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Travelling from the Western Region to work in Dublin. How has it changed and Why?

The Western Development Commission (WDC) recently published a report on Travel to Work patterns in the Western Region. Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments (2018) is available for download here.

The report draws on Census 2016 POWCAR data to examine the travel to work patterns in centres with a population greater than 1,000 across the Western Region. The analysis, undertaken by the All Island Research Observatory (AIRO), contains a detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region, namely: Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon.

Travelling to Dublin City for Work

Of particular interest is the place of work of residents living in the Western Region and how this has changed in the last 10 years when the WDC conducted the same analysis based on Census 2006 data. In this blogpost we examine the numbers travelling to work in Dublin city from these seven centres and the extent to which this has changed over the last decade.

From the analysis of 2006 Census of Population data and accompanying report, (published in 2009), see here , the numbers travelling to work in Dublin city from each of the catchments in the Western Region ranged from 73 (Roscommon) to 411 in the Galway city labour catchment. These figures represented 1.0% and 0.63% of the total catchment size respectively, see Table 1 below.

Table 1. Numbers travelling to Dublin city from labour catchments in Western Region, Size of catchment and Share of catchment travelling to work in Dublin, 2006 and 2016.

Examining the same data 10 years on there is quite an obvious change. Though both periods are similar in that they are characterised by strong employment and economic growth, across each of the catchments there is a considerable increase in the numbers travelling to work in Dublin city. It is also notable that while the relative population size of each of the catchments all increased, the rate of increase is not that significant. Therefore the share of the total in each catchment travelling to work in Dublin city is much greater in 2016 than it had been in 2006, now ranging from 1% in Letterkenny to 3.5% in Carrick-on-Shannon.

So the numbers and the share of all resident workers in each catchment travelling to work in Dublin has all increased considerably and has generally doubled or in some cases nearly trebled (for example Ennis and Roscommon).

So what are the factors behind this change?

  • Improved transport between Dublin and the regions is also important; the example of Carrick-on- Shannon and Letterkenny applies here. The improved road and motorway networks serving Limerick (Ennis), Galway and to a lesser extent Sligo as well as intercity rail services, all make journey times quicker.
  • Better job opportunities and the relative the lack of opportunities in the regions is another key factor. There is no doubt that especially for more senior or more specialised positions, most of these are located in Dublin. For those living in the Region and who want to progress up the career ladder, work in Dublin may be the only option.
  • The economic crash between 2006 and 2016 and ensuing high unemployment, may have forced people living in the Western Region to take up positions in the Capital, ‘in the short-term’, but the short-term has turned into the long-term, especially in the absence of good opportunities closer to home.
  • It is also possible that many of these positions, while based in Dublin, allow for some degree of flexibility and working from home for a day or two during the week. This can make the long commute on the alternate days more manageable for some. There is a range of data attempting to measure the incidence of e-working or teleworking and most suggest that it is on the increase. It is also likely to be a factor in retaining key personnel during periods of skills shortages and low unemployment. See WDC publications on e-working here, the Gig economy here and Home-based working here.
  • Finally, geography is an important factor in the relative differences. It is no surprise that the share of the total catchment working in Dublin from Carrick-on-Shannon (3.5%) is much higher than Letterkenny, given its relative proximity.

Accessibility to Jobs

Recent research by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, National Road Network Indicators 2017, see here, shows the changes that have occurred in the road network between 2006 and 2017 and how this has influenced accessibility to jobs, see Page A1 showing the impact of the improved road network linking Dublin and the regions.

The report notes that A significant proportion of the road capital spend from 2013 to 2017 was within the West of the country and this has resulted in improved employment accessibility for these areas. This is to be welcomed but the report also notes that despite this peripheral areas in the North-West, West and South-West and South-East still tend to suffer from poor accessibility to jobs.

It is also worth noting that the decline in accessibility on routes into Dublin, due to ongoing traffic growth, are in part caused by the increased numbers of people from the Western Region travelling to the city to work.

To counter this, to help ease congestion and improve accessibility into Dublin, regional growth needs to be supported and accessibility within the Regions needs to be improved. This will improve interregional mobility, enhance labour catchments and supply in the Regions and make it more attractive to do business there.

