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WDC Submission on Draft RSES for Southern Region

This week the WDC made a submission to the public consultation being held by the Southern Regional Assembly on their Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.  The submission is available here.

As we’ve provided substantial input previously (available here) to the preparation of the Draft RSES, in this submission we mainly comment on the specific text and content of the Draft RSES document.

County Clare is the only county within the Southern Assembly region that is also under the remit of the Western Development Commission, therefore this submission largely focuses on the questions as they pertain to County Clare.

Some of the general comments contained in our submission include:

Role of Ennis

Apart from Ennis being a key economic and residential centre, Ennis is the county capital and link to rural parts of County Clare. This role is clearly evident in the extent of the Ennis labour catchment which extends across much of the County, with the exception of the Kilrush labour catchment to the south west of the county and the Shannon labour catchment to the south, see Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region (WDC 2018) here. This role should be maintained and harnessed to support the growth and development of Rural County Clare.

Our Region’s Economic Engines

Discussion of ‘achieving convergence between where people live and work’ needs to recognise the opportunity of remote working, either for people to work from home or a hub located close to their home.  It also needs to be recognised that job creation in smaller towns, villages and rural areas is another route to such convergence and pursing such convergence should not solely focus on building more houses in cities and other large urban centres.

Galway-Ennis-Shannon-Limerick (GESL) Economic Network

The Galway-Ennis-Shannon-Limerick Economic Network is actually a segment of the Atlantic Economic Corridor. It may currently be the most cohesive segment, given the proximity and strong ties between the centres, especially Limerick-Shannon and Ennis centres, with increasing economic activity between Galway, Ennis and Limerick supported by recent investments in improved transport connectivity especially the M18. This network can help support regional growth in both the Southern and Northern and Western Regions. In addition this segment of the network can point to how to improve and develop the cohesiveness of the broader Atlantic Economic Corridor.

Shannon Airport

The role of Shannon Airport needs to be further supported and enhanced. Though the National Aviation Policy (2015) does recognise the key role of Shannon Airport, the policy was developed well before the National Planning Framework which attempts to redirect growth away from ‘business as usual’.  However since then, there is ever greater concentration of international traffic at Dublin Airport. The RSES should advocate for a revised National Aviation Policy so as to fully support the regional population and employment targets. In the absence of a change in policy it is not clear how the Airports and Ports in the Southern Region can realise a stable or ideally a growing share of traffic.

 Limerick-Shannon MASP

The Limerick-Shannon MASP is different to others in that it is connecting two separate urban centres, albeit economically interdependent urban centres. As Limerick is the larger centre there is understandably much focus on it. The focus is also on connecting Limerick and Shannon Airport/Free Zone. The development and transport requirements of Shannon town itself should also be prioritised, to promote Shannon as an attractive place to live as well as work.

The full submission is available here.

Following the public consultation (which closed on 8 March) the SRA will prepare a report on issues raised in submissions/observations and recommend whether the RSES should be made with or without amendments. It may necessary to hold another phase of public consultation before the RSES can be finalised. You can check for updates on the process here.

 

Deirdre Frost

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

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.

The Southern Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy – Beyond Cities

The newly published National Planning Framework (NPF) Ireland 2040 sets out regional targets for each of the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies to deliver within their respective regions. The WDC recently made a submission on the Strategy for both the Northern and Western and the Southern Region, as the WDC region extends across parts of both.

A recent blogpost highlighted some of the issues the WDC considers relevant to the Northern and Western Region Strategy and the full submission can be downloaded here (or you can read the summary here). Here we examine some of the issues we highlight in our Submission to the Strategy for the Southern Region, available here and the summary is available here.

Cities

While most of the WDC region is in the Northern and Western Region, the WDC region extends into County Clare within the Southern Assembly region. The Southern Region includes three of the five cities (Limerick, Cork and Waterford), while each of the other regions has one city – Dublin in the Eastern & Midlands region), Galway in the Northern and Western Region. As such it would be important that the Southern Region strategy does not become overly city focused. Too often a strategy is made which is supposed to be for all people and areas, but the focus becomes that of cities and other areas are left without appropriate investment. This is a particular concern for the Southern Region Strategy.

While the cities within the Southern Assembly region are outside the remit of the WDC region the influence of cities extends across County Clare.  Galway to the north and Limerick to the South both impact on the residents of County Clare. The WDC has conducted analyses of Labour Catchments and Travel to work areas[1] which provide insights into the travel to work patterns of residents of County Clare and also the labour catchment of Limerick city.

