those with lower skills or limited experience, whose rights need to be protected, as well as providing highly skilled occupations and considerable opportunities for entrepreneurship.  Self-employment, while still higher in the region than elsewhere, is declining and it is important to support and encourage self-employment to maintain the diversity of the region’s hospitality offering.

Hospitality is highly sensitive to changing economic conditions which influence both the level of disposable income of local residents and overseas and domestic tourism activity. The balance between local and tourist demand in sustaining the hospitality sector varies considerably across the region (from tourism ‘hotspots’ to small rural towns depending on local custom) and policy aimed at strengthening the sector needs to be tailored to the specific circumstances of different areas.  Rural and border counties are particularly exposed to Brexit while the sector as a whole needs to adapt to emerging trends e.g. Airbnb, changing demographics, low carbon economy.

Download Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile and WDC Insights: Accommodation & Food Service sector in the Western Region here

The report also examines data on overseas and domestic tourism revenue and numbers to the Western Region, which will be the subject of a future post.

 

Pauline White

[1] Business economy includes all economic sectors except Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Public Administration & Defence, Education, Health & Social Work and Other Services.

How important is Industry as a regional employer?

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

Trends in Industry employment in the Western Region and its counties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Employment in Industry sub-sectors in the Western Region

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Policy Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pauline White

The Education Sector in the Western Region

The WDC recently published the third in our ongoing series of ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing employment and enterprise data for the Western Region on specific economic sectors and identifying key policy issues. The new report examines the Education Sector, the Western Region’s fourth largest employer.

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

The Education sector plays a vital role in society, educating our young people, providing lifelong learning and personal development opportunities, as well as the necessary skills for the economy. It includes all those working in public, private or community/voluntary pre-primary, primary and secondary schools (e.g. teachers, support staff) as well as staff of further and higher education institutions and colleges. The sector also includes other types of educational activity such as music schools, adult education and driving schools.  Discussions of the Education sector generally focus on provision of services. This ‘Regional Sectoral Profile’ however focuses on its role as a key economic sector and regional employer.

Employment & Enterprise in the Education Sector

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

  • 32,349 people were employed in the Education sector in the Western Region in 2016. Education plays a greater role in the region’s labour market than nationally, accounting for 9.7% of total employment compared with 8.8%.
  • 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 in Co Galway (19%) has the highest share of residents working in Education across Ireland’s 200 towns and cities. The towns with the next largest shares in the region are Bearna (13.3%), Strandhill (12.2%) and Carndonagh (11.9%). It must be noted that this data refers to residents of the towns, although some may travel to work elsewhere e.g. NUI Galway, IT Sligo.
  • The number of people working in Education in the Western Region grew by 4.4% (2011-2016), weaker growth than the sector nationally (5.7%) and also weaker than total employment growth in the region (7.5%).
  • At 32.2% and 25% of total Education employment respectively, ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ are the two largest Education sub-sectors, with a higher share working in both in the region than nationally. In contrast the region has a lower share working in ‘Higher Education’ (15.2% v 16.8%).
  • ‘Pre-primary Education’ saw the strongest jobs growth, +44.8% in the region (2011-2016) largely driven by introduction of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme providing a free pre-school place to all children.
  • 7% of all working women and 4.4% of all working men in the Western Region work in Education. The sector plays a more significant role in both female and male employment in the region than nationally.
  • In 2016 there were 2,710 Education enterprises registered in the Western Region. Education enterprises account for 5% of all enterprises in the region, above the 4.4% share nationally.  Sligo is where the sector accounts for the largest share of enterprises (5.5%) with Clare and Galway next highest (5.2%).