Project Ireland 2040

The Project Ireland 2040 National Development Plan 2018-2017 commits to Enhanced Regional Accessibility as National Strategic Outcome 2. This recognises the importance of travel catchments and urban centres and their regions. From a Western perspective it is also welcome that it acknowledges the need to invest in transport to the North West which has been comparatively neglected until recently.

From an interregional perspective, the commitment to deliver the Atlantic Corridor, linking Cork, Limerick, Galway and Sligo is very important. Enhancing this network will improve travel to work times within the region, helping to improve accessibility and improving job prospects for residents within the Region. It will also hopefully make the region more attractive for new job creation. While the Plan notes that the Atlantic Corridor will be delivered progressively, it is hoped that it will be completed as timely as possible, both for those commuters who wish to find work closer to home and to realise the wider objectives of regional growth under Project Ireland 2040.

County labour markets in the Western Region: what’s happening?

Last week, the WDC published eight new WDC Insights publications.  Each of these two-page publications examines the labour market of a Western Region county, with Galway City and County examined separately. The analysis is based on data from Census 2016.

Each of the WDC Insights outlines the Principal Economic Status and Labour Force status of the county’s adult population (15+ yrs), compared with the state average, as well as the sectors where the county’s residents work and how this has changed since 2011.

In this blog post, I’ll focus on Principal Economic and Labour Force Status. A future blog post will examine the sectoral pattern of employment.  Below is a summary of the Principal Economic Status of the adult population of each of the western counties.  Scroll down to find your county!

1.  Clare

Clare had a total population of 118,817 in 2016 – 7.1% higher than a decade earlier. The county has a labour force of 56,529 or 60% of its adult population. The labour force includes both the number of people at work and those looking for work. This figure is up 0.7% on the previous Census, compared with 3.2% growth nationally.The number of persons at work, at 49,511, represents 53.1% of the adult population, compared to a state average of 53.4%. Total employment in the county grew 8.6% between 2011 and 2016, lower than the national average of 11%. The share of self-employed in Clare is far higher than the national average, 10.4% compared with 8.3%.  Given the county’s location between two large cities, commuting is an important factor. Almost 10,000 or one in five workers are travelling outside of the county for work. The figures do not include the 5,636 people who travel into Clare from elsewhere for work.

At 7,018, the 7.5% share of the county’s adults who are unemployed is slightly lower than the national average of 7.9%.  Of the 40% of Clare’s adults who are outside the labour force, those who are retired are the largest group at 16.1%, which is higher than the national average. Clare has a lower than average share of its population unable to work due to disability and illness and a lower share of students and pupils.

2.  Donegal

Donegal had a total population of 159,192 in 2016 – 8.1% higher than a decade earlier.  However, the county’s population has dropped by 1.2% compared to the last Census (2011) – one of only two counties nationally where population declined. The other is Mayo.The county has a labour force of 71,182, down 1.3% on 2011, compared with a 3.2% growth nationally.  Donegal is one of just six counties where the labour force shrank in the past five years. Other counties in the Western Region where the labour force shrank include Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim.  Outside of the Western Region, only Tipperary also had a decline.

The number of Donegal residents at work is 58,353, representing 47% of the adult population compared to a state average of 53.4%.  Total employment in Donegal grew 9.5% between 2011 and 2016 – below the 11% national average.  Commuting — including across the border — is an important factor and 10% of those employed commute outside of the county.

At 12,829, the 10.3% share of the county’s adults who are unemployed is the second highest in the state (after Longford), and considerably above the national average (7.9%).  The share of Donegal’s adults who are outside the labour force (42.7%) is substantially above the national average of 38.1%. The number of ‘retired’ among these is also considerably above the national average at 18% compared with 14.5%.  The county also has a higher share unable to work due to disability and illness, but its share of students and pupils is below the national average, despite the presence of a third-level institution.

3.  Galway City

Galway City had a total population of 78,668 in 2016, up 8.6% on a decade earlier.  It had a labour force of 40,126, 61.3% of its adult population.  This figure is up 3.4% on the previous Census compared with a 3.2% growth nationally.