This analysis shows the influence of Limerick city as a place of work for many residents of southern and eastern Clare and this has shown an increase since a similar analysis was done based on Census 2006. Just under 10,000 (9,647) workers live in that part of the Limerick city labour catchment which extends into Co. Clare, illustrating the importance of Limerick city as a place of work for residents of South-East Clare.

Labour catchments and their geographic reach provide important insights into the roles of urban centres and their hinterlands and consideration of these should inform the RSES. This will inform consideration of their strategies and defining the boundaries of the Metropolitan Area Strategic Plans as they exist and extend beyond local authority boundaries.

Lack of employment opportunities in towns as well as cities will be the key barrier to achieving the Draft NPF targeted levels of 20-25% growth. The employment centres of Ennis and Shannon in particular are key and ensuring that these centres attract and retain employment opportunities will be a key determinant in the achievement of the targets.

Ennis

After Kilkenny, Ennis is the largest urban centre outside of the cities and is the fifth largest urban centre in the Southern Assembly region. While the Southern Assembly region contains thirteen towns with a population greater than 10,000, just one of these – Ennis is located in Co. Clare.

Larger regional towns such as Ennis which are quite close to cities (Limerick and Galway) can benefit from good connectivity and economic spill overs. In the case of Ennis, proximity to Shannon as an employment centre is also a driver.

Forthcoming analysis by the WDC identifies the Ennis labour catchment in which the influence of Ennis extends over a large area but is predominately contained within county Clare. While the labour catchment extends to large parts of the county it excludes south western areas which are more influenced by the Kilrush labour catchment to the West and the Galway City labour catchment to the north ( which extends into north-west Clare in areas close to Fanore and Ballyvaughan). Ennis is still the dominant labour catchment for parts of east Clare (Tulla and Feakle) but east of this area is mainly under the influence of Limerick City which acts as a major destination for residents of south-east Clare.

Shannon

The WDC considers that Shannon should also be considered in the category of larger centre with population in excess of 10,000 – as its resident population of 9,729 is just below the threshold used and it is a more significant employment destination than its resident population would suggest. The CSO identifies the ‘daytime population‘[2] which includes those travelling into work and study as well as those that are normally resident there and who do not travel to work or study. It is clear from the significantly larger ‘daytime population’ that Shannon attracts a large influx of people to work there, both at the airport and among the 100+ international firms located there.

Rural Areas

Realising Clare’s Rural Potential, Clare Rural Development Strategy 2026, was published in 2016. Focussing on community development and community run social enterprises, development will take a partnership approach with communities and agencies working together. It details a range of actions designed to target a reversal of population decline across parts of Rural Clare. The strategy aims to deliver 4,000 jobs in rural areas over 10 years and challenges the presumption that urban living is the only model for growth. There are useful insights into innovative approaches to rural development which could benefit other rural communities across the Southern region.

It is essential that the NPF, the Regional Strategy and the Action Plan for Rural Areas work in a coherent manner to provide a strong policy and strategic basis for regional and rural action which are focussed on improving economic opportunities for people living in rural communities. Furthermore national goals must align with regional strategies and county and local plans and across all sectors.

The Southern Region is different to the others in that it has three cities within its remit, with one city each in the other regions. It will be important that the Southern Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy does not become overly city focused and that it considers the needs and opportunities in all those places between cities – such as County Clare as well as the rural areas within its Region.

The WDC Submission to the Strategy for the Southern Region is available here with the summary available here.

 

[1] Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region (forthcoming) analysis by AIRO for WDC based on POWSCAR Census of Population 2016.

[2] http://census.cso.ie/p11map41/

 

Developing a Strategy for the Northern and Western Region

The Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western Region will implement the targets set out in the newly published National Planning Framework (NPF) Ireland 2040.  The WDC recently made a submission on the Issues Paper for the Strategy for the Northern and Western region and it can be downloaded here (or you can read the summary here).

The Northern and Western Region probably has the most challenging targets to meet in Ireland 2040 with a target of a population increase of 160,000-180,000 people and 115,000 jobs in the region.  However, when broken down into annual growth rates over the next 21 years (2019-2040) the targets appear more manageable,  For example the target that larger towns should grow by 40% to 2040 is an annualised growth rate of 1.62% p.a. for 21 years while rural population growth of 15% over the period amounts to less one percent (0.67%) annual growth.  Galway, which has the largest growth target of 50-60% to achieve a population of at least 120,000 can do this with an annual growth rate of 1.95%.  Nonetheless, these are ambitious targets and achieving them will need considerable resources and direction.