Key Policy Issues for the Western Region’s Education Sector

  • Higher reliance on the Education sector in the Western Region: Education is a more significant employer in the Western Region than nationally and plays a critical role in providing professional career opportunities, including in more rural areas where there may be fewer alternatives. While the main focus for Education policy must be the provision of quality services, the sector’s parallel employment role should also be a factor in policy decisions.
  • Central role in female employment: 3 out of 4 people working in the Education sector in the Western Region are women. Galway City has the lowest female share, and Roscommon and Leitrim have the highest, indicating that Higher Education has lower female involvement than other Education sub-sectors. Any future development in Education will have a far greater impact on female than male employment levels.
  • Demographic Factors: The most recent projections from the Department of Education and Skills indicate that primary school enrolments peaked in 2018, while for second level education the numbers are projected to peak in 2024. The expected decline in demand for primary and secondary education in the medium-term will impact on future Education employment trends. Demand for third level education is more varied. As well as direct transfers of young people from secondary school, demand also comes from mature students returning to education and from international students, while staff are also engaged in other activities e.g. research, which are separate to student enrolments.
  • Lifelong Learning: There is increasing recognition of the importance of lifelong learning and the need to continually update skills, or acquire new skills, to adapt to changing technology and an increasingly flexible labour market. As well as the demands of the labour market, lifelong learning is also pursued for personal development. There are regional differences however in participation in lifelong learning. In the Border region, just 5% of adults were engaged in formal education, in the West region it was 8% while it was highest in Dublin at 12%. Meeting the Government’s target of 10% of adults to be engaged in formal lifelong learning by 2020 (15% by 2025), particularly in the Border region, will require a very substantial increase in participation representing a growth opportunity for the Western Region’s Education sector.
  • Regional Skills: The Education sector is largely responsible for providing skills needed by the regional economy; skills needs which are continually changing. Provision of regional skills involves a wide range of education providers and close engagement with employers. Regional Skills Fora provide a useful structure. Changing skill demands impact on Education employment, as emerging skill needs can only be met if Education professionals with expertise in these new areas e.g. artificial intelligence, big data, are available.
  • Emerging Opportunities: The introduction of the ECCE had a very dramatic jobs impact on Pre-primary Education. This shows the potential for developing new opportunities in the Education sector, where job creation may not be the main objective but is nonetheless an important outcome. Brexit presents another potential opportunity. It is estimated that 10,000 students from the Republic of Ireland study in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the UK and institutions such as Letterkenny IT and IT Sligo in the Western Region, could attract some of these students. Also students from EU member states wishing to study abroad in an English-speaking country are more likely to choose Ireland following Brexit. Another opportunity is the Western Region’s growing number of retired people who represent potential new demand for Education services. Given demographic trends, increased demand for Education services from adults, including retired people, is an area of potential growth.

Download the full report ‘The Education Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ and the two-page WDC Insights: The Education Sector in the Western Region’ which summarises the key points, here

Pauline White

SMEs in Ireland: What are the issues?

Earlier this year the WDC made a submission to the Seanad Public Consultation Committee. They are currently investigating the issue of Small and Medium Sized Businesses in Ireland.  Last Tuesday we were among 15 individuals and organisations invited to address a public hearing of the Seanad on the topic.  A video of the hearings is available here (the WDC’s contribution begins at 3:48) and the final report will be published by the Seanad early next year.

The inputs to the public hearing covered the owner, national and regional perspectives on SMEs in Ireland.  Over the course of five hours a very broad range of topics and issues relevant to the operation and future of SMEs in Ireland was discussed, here are just a few of the themes which emerged.

Incentivising entrepreneurship:  How can we make it more attractive for people to choose to establish their own business?  It was suggested the idea should be encouraged at primary school level, before children enter the ‘points race’, by adding entrepreneurship to the list of potential career choices.  It was also noted that some entrepreneurship, especially in rural areas, may ‘grow from the ashes’ as a result of the closure of a large business and limited alternative employment.  Reducing personal risk as a barrier to entrepreneurship was raised in terms of social insurance, as well as the issue of the rate of capital gains tax acting as a disincentive.

Varied forms of entrepreneurship: It was proposed that more varied forms of entrepreneurship and ownership models, including co-operatives and social enterprise, should be encouraged.  With a more socially conscious generation of young people, it was recognised there could be more demand to buy from socially and environmentally conscious local businesses.  It was suggested that this could support succession planning for family-run businesses with more options for buy-outs by worker co-operatives.

Attracting skills and management capacity:  As the labour market tightens, SMEs increasingly have to compete for employees with large multinationals. SMEs can lose trained staff to FDI companies paying higher salaries and this particularly restricts the development of management capacity as SMEs find it difficult to compete with FDI companies on salaries for high level management roles.  But a strong management team is central to SME success and can also help with succession through a management buy-out.  Incentives to retain staff, such as the Keep scheme, were seen as important to tackle this.  The diaspora was also highlighted as a potential source of key skills for SMEs and a number of initiatives to attract people back to rural, regional and Gaeltacht locations were outlined. For counties in the Greater Dublin Area, promoting ‘reverse commuting’ with SMEs encouraged to establish in commuter towns to take advantage of the pool of talent currently commuting into Dublin, was highlighted.