The number of City residents at work is 34,951 (53.4% of its adult population) which is the same as the national share.  Total employment in Galway City grew 10.8% between 2011 and 2016, on a par with national growth.  At 5,175, the 7.9% of adults who are unemployed in the City is similar to the national average.

Of those adults outside the labour force, Galway City is the only local authority area in the Western Region where students, not retirees, form the largest group (17.1%). The figures relate to the resident population of the City, so those living elsewhere but commuting into the City for work are not counted here but those living in the City but working outside of it are.

4.  Galway County

Galway County had a total population of 179,390 in 2016 12.6% higher than a decade ago.  It had a labour force of 85,054, 61.3% of its adult population – the same share as Galway City. Galway County’s labour force is up 0.6% since 2011; this compared with a 3.2% growth nationally.

The number of Galway County residents at work is 75,116 (54.1% of all adults) compared to a national average of 53.4%. Total employment grew by 8.5% between 2011 and 2016 compared with the national average of 11%.  The figures relate to the resident population of Galway County, so those living in the County but commuting into the City for work are included in the figures but those commuting to work in Galway County are not included.

At 9,938, the 7.2% of Galway County residents who are unemployed is slightly lower than the national average.  Of those adults outside the labour force, retired is the largest group at 14.8% just slightly above the national average.

5.  Leitrim

Leitrim had a total population of 32,044 in 2016 —10.7% higher than a decade earlier.  It has a labour force of 14,891 or 59.3% of the adult population.  This figure is down 0.9% on the previous Census, compared with 3.2% growth nationally.  Leitrim is one of just six counties in the state where the labour force shrank.The number of persons at work, at 12,728, represents 50.7% of the adult population compared to a state average of 53.4%.  Total employment in the county grew 6.3% between 2011 and 2016 — compared to the national average of 11%.   The county’s labour force differs most strongly from the national pattern in self-employment with Leitrim having a far higher share — 10.3% compared with 8.3%.

One out of every three workers living in County Leitrim are reliant on employment outside of the county.  Of the 12,728 working Leitrim residents, 4,210 travel outside of the county to their place of employment. The figures do not include 2,184 people who travel into Leitrim from elsewhere for work.

At 2,163, the 8.6% share of the county’s adults who are unemployed is above the 7.9% national average.  Of the 40.7% of Leitrim’s adults who are outside the labour force, those who are retired are the largest group at 18.1%, higher than the national average of 14.5%.  Leitrim has a higher-than-average share of its population unable to work due to disability and illness and a lower share of students and pupils.

6.  Mayo

Mayo had a total population of 130,507 in 2016, down 0.1% on 2011 figures.  Mayo and Donegal are the only two counties nationally where the population declined.  Mayo had a labour force of 60,030 or 57.7% of its adult population. This figure is notably below the national average of 61.9% and represents a decline of 1.5% on the previous Census, compared with 3.2% growth nationally.  Mayo is one of only six counties where the labour force shrank.The number of persons at work, at 51,439, represents 49.5% of the adult population, compared to a state average of 53.4%.  Employment in Mayo grew by just 4.8% in the past five years — the second lowest growth in the state (after Sligo) and below the national average of 11%.  Commuting is an important factor with more people commuting outside the county to work than those travelling to work in Mayo.  Almost 10% of those employed commutes outside of the county for work.

At 8,591, the 8.3% share of the county’s adults who are unemployed is higher than the national average of 7.9%.  The number of retired in Mayo is the highest in the state, accounting for 19.3% of all adults compared to a national average of 14.5%.

7.  Roscommon

Roscommon had a total population of 64,544 in 2016 – 9.8% higher than a decade earlier.  The county has a labour force of 29,666 or 60% of its adult population. The labour force includes both the number of people at work and those looking for work.  This figure is down 1.9% on the previous Census, compared with 3.2% growth nationally. Roscommon is one of just six counties in the state where the labour force declined.The number of persons at work, at 25,819, represents 50.7% of the adult population, compared to a state average of 53.4%.  Total employment in Roscommon grew 5.9% between 2011 and 2016 – significantly lower than the national average of 11%.  Commuting is an important factor with 9,220 people who live in Roscommon travelling outside the county to work.  The 3,847 people who live outside Roscommon but travel into the county for work are not counted here.

