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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.