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Survey shows 60% of creative entrepreneurs working on their own

Later today (29 October), the WDC will launch a new transnational project to support the development of the creative industries sector.

The new three-year, €2m transnational creative momentum project aims to support creative entrepreneurs through innovation and skills development, opportunities to network and collaborate across the five partner countries and improved access to international markets. The project will be run by six partner organisations based in Mid-Sweden, North East Iceland, Northern Finland, South East of Northern Ireland and West of Ireland. It is co-funded by the EU Interreg Northern Periphery & Arctic Programme.

In order to inform the development of the project’s activities, the project circulated an online survey to creative entrepreneurs based in the participating regions. The survey ran from 28 September to 18 October and there were a total of 170 responses. The preliminary results of the analysis show some very interesting findings which have implications for policy and supports aimed at developing this sector.

  • 60% of respondents indicated they worked on their own, with a further 31% working in enterprises employing fewer than five people. The survey also showed that just over half (53%) of respondents worked from their own home. The sector seems to be strongly characterised by sole traders and freelancers.
  • 45% reported being members of some form of creative network or collective.
  • 68% reported that they made some sales outside of their own country, which was higher than indicated in previous surveys. Cross-border business between Ireland and Northern Ireland seemed to be a strong element in these export sales. Of those businesses who did not export currently (44), 70% indicated a desire to export.
  • For those who did make export sales, personal sales was the most significant route, reported by 21% of respondents, 14% indicated they used their own online shop, 11% that they exhibited at galleries in other countries and 9% indicated they used retail outlets in their target market.
  • In terms of mentoring, it found that 43% had not received any mentoring, while 43% had received mentoring. A further 10% had been both a mentor and had been mentored at some stage.
  • For training needs, showcasing/presenting your work, marketing, accessing new markets and sales were the top four topics.

Further analysis on these survey results will be published over the coming weeks on www.MyCreativeEdge.eu and will be useful in highlighting the current issues facing entrepreneurs across this sector.

Under a creative momentum project, the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway will be undertaking a number of studies of the creative industries sector, and its value, to the partner regions.

Pauline White

WDC presents on Creative Economy to JOC

The WDC was invited to present to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation on its work in developing the Creative Economy. On Tuesday 21 April, the WDC as well as NUI Galway, Teagasc, the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland and TG4 presented on the potential for job creation, innovation and balanced economic development in the creative sector.

The WDC has worked with this sector since 2008. At that time, after the collapse of the building sector and its knock-on impacts across the domestic economy, there was a clear need to identify and support new sources of regional economic growth and job creation. The creative industries sector was in many ways an obvious choice for the region as it is mainly made up of self-employed or micro-enterprises with people quite embedded in their local area. The sector was showing strong growth internationally and could create jobs and contribute to tourism, including in rural areas.

As there was little research in Ireland at the time, the WDC commissioned Creative Sector Baseline Report 2008 (PDF 2.5MB) to investigate the size and nature of the region’s creative sector and to identify its key issues. The Creative West 2009 (PDF 1.9MB) report found that there were 4,800 businesses in the creative sector in the Western Region, employing 11,000 people and generating €534m in annual turnover, directly contributing €270m to the Gross Value Added of the regional economy.   There was limited export activity however with two-thirds not engaged in any exporting. The majority of those in the sector were self-employed with 40% working alone and almost 90% being micro-enterprises.

Quality of life and inspiration from the region’s landscape and culture were among the strongest motivators for creative people to live and work in the Western Region. They faced a number of constraints however that can be addressed by policy and enterprise supports. Chief among these are high bandwidth broadband for creative enterprises operating in rural areas, difficulties in finding and recruiting specific skills, and quite limited networking with others in the sector and wider business community.   Creative businesses often do not fit easily into the eligibility criteria for enterprise funding and may find it difficult to access finance.

The report set out a series of recommendations for developing the sector in the region which have formed the basis of the WDC’s activities to support the sector. Under Creative Edge  (a €1.2m transnational EU-funded project, 2011-2013) the WDC developed the MyCreativeEdge.eu website to provide an online showcase for creative enterprises, with over 550 now profiled on the site. The new 3-year, €2m Creative Momentum project will further develop new routes to export markets for creative enterprises, as well as providing international networking opportunities with creative enterprises from Northern Ireland, Iceland, Sweden and Finland. The WDC Micro-Loan Fund: Creative Industries  provides loans of €5,000-€25,000 to creative enterprises and to date has funded 12 creative enterprises across the Western Region.

Nationally the Action Plan for Jobs identified the creative sector as one of the key sectoral opportunities for economic growth and job creation in Ireland. As the new Action Plan for Jobs – Regional process develops, it is important that the potential of the creative industries to contribute to sustainable job creation and enterprise growth at a regional level be recognised and the sector supported. Under the Creative Edge project the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway developed the Creative Edge Policy Toolkit which set out a number of recommendations on policy actions that could be taken to support the sector’s growth. This could provide a useful input.

The Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA)  has also identified creative industries as a key growth sector for rural economic diversification and recommended the development of a coordinated strategy for the sector that places specific focus on its potential to contribute to the rural economy. Such a coordinated strategy however needs to be worked out through sector-specific policies and actions in the areas of enterprise support, job creation, culture, skills development and regional economic development to make a meaningful contribution.

A full transcript of the discussion at the JOC can be found here

Pauline White

The Western Region’s Labour Market

The WDC has just published a new analysis of the Western Region’s Labour Market. This is based on a special run of data from the CSO’s QNHS for the period 2004-2014 for the seven-county Western Region. Understanding the region’s labour market is important for effective job creation, enterprise and skills policy.