Education and training: To meet the skill requirements of SMEs there was a need for them to identify their current and future skills needs. EI are currently running ‘spotlight on skills’ workshops for companies which aim to help with this.  Close collaboration between SMEs in a region and local education providers (ETBs, IoTs, Universities) is critical to providing the pipeline of skills needed for future jobs as well as facilitating accredited lifelong learning to upskill current staff.  Increasing the range of sectors covered by apprenticeships and making the apprenticeship path more attractive were also raised.

Costs and regulatory burden:  The rising cost of utilities and insurance and the impact this is having on SMEs.  For example a number of key insurers have left the insurance market for retail businesses in Ireland and there is uncertainty how UK insurers providing cover in Ireland will be impacted by Brexit.  Initiatives to spread costs more evenly, such as the timing of Revenue payments, could help with SME cash flow.  The Government was urged to ‘think small first’ when developing new regulations and to take into consideration the cumulative impact of numerous regulations on small businesses, rather than looking at the impact of one regulation in isolation from others.

Procurement: The potential for public procurement as a market for SMEs.  The ‘bundling’ of contracts could put some public projects out of reach of SMEs and it was felt that, as far as possible within EU tendering guidelines, SMEs should be facilitated to access public procurement

Broadband and remote working: SMEs will not be able to connect with their markets in the absence of high-speed broadband across the country.  The lack of high-speed broadband in some rural and regional locations is a critical issue and has in fact led to the relocation of some companies.  It was noted that 4G /5G mobile technology was not sufficient the needs of SMEs and fibre broadband was the most future proofed technology.  Broadband could also facilitate remote working for employees and entrepreneurs.  The provision of digital hubs and innovation centres could facilitate networking and social interaction. It was noted that there needed to be a culture change in terms of remote working.

Scale and performance:  Recent Irish economic growth has mainly been driven by FDI and Irish SMEs are not performing as well in terms of exports or innovation.  It was felt that they were not living up to their potential, as research by the Enterprise Research Centre has shown that Irish micro-enterprises have greater growth ambition, digital adoption and use of innovation than their UK or US counterparts. Growing the scale of Irish SMEs and diversifying their markets, especially beyond the UK, were seen as priorities for improved performance.  It was also noted that some SMEs may be caught in the ‘middle’, too large for LEOs but not exporting so not within EI’s remit.  Brexit makes it difficult for any SME to plan and it was suggested that some companies may need more direct support to adapt to the Brexit impact.

Investment and finance:  There is a need for more investment in SMEs, who currently largely rely on short-term debt financing rather than longer term equity investment.  Investors need to be incentivised more to make equity investments in SMEs, while SME owners should be encouraged to be more open to equity investment.  While new, high-tech companies were very open to the idea, more established SMEs may be reluctant to seek such investment.  It was also noted there was a lack of private sector early stage and venture capital funding in the regions.  In relation to lending to SMEs, a Local Public Banking model, similar to that in Germany, was proposed.  Based on relationship banking, these local public banks could provide loans to SMEs and would operate on a non-profit basis.

The ultimate outcome of the consultation will be a strategy proposal document on SMEs in Ireland which the Seanad will publish early next week and propose to the relevant Government Minister.  It is hoped this will place a renewed focus on the role and importance of indigenous SMEs to the Irish economy and regional development.

Pauline White

How important is Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region?

The WDC recently published the first in a series of ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing specific economic sectors in the Western Region and identifying key policy issues.  The first sector examined is Wholesale & Retail.  Two publications are available:

  • WDC Insights: Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region (2-page summary)
  • Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile (full report)

Download both here

Wholesale & Retail Employment in the Western Region

42,510 people were employed in the Wholesale & Retail sector in the Western Region in 2016. At 12.7% of total employment, it is the region’s second largest employment sector, after Industry.  It is somewhat less important in the region than nationally (Fig. 1).  At 13.3% of all employment, it is Ireland’s largest employer.