At 3,847, the 7.6% share of the county’s adults who are unemployed is slightly lower than the national average of 7.9%.  Reflecting Roscommon’s older age profile, at 17.2% the share of adults who are retired makes up the largest group outside of the labour force, compared to a state average of 14.5%.

8.  Sligo

Sligo had a total population of 65,535 in 2016 – 7.6% higher than a decade earlier.  The county has a labour force of 30,252 or 57.9% of its adult population. This is notably lower than the national average of 61.9%. The labour force includes both the number of people at work and those looking for work. The Sligo figure is down 2.6% on the previous Census, compared with 3.2% growth nationally. It is one of just six counties in the state where the labour force fell.Just under half (49.8%) of Sligo’s adults are ‘at work’ — below the 53.4% national average. Sligo has suffered the lowest employment growth of any county in the past five years. Total employment grew by just 2.2% between 2011 and 2016, significantly below the 11% national growth and the lowest of any county in the state. Sligo has a somewhat higher share of self-employed – 9% compared with the national average of 8.3%.

These figures count the resident population of the county. But Sligo has a positive balance when it comes to commuting with more people travelling into the county to work (3,730) than travel out of it (3,203). Those who come into the county for work are not counted here but those who commute out of Sligo are.

Sligo’s share of unemployed is close to the national average. People who are retired form the largest group among those outside the labour force and at 17.7% of the adult population, their share is considerably higher than the average of 14.5%, reflecting the county’s older age profile.  Sligo also has a higher share of people unable to work due to disability or illness as well as a higher share of students and pupils, influenced by the location of IT Sligo and St Angela’s College in the county.

All eight WDC Insights can be downloaded here

Self-employment increases by 10,000 in Western Region

The biggest change in the Western Region’s labour market over the past year has been an exceptionally rapid expansion in self-employment.  According to a special run of the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey for Quarter 1 2016 for the Western Region, between Quarter 1 2015 and Quarter 1 2016 the number of people in the Western Region who are self-employed grew by 15.4%. That was an increase of 10,000 people, from 65,000 up to 75,000.  This was in sharp contrast to the change in the number of people who were working as employees in the region, which actually declined marginally over the same period -0.2% (from 249,600 down to 249,200).

There has been a steady upward trend in the numbers self-employed in the region since 2012, but 2016 was marked by an exceptionally large rise (Fig. 1). From Fig. 1 it can be seen that the number of self-employed who are employing others actually declined between 2012 and 2014 but has grown strongly since.  Indeed between 2015 and 2016 this type of self-employment increased by a quarter (up 25%).  The strong growth in the number with employees is a very positive indication of the growth potential of some of these businesses. Currently there are 19,000 people self-employed and employing others in the Western Region.

Self-employed with no paid employees is by far the more common type of self-employment however.  This has grown in each year since 2012, except 2015, and increased by 12.4% in the past year to now stand at 56,000. This type of self-employment plays a key role in ensuring that people can continue to live and work in smaller towns and rural areas.

Fig. 1: Number of self-employed persons in the Western Region, with and without paid employees, Q1 2016. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2016, special run

Fig. 1: Number of self-employed persons in the Western Region, with and without paid employees, Q1 2016. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2016, special run

The growth in self-employment was the sole driver of any jobs growth that took place in the Western Region in this period.  The total number of people at work in the region rose by 3.5% between Q1 2015 and Q1 2016 and this was entirely due to self-employment.

Contrast to situation in rest of the state

The massive growth in self-employment between 2015 and 2016 was unique to the Western Region.  For the rest of the state (all other counties in Ireland combined) the number of self-employed people actually fell during this period by -1.3%, it was the same for those with and without employees.  The number of people working as employees grew however (up 2.8%) in contrast to the decline experienced in the Western Region.

Total jobs growth in the rest of the state was lower than that in the region (2.2% v 3.5%) over the period and the region’s stronger overall performance was caused by people creating their own jobs. While the region had stronger jobs growth during 2015-2016, over the longer period since 2012 the region has had lower growth.  The total number in employment rose by 6.4% in the Western Region between 2012 and 2016, but by 8.7% in the rest of the state.