Ireland 2040 also places a significant responsibility on the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) in particular and the urban centres of Galway, Sligo and Letterkenny, as well as other large towns, as the key drivers in the region.  Some of these urban centres, which are targeted for 40% growth in the NWRA area, are not very well connected though they may be well located to serve as a driver for their region. These towns need their connectivity improvements prioritised so that they have some chance to achieve the planned targets.

Successful, sustainable regional growth will require a clear Strategy with strong goals and objectives, appropriate resources, a well-developed implementation process and an implementation body with the capacity, resources and powers to achieve co-ordinated action.

Population & Employment

As was noted throughout the WDC submission, the solution to maintaining and growing the regional population is the availability of employment, which in turn requires supporting policy for infrastructural development, a strategy for education and skills and stimulation of entrepreneurship and enterprise growth.  Infrastructure, the ‘3Es’ (Enterprise, Employment and Education) and Innovation are the key levers for regional development.  When they work together they drive regional growth.  Each has a distinctive role, and needs its own policy focus, but they are most effective when addressed through an integrated policy approach.

The RSES should be explicit on the targeted location of jobs within the Northern & Western Region and the balance between jobs growth in Galway city, large towns and the rest of the Region.  These targets should be supported by a clear statement on how employment growth at different spatial scales will be facilitated and supported through the RSES.  It is important that the Strategy is clearly focused on creating real opportunities to keep people living in the region and to attract more people, whether to cities, towns or rural areas.

It should be remembered that during the early part of this century (2000-2007), when there was rapid economic growth throughout Ireland, rural areas responded rapidly with significant increases in the numbers employed and in workforce participation and, in turn, in local populations.  The region is ready to respond and targeted policies to stimulate employment and entrepreneurship will help to achieve targets.

The urban hierarchy

Specific details of the role to be played by different areas in the Region’s settlement hierarchy and the investments needed for these areas to fulfil their roles must be included in the Strategy.

In order to ensure that Galway city, the strategically located regional centres of Sligo and Letterkenny, other towns and rural areas all fulfil their regional development potential, with service and infrastructure levels appropriate to each type of area, investment at the appropriate scale needs to happen in all these places.  Too often a strategy is made which is supposed to be for all people and areas, but the focus becomes that of cities and other areas are left without appropriate investment.

In the Northern and Western Region there are only 5 towns (and Galway city, as well as part of Athlone) which have a population of more than 10,000, yet it is a relatively large region in the Irish context.  Therefore the Strategy should focus on the function of towns and the role they pay in their hinterland, rather than being too concerned with population size as a criterion for investment.

The nature and role of the smaller towns including county towns must be considered in more detail in the RSES and in County Development Plans.  It is important to be aware, in the context of the Strategy that these towns, as well as being important drivers of their local economy, are also essential to those living in other even smaller less serviced towns, in villages or in the wider countryside.

Although smaller towns can face significant challenges they also have key assets such as cultural heritage, historic buildings, local businesses and high levels of social capital.  These all provide opportunities for diversification and adaptation of the town and its social network to embrace future opportunities, whether it is improved tourism product, attracting people to live there, or developing knowledge and sectoral clusters such as creative industries.  Many towns have strong indigenous industries which may be exporting and a substantial number have some small scale foreign direct investment.  There are other enterprises and employers too, and important local services sectors and small scale manufacturing serving a local market.  These are very significant parts of the local economy and important local employers.  All of these can be leveraged to support the development of local communities.

Brexit

Brexit is a key strategic issue for the Northern and Western Region.  Cross-border linkages including cross-border commuting, access to services, retail and trade are areas which will undergo massive changes in the context of Brexit.  Planning for how to mitigate the impact of Brexit on border communities and the economy of the Border region in particular must be a core priority of the RSES.

Conclusions

Development of a strong regional spatial and economic strategy for the Northern and Western region will require coordination with central government, local authorities, enterprise agencies, and alignment with the Action Plan for Jobs and the Action Plan for Rural Development as they are developed over time.   The involvement of education providers, employers and people in the region will all be needed to ensure the targets are achieved.  The Strategy should be appropriately resourced (with money, expertise and time, as well as involvement of key stakeholders).  It would be better to have a more focused, limited strategy that can be implemented than a vision which is beyond the possibility of effective implementation.

Of course, the Issues Paper is just the first stage in the process of developing a Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western region.  There are many steps to be gone through, and further consultation, before the Northern and Western Regional Assembly publish a final Strategy, hopefully before the end of the year.

Detailed answers to the questions in the Issues Paper and consideration of specific needs are in the full WDC submission and an overview of key points in the summary.