Among western counties, Wholesale & Retail is most significant in Mayo (14.4%) and least so in Clare (11.2%).  Two other largely rural counties (Roscommon and Donegal) had the next highest shares working in the sector in the region.  Wholesale & Retail accounted for a higher share of total employment in 2016 than a decade earlier in all western counties (except Donegal) and most notably in the most rural counties.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector in Western Region and state, 2006, 2011 and 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011; CSO, Census 2006: Volume 7 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table C0713

52.3% of people at work in the Wholesale & Retail sector in the Western Region are male, similar to the national average.  Males make up the majority in all western counties (at 55.2% Sligo has the greatest male majority) except Clare (50.8% female) and Galway city (50.9% female).

Wholesale & Retail Employment in western towns

Wholesale & Retail is the largest employment sector for 16 out of the region’s 40 urban centres.  There is no clearly discernible pattern in the relative importance (as a percentage of total employment) of the sector across the 40 towns, ranked by descending size (Fig. 2). Factors such as location, distance from larger urban centres, diversity of its economic profile and alternative job options combine with a town’s size to determine the role played by the sector.

Boyle (20.2%), Ballina (20%) and Castlebar (19.1%) have the highest shares working in Wholesale & Retail in the region. These, and other towns with a high share, are important rural service centres located quite some distance from larger centres and serving wide rural hinterlands.  The sector is least important for Strandhill, Newmarket-on-Fergus and Moycullen; all are towns located close to large urban centres which are likely their main retail centre.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector in towns in the Western Region, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Self-employment in Wholesale & Retail

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).  Every western county, except Galway City, also has an above average share of self-employment, meaning the sector in the region is characterised by more family or owner/ manager run businesses, likely smaller in scale.

The share of self-employment declined in all western counties (except Sligo) between 2011 and 2016. This indicates a changing composition of the sector with fewer family or owner/manager run Wholesale & Retail businesses and the expansion of multiples and chain stores with a growing share of those working in the sector being employees.

Employment in Wholesale & Retail sub-sectors

Census data on employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector is sub-divided into 17 separate activities.  For ease of presentation here these are grouped into five broad areas: Motor trades; Wholesale; Food/beverage retail; Clothing/footwear retail; and All other retail.[1]

In 2016, the largest sub-sector in the Western Region was ‘Food/beverage retail’ (Fig. 3) accounting for 27.7% of all employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector. The largest element of this is supermarkets.  The next largest sub-sector is ‘All other retail’ (e.g. furniture, computers, petrol stations etc.) followed by ‘Wholesale’.  The relative importance of the five sub-sectors differs across counties. Generally, ‘Food/beverage retail’ is the largest with close to 30% working in this sub-sector in Clare and Leitrim.  Two exceptions are Galway City and Roscommon where ‘All other retail’ is bigger.

Fig. 3: Percentage of total Wholesale & Retail employment in each sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

The sub-sectors have performed differently over time. For the Western Region, ‘Motor trades’ saw the most significant jobs growth between 2011 and 2016 reflecting strong recent growth in car sales and recovery from substantial job losses during the recession. ‘Clothing/footwear retail’ was the only other area to show some growth with the other three sub-sectors declining in the region.  This is in contrast to the national picture where all sub-sectors grew except ‘Food/beverage retail’.

Key Policy Issues

Wholesale & Retail plays a critical role in the regional and rural economy as it is more widely dispersed than many other sectors. It is a highly visible sector and its performance has a major impact on the viability and vibrancy of towns.  It also provides important job options for people with lower skill levels and younger people.  There has been growing policy interest in this sector in the past number of years. Some of the key policy issues include:

  • Increased consumer mobility & rural areas: The trend of travelling to large urban centres to avail of wider retail choice presents opportunities for the region’s largest centres but may have negative consequences for small and medium-sized rural towns.
  • Town centre renewal: Towns are trying to adapt to their changing role. Retail is just one of the services they provide and for many it is declining in relative importance.  Taking a broad approach to town centre renewal is critical to making towns more attractive retail and service destinations.
  • Growth of online sales: Online sales continue to grow but the majority of spending leaks out of Ireland. While online can be seen as a threat to traditional retail, it also presents an opportunity to expand beyond local markets.
  • Declining self-employment: While self-employment remains higher in the region than elsewhere, it is declining. Fewer family or owner/manager run enterprises impacts on the local distinctiveness of the retail offering of individual towns.
  • Quality of employment and skills development: While Wholesale & Retail offers many high quality jobs, it also employs a lot of younger and lower skilled workers. Improving the quality and security of jobs in this sector is important for worker rights and also for the sector’s ability to adapt to emerging trends.

