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

Women, men and the jobs recovery

In previous posts we’ve looked at the Western Region’s Labour Market and its Sectoral Profile, but how do these patterns differ by gender? Is the current jobs recovery impacting on men and women differently?

While jobs growth is underway in the country as a whole, as well as in the Western Region (though at a lower level), this has mainly been driven by growth in male jobs. Between 2012 and 2014 male employment in the rest of the state (all counties other than the seven counties of the Western Region) increased by 5.9% compared with 1.6% growth in female employment. In the Western Region over the same period, 2.9% growth in male jobs was in contrast to a -0.4% decline in the number of women at work. Women in general do not appear to be benefiting as much as men from the upturn in the labour market, and even more so in the Western Region. Why is this?

Jobs growth in sectors important for male employment, but decline in many female dominated sectors

Much of it stems from the sectoral jobs pattern and the relative performance of male and female dominated sectors. Fig. 1 shows the percentage of male and female jobs in each sector in the Western Region. Public and local services are the main areas of employment for women. The biggest gender difference is in Health and Social Work which accounts for 22% of women’s jobs compared with 4.3% of men’s. A total of 41.1% of working women in the region work in the predominantly public sectors (Health, Education & Public Administration). For men the figure is just 12.9%. Any reduction or lack of growth in public sector jobs has a far greater impact on women’s employment.

Accommodation and Food Service, ‘Other NACE Activities’, Financial, Insurance and Real Estate, and Administrative and Support Services also account for a greater share of women’s than men’s jobs. These are all predominantly local services which have been impacted by limited domestic demand.

Industry, Agriculture, Construction, and Transport and Storage are the most male dominated sectors. Industry accounts for twice as large a share of all male jobs as female. For the others, their share of all female jobs is very low. It is notable that the knowledge services sector of Information and Communication, often seen as a key future growth area, accounts for a far higher share of male than female jobs.

Fig. 1: Percentage of employment by sector and gender in the Western Region, Q1 2014 (Source:  CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Fig. 1: Percentage of employment by sector and gender in the Western Region, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Between 2012 and 2014 half of sectors (7 of 14) experienced an increase in employment in the Western Region (Fig. 2). Industry, Agriculture, Wholesale and Retail, and Accommodation and Food Service, the four largest male employment sectors, all experienced jobs growth. This contributed to the overall 2.9% growth in male jobs between 2012 and 2014.

However jobs in Health and Education declined in the region, while they rose in the rest of the state. Combined with declines in Finance, Other Services and Public Administration (all of which are more important female employers) these sectoral declines contributed to the -0.4% decline in women’s jobs in the region. The contraction of employment in Health and Education in particular has significant implications for women’s jobs, particularly in more rural areas of the region which have higher dependence on these sectors, partly due to limited alternative professional or clerical career opportunities.

Fig. 2: Percentage change in employment by sector in the Western Region and rest of the state, Q1 2012 to Q1 2014 (Source:  CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Fig. 2: Percentage change in employment by sector in the Western Region and rest of the state, Q1 2012 to Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Lower female participation

A distinct gender pattern obvious from Fig. 3  and Fig. 4 is the higher proportion of men who are active in the labour force. The region’s male labour force participation rate is 65.2% compared with a female rate of 50.4%. The gender gap in participation rates narrowed during the recession as participation among men, particularly young men, fell very dramatically while female rates remained steady. However 2014 saw some widening of the gender gap again as the female rate declined and the male rate rose. The weaker recent female jobs performance may be contributing to declining female participation in the labour market.

Fig. 3: Economic status of Western Region’s male population aged 15 years and over, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 1. Special run)

Fig. 3: Economic status of Western Region’s male population aged 15 years and over, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 1. Special run)

Higher male unemployment but gap narrowing

Despite the stronger recent growth in male jobs, there is still a far greater number of unemployed men in the region than women – 26,200 compared with 14,400 (Fig. 3 and Fig. 4). The massive increase in unemployment from 2008 was initially concentrated among men, given the job losses in building and related sectors, before spreading more widely across the domestic economy leading to rising female job losses (though at a lower level).

The fall in unemployment since 2012 has been stronger among men than women; meaning that while the unemployment rates for both sexes have declined, the rate of decline has been stronger among men, narrowing the gender gap. In 2012 there was a 5.5 percentage point gap, which narrowed to 4.0 percentage points by 2014 when the region’s male unemployment rate was 13.3% and the female 9.3%. Unemployment continues to be higher among men but the difference is declining.

Fig. 4: Economic status of Western Region’s female population aged 15 years and over, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 1. Special run)

Fig. 4: Economic status of Western Region’s female population aged 15 years and over, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 1. Special run)

Note: The percentages refer to the share of the adult population in each category. Therefore the percentage unemployed is not the same as the unemployment rate which refers to the number unemployed as a percentage of those in the labour force and not of the entire adult population.

Greater part-time working among women

The other key feature of Fig. 3  and Fig. 4 is the far greater share and level of part-time working among women. In 2014 almost twice as many women (52,600) as men (27,500) in the region were working part-time. As a proportion of total employment this was 37.4% of all working women compared with 16.1% of working men. A key aspect is the extent to which part-time working is by choice or involuntary. If a person would prefer to be working full-time (if a full-time job were available) they are considered to be part-time underemployment. For men who are working part-time, 40% are underemployed but for women it is 27%. The extent to which women choose part-time work is very often related to greater caring responsibilities and the availability (or lack) of appropriate and affordable care provision.

For both men and women the share working part-time is higher in the Western Region than the rest of the state. In the case of women, part-time working in the region has increased since 2012 (rising from 35.3% to 37.4%) while it has remained unchanged for women in the rest of the state and declined slightly among men in the region. Not only has total female employment in the region declined since 2012, but a greater proportion of those who are working are working part-time.

This analysis raises serious questions in relation to not only the spatial pattern of the current jobs recovery but also the gender pattern. Women in the Western Region appear to be experiencing the poorest jobs recovery; compared with men and also with women living elsewhere. The concentration of female jobs in public services and the recent employment declines in these sectors in the region seems to be one of the main reasons, a trend that requires further investigation.

Pauline White