High share of all jobs are in self-employment

The Western Region’s labour market differs markedly from that elsewhere.  The recent growth in self-employment in the region has further reinforced its key role.  22.9% of people at work in the Western Region work for themselves, while in the rest of the state it is 15.2% (Fig. 2).

In the rest of the state the share of self-employed has not fluctuated a great deal over the past decade.  There was only a 1.5 percentage point difference between the highest and lowest years.  In the Western Region, volatility has been far greater with a 4.3 percentage point difference between the highest (2016) and lowest (2012) years.  It is notable that the share now in 2016 is even higher than it was in 2007 or 2008 when self-employment in the construction sector would have been at its highest.

Fig. 2: Total self-employment as a percentage of total number in employment in Western Region and rest of state, Q1 2007 – Q1 2016. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2016, special run

Fig. 2: Total self-employment as a percentage of total number in employment in Western Region and rest of state, Q1 2007 – Q1 2016. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2016, special run

Reasons for growth

The underlying factors driving strong self-employment growth in the region are varied and complex.  The relative lack of more standard forms of job opportunities, especially in smaller towns and more rural areas can mean that in order to remain living in these areas people need to choose the option of self-employment.  General trends in the world of work such as the growth of the so-called ‘gig economy’, contract working and trends to outsourcing of certain services and activities by larger companies (e.g. transport) is also driving growth in self-employment, though whether such trends would manifest themselves more strongly in the Western Region is unclear.

The other key explanation for the growth in self-employment, while employee numbers fell, was the sectoral pattern of jobs growth during this period.  At a sectoral level the strongest jobs growth by far was in accommodation & food service, perhaps partly influenced by the Wild Atlantic Way tourism initiative as well as increasing domestic demand, followed by transportation & storage and construction (Fig. 3) all of which are sectors that show high levels of self-employment.

Fig. 3: Percentage change in number in employment by sector in Western Region, Q1 2015 - Q1 2016. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2016, special run

Fig. 3: Percentage change in number in employment by sector in Western Region, Q1 2015 – Q1 2016. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2016, special run

The 2014 Business Demography data showed that in the Western Region 88.8% of those working in accommodation & food service enterprises were employees with the remainder (11.2%) either owners or relatives.  In the rest of the state only 6.5% were owners/relatives showing greater self-employment in this sector in the region.  For transport the share of owners/relatives was 33.7% in the region compared with 21.5% in the rest of the state while for construction the difference was 43.4% in the region compared with 30.1% elsewhere. The three sectors with the strongest jobs growth in the Western Region between 2015 and 2016 all exhibit a far greater extent of self-employment in the region.

In contrast, industry, the sector which has the highest share of employees (96%) and therefore the lowest share of self-employment (4%), actually had jobs decline in the Western Region between 2015 and 2016.  The predominantly public service sectors of education, health and public administration, which would have low shares of self-employment, also reduced employment over the past year.

Conclusion

Increasingly, jobs growth in the Western Region is driven by self-employment and far more so than in the rest of the state.  This has significant implications for how jobs growth in the region is being, and can be, supported and encouraged.  It shows the importance of supports for the self-employed including issues around social protection, enterprise supports especially soft supports as many may be in locally trading sectors not eligible for grant aid, work space, broadband access and opportunities for networking.  The growth in the number of self-employed with employees is very positive and shows the potential contribution of the self-employed to jobs growth.  It also shows the importance of making it as easy as possible for the self-employed to begin hiring employees as well as the provision of information and advice on employment law and employee rights.

At the same time, these figures raise concerns about the capacity of job creation in other types of businesses, as the number of employees actually declined in the past year in the region while growing elsewhere. This seems to have been due to employment in the predominantly public sectors of education and health (significant employers) falling in the region, while growing in the rest of the state.  Jobs in industry and information & communications also declined.  We will return to the topic of 2016’s sectoral employment performance in a future post, but for now it is important to note that in the Western Region those sectors driven by self-employment are strongly out-performing the others.

Pauline White