Opportunities exist to grow online activity and to restructure the retail and service offering of towns to meet changing consumer needs.  However, grasping these opportunities will depend on proactive policy to support the sector, a willingness to adapt among retailers, increased capacity for businesses to compete with larger national or global retailers and a collaborative approach to help towns adapt to their changing function.

More detailed analysis and discussion of these policy issues are available in ‘Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

Pauline White

[1] Appendix 1 of the report provides data for all 17 activities.

Regional Agency-Assisted Jobs 2017

In August the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation published the Annual Employment Survey (AES) for 2017.  This provides an analysis of employment in Industrial and Services companies under the remit of IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta.  This type of employment is referred to as ‘agency-assisted’.

In 2017, total permanent, full-time employment (PFT) in agency-assisted companies in Ireland was 379,810.  This was an increase of 19,369 jobs (5.4%) on 2016, continuing the growth trend in evidence since 2011.  Part-time, temporary or contract employment in agency-assisted firms also increased by 1,796 jobs in 2017 and now stands at 48,221, the highest number recorded in the 10-year period.

Combining PFT and Temporary/Part-time jobs brings total agency-assisted employment in Ireland to 428,031 in 2017.  This was 19.5% of total employment in the country in that year (average employment of 2,194,150 across the year, based on CSO’s Labour Force Survey).

The AES data includes a detailed regional breakdown of agency-assisted employment by employment type and ownership in Appendix B.

Regional agency-assisted employment

We will begin by looking at the three larger regions of the Border, Midlands & West (BMW), South & East and Dublin.  All three initially experienced declines in assisted employment but have shown strong recovery since 2012 (Fig. 1). The South & East region has consistently been the largest, though in recent years as Dublin has grown more rapidly it has narrowed the gap somewhat.  Meanwhile the gap between the BMW region and the others has widened in recent years.

Fig. 1: Total agency-assisted employment in BMW, South & East and Dublin regions, 2008-2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

To consider this in more detail, we’ll look at the BMW’s share of total agency-assisted employment in the State.  The BMW region’s share has followed a downward trend across all types of ownership (Fig. 2). For Irish-owned employment, its share fell from 27.1% in 2008 to 25.6% in 2017.  While for foreign-owned agency supported jobs, its share fell from 19.2% to 18.9% over the 10-year period though it was higher during 2011-2014.  The region has consistently accounted for a higher share of all Irish-owned employment than of foreign-owned.

Fig. 2: BMW region’s share of total national agency-assisted employment, 2008-2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

At the more detailed regional level (Fig. 3) the share of total agency-assisted employment in each region changed between 2008 and 2017.  Dublin’s share of total assisted jobs grew steadily from 34.4% in 2008 up to 37.6% in 2017.  The second largest region is the South West and its share also grew from 14.8% to 16.3%.  While the South East was third largest in 2008, by 2017 the West had moved into third position, with the South East dropping to fifth.  Only three regions – Dublin, South West and West – had a higher share of total employment in 2017 than in 2008.

Fig. 3: Percentage of total national agency-assisted employment in each region, 2008, 2012 and 2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

 

While the share of total assisted employment located in several regions declined, all regions experienced growth in their actual number of agency-assisted jobs between 2008 and 2017 (Fig. 4). Clearly the South West (36.3%), Dublin (34.6%) and West (27%) (influenced by Cork, Dublin and Galway cities) had very strong growth over the 10-year period, with the South East (5.1%) and Mid-East (7%) performing least well.  This helps to explain their deteriorating relative positions.

Looking at the most recent performance (2016-2017), Dublin, the Mid-West and South East had the strongest growth, up 6.2% in the year. While most other regions had growth of around 5% the Mid-East actually saw a decline in agency-assisted employment in the year.

Fig. 4: Percentage change in total agency-assisted employment in each region, 2008-2017 and 2016-2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

Regional employment by type

Data is provided on two types of employment – Permanent, full-time and Temporary, part-time or contract employment (referred to as ‘Other’).  The percentage of total employment that is ‘Other’ has generally increased over the 10-year period, though with considerable volatility.  Nationally 11.3% of total employment in 2017 is ‘Other’ compared with 9.1% in 2008.