In 2014 the Western Region’s adult population was just over 600,000 with 350,000 active in the labour force. Its labour force has contracted since 2012, largely because of outward migration, and is characterised by higher part-time, under- and self-employment, for both men and women. These are distinct differences in the nature of the region’s labour market that may point to certain weaknesses which need to be addressed by tailored job creation actions for the region.

Western Regions adult populatin diagram

 

Some of the key findings of the analysis are:

  1. Lower labour force participation in the Western Region: A smaller share of the Western Region’s adult population is engaged in the labour market and therefore economically active. The region’s participation rate in 2014 is 57.7% compared with 60.1% in the rest of the state. As human capital is among the most critical factors for regional economic development, this has negative implications for the region’s economic growth and viability. The higher level of economic dependency, resulting from the larger proportion of the population outside of the labour force, also has important social impacts and increases the need for state transfers.
  2. Higher share of self-employment: The region has a higher share of self-employment (without employees) than the rest of the state – 16.3% of all employment in the region compared with 11.4% in the rest of the state. This increases the importance of policy and supports to facilitate the self-employed to establish and sustain their businesses, such as soft business supports, quality broadband, networking, etc. Many may work from home or are mobile and are engaged in local services and therefore outside the remit of the enterprise agencies. They play a particularly significant role in sustaining rural communities and economies. This role, and their needs, requires further investigation and policy focus.
  3. Higher share of part-time working and recent jobs growth more likely to be part-time: There is a higher degree of part-time working in the region with 25.7% of all jobs in the region in 2014 part-time, compared with 23.5% in the rest of the state. Recent jobs growth has also been more likely to be part-time in the region than elsewhere. While part-time working can play an important role for those with caring and other commitments, the greater share of recent jobs growth in the region that is part-time raises some concerns over the nature of employment and the quality of recent jobs growth. A focus on stimulating more full-time jobs should be built into job creation policy for the region.
  4. Lower employment growth: Employment in the region grew over 2012-2014 by 1.4% but this was less than in the rest of the state (3.9%). The jobs recovery in the region is lagging that elsewhere. Initiatives to stimulate and facilitate job creation in regional locations are required to address the region’s weaker jobs performance.
  5. Declining unemployment influenced by out-migration: Unemployment has declined by 28.4% since 2012 but this has only partially been caused by jobs growth. The greater part is due to the loss of unemployed people from the region, either overseas or to other parts of Ireland. The decline in unemployment in the region has been stronger than elsewhere, leading to its unemployment rate dropping below that in the rest of the state (11.5% compared with 12.1% in 2014), reflecting the significant impact of out-migration on the region’s labour market.
  6. Higher youth unemployment rate: The Western Region has a higher youth (15-24 yrs) unemployment rate, 29.2% compared with 24.6% in the rest of the state. As the region has a lower total unemployment rate, this indicates that youth unemployment is a more serious challenge for the region. High youth unemployment can have very significant long-term impacts, as a period of unemployment at a young age can hinder the person’s career prospects and earnings potential. The needs of young jobseekers in the Western Region should be a key policy priority, nationally and for the region, both to prevent them from falling into long-term unemployment and also to reduce out-migration.

These aspects of the Western Region’s labour market should inform the development of the upcoming Action Plan for Jobs for the West, Border and Mid-West regions. The distinctive characteristics of the region’s labour market profile should influence which policies are prioritised for the region and the sectors of focus for job creation strategies. A new WDC Insights on the Western Region’s sectoral profile will be published in coming weeks.

Download two-page WDC Insights WDC Insights-The Western Region’s Labour Market-April 2015 (PDF 0.2MB)

Download full WDC report The Western Region’s Labour Market 2004-2014-WDC Report March 2015 (PDF 2.5MB)

Pauline White

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

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

Rural Broadband – RTE’s Morning Edition

Deirdre Frost, WDC was interviewed by Keelin Shanley on RTE Television’s Morning Edition programme for a story on Rural Broadband and the Government’s plans for Next Generation broadband rollout.

The programme featured Minister White, explaining the process and timeline for the rollout of quality broadband to rural areas. The segment was aired on Monday 22nd September 2014.

You can watch the segment here at 1hour 25 mins into the programme http://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/10326333/ (available until 13 October).

The WDC has published various reports on rural broadband, with its most recent publication arguing the case for Next Generation Broadband rollout to Rural Areas.

Connecting-the-West-report-cover-dec12Connecting the West: Next Generation Broadband in the Western Region is available for download here

Deirdre Frost

Business Demography

The WDC has just published its analysis of the CSO Business Demography data (2011) which shows there were nearly 31,000 active enterprises operating in the Western Region. At 0.057 the average number of enterprises per working age person in the region was lower than that in the rest of the state (0.062).

Overall the Western Region’s enterprise base was more significantly damaged by the recession than elsewhere. Between 2006 and 2011 the decline in enterprise numbers in the Western Region was nearly twice that in the rest of the state (-18.4% compared with -9.8%).  The region’s largest enterprise sectors experienced the greatest declines.

Some sectors did show growth. Enterprise numbers in ‘education’, ‘information and communications’, ‘real estate’ and ‘professional, scientific and technical activities’ increased. While growth in these knowledge intensive sectors is very welcome, they continue to be less important to the region’s enterprise profile.

The Western Region has a less diverse enterprise profile than the rest of the state. It has a higher share of enterprises in sectors that mainly serve local, domestic or tourist markets, while knowledge intensive services account for a lower share of the region’s businesses. The region’s more urban counties tend to have greater enterprise diversity, with rural counties’ economies more concentrated by sector.

A WDC Insights summary or a more detailed WDC Report on the Business Demography data can be downloaded from https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

Pauline White

Note: This report was completed in late July, prior to the very recent publication of the data for 2012. The WDC’s analysis of the 2012 Business Demography data will be published soon.