 

Travel to work profile of workers living in the Western Region

Following on from the WDC Insights Where People in the Western Region Work, this blogpost examines the journey time and means of travel to work for workers resident in the Western Region.

Journey time to work

Figure 1 below, based on Census of Population 2016 data, illustrates the journey time to work of residents in the Western Region[1].

Of the over 300,000 people in the Western Region travelling to work, just under 60% have a journey time of less than ½ hour which is higher than the national average of 52.2% indicating that Western Region workers have shorter journey times on average. However this represents a decline on the figure in 2011 when 61.9% of workers living in the Western region had a journey time of less than ½ hour indicating that travel times are increasing.

Within the Western Region, workers living in Galway city and Sligo have the shortest journey times, with 67.4% and 66.6% respectively having journey times to work of less than ½ hour. Close to two-thirds of workers in Donegal and Mayo – 64.7% and 63.8% respectively also have journey times to work of less than ½ hour.

Fig. 1 Percentage of workers by Journey time to Work, by county, Western Region and State 2016

Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016, Profile 6, Table E6023

Journey times of less than ½ hour are less for workers resident in the counties of Roscommon (59.7%), Clare (59.1%), Leitrim (55%) and County Galway (47.6%), indicating generally longer commutes for people living in these counties reflecting the relatively fewer job opportunities there.

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[1] This data refers to all workers living in the Western Region, regardless of where they work. These figures include not stated & working from home.

In the case of workers living in County Galway, 34.1% have a journey time of between ½ and 1 hour, while a further 8% have a journey time of between 1 hour and 90 minutes suggesting many are making the commute into Galway city and travelling some distance and/or travelling on congested routes.

Means of Travel

The way people travel to work reflects a combination of factors such as the distance they need to travel, the options that are available to them and even the occupations in which they are engaged.

Most workers living in the Western Region travel to work by car 69%, either as a driver or passenger and this is higher than the national average of 62.4%. Only Galway city has a lower than national average rate of car use (58.3%).

Among Western Region residents, the next most popular means of travel to work is by van, where 8.8% of workers in the Western Region travel this way, compared to 6.4% nationally. Some counties in the Western Region have particularly high rates of travel to work by van such as Donegal – 10.7%, Mayo  – 10.6% and Leitrim  – 10.1% and this obviously reflects the occupational profile in these counties. All counties in the Western Region (apart from Galway city) have higher than average rates of travel to work by van.

The third most common means of travel to work for workers in the Western Region is by foot (7.1%) compared to 8.9% nationally. Only Galway way city residents have a higher than national average of travel to work by foot (16.2%).

Travel to work by public transport is very low across the Western Region. Travel to work by bus is the means of travel to work for just 1.8% of workers in the Western Region, in contrast to 5.7% nationally. Within the Western Region, the highest rates of bus use are in Galway city, where 7.7% of workers travel to work this way. There are even fewer who travel to work by train; within the Western Region just 0.2% of workers travel to work by train, compared to 3.2% nationally. It is clear that the relatively low take-up of bus and rail options reflect in part a lack of availability of such services particularly outside the larger centres.

Just 1.3% of workers in the Western Region cycle to work, compared to 2.2% nationally. Within the Western Region the highest rates are in Galway city (4.7%).

Census 2016 provides useful insights into the profile of workers in the Western Region and highlights some wider policy implications such as the need to improve public transport access.

The WDC is currently undertaking an evaluation of travel to work patterns in the context of labour catchments. This forthcoming report, examining the seven principal labour catchments in the Western Region, will examine key labour market characteristics of workers there including the ‘time of departure for work’. It will also provide an analysis of change over the last 10 years and will be published shortly.

 

EI and IDA End of Year Results 2017

Two of the main enterprise development agencies in Ireland recently issued their end of year results for 2017.

Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland issued their end of year statement on 3rd January.  In total, 209,338 people are employed in companies supported by EI.  19,332 new jobs were created by EI-backed companies in 2017.  Enterprise Ireland supports Irish-owned, export focused enterprises.

The end of year results include details at a county level. Fig. 1 shows the total number of jobs in EI-backed companies within the seven counties of the Western Region.  In total there were 23,550 EI-backed jobs in companies based in the Western Region. This represented 11.2% of all EI-backed jobs nationally.

Fig. 1: Total Jobs in Enterprise Ireland backed companies in Western Region counties, 2017. Source: https://www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/News/PressReleases/

The total net change in jobs in EI-backed companies in the Western Region was 1,472 (see Table 1). This represented a 7% net change on job numbers in 2016.  The growth in the Western Region was higher than the national