At 13.4% the West region has the highest share of Temporary/Part-time/Contract employment in 2017 and the share has been increasing since 2015.  In Dublin however, which has the next highest share (12% in 2017), it has been declining (Fig. 5). At 8.9% the Mid-East has the smallest share of ‘Other’ employment.

Fig. 5: Percentage of total agency-assisted employment that is temporary, part-time or contract employment in each region, 2008-2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

Regional employment by ownership  

The balance between foreign and Irish-owned agency assisted employment differs substantially at regional level (Fig. 6). The three regions with the largest number of agency-assisted jobs, and also the strongest growth during 2008-2017 (South West, West and Dublin) have the highest shares of foreign-owned employment at over 57% in 2017.  The Mid-West is the other region where the majority of assisted jobs are foreign-owned.

The Midlands and Border regions have the lowest shares of foreign-owned employment and therefore the largest shares of Irish-owned employment. Two-thirds of assisted jobs are in Irish companies.

Fig. 6: Percentage of total agency-assisted employment in foreign-owned and Irish-owned firms in each region, 2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

Fig. 7 shows that over the 10-year period, the South West, Dublin and West all had 40+% growth in agency-assisted foreign-owned jobs.  At 21.5% the Border also had strong growth in such jobs, though from a lower base.  In contrast, the Mid-East and Midlands both experienced a fall in foreign-owned assisted employment.

It should be noted that some of the changes in job numbers by ownership may be due to a transfer of ownership e.g. an Irish company bought by a foreign company or a foreign company becoming an Irish company through a management buy-out etc.  When a company changes ownership, jobs in that company are re-classified as Irish or foreign and the changes back-dated to previous years.

Irish-owned assisted jobs grew across all regions during 2008-2017, most strongly in the Mid-East somewhat compensating for declining foreign-owned employment.  The South West, Dublin and Midlands also had around 20% growth in Irish-owned assisted jobs with the South East and Border regions performing worst.

Irish-owned assisted employment out-performed foreign-owned in three regions (Mid-East, Midlands and Mid-West). In the case of the West, growth in foreign-owned assisted jobs was over three times greater than growth in Irish-owned assisted jobs, in Dublin and the South West it was about double.

Fig. 7: Percentage change in total agency-assisted employment in foreign-owned and Irish-owned firms in each region, 2008-2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

Over the past year (Fig. 8), all regions experienced growth in both foreign and Irish-owned assisted employment, except for foreign-owned jobs in the Mid-East. The South East (9.4%) and Dublin (7.2%) had strong growth in foreign-owned jobs with the Mid-East, Midlands and Border performing least well.  For Irish-owned jobs, the Mid-West, West and Midlands performed strongly.

In general there was less regional variation in the performance of Irish-owned assisted employment compared with foreign-owned.  Irish-owned firms out-performed foreign-owned in all regions except the South East, Dublin and South West.

Fig. 8: Percentage change in total agency-assisted employment in foreign-owned and Irish-owned firms in each region, 2016-2017. Source: DBEI, Annual Employment Survey 2017, Appendix B.

Conclusion

The strong growth trend evident in agency-assisted employment for the past number of years continued in 2017. All regions had a greater number of agency-assisted jobs in 2017 than they had in 2008.  There were considerable regional variations however, with the South West, Dublin and the West experiencing extremely strong jobs growth over the decade, substantially driven by foreign-owned companies, which led to their combined share of total assisted jobs increasing from 58.5% in 2008 to 63.5% in 2017. These three regions also have the highest shares of foreign-owned employment and two of them (West, Dublin) have the highest shares of Temporary/Part-time employment.

While all other regions have also seen growth in the numbers working in agency-assisted firms, this has been at a substantially lower level. The Mid-East and Midlands actually have fewer jobs in foreign-owned assisted firms in 2017 than they had in 2008, though growth in Irish-owned assisted jobs compensated for this, leading to overall growth.  The Border and Midlands show the highest shares of Irish-owned assisted employment and in the past year (2016-2017) Irish-owned firms out-performed foreign-owned in these two regions, as well as in the West, Mid-West and Mid-East.

While the foreign-owned sector has been a strong driver of assisted employment growth, especially in the Dublin, South West and West regions and in the initial stages of the recovery, the Irish-owned sector has responded strongly in more recent years and shows a more even geographical spread.

Pauline White

Enterprise in the Western Region 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download ‘Enterprise in the Western Region 2016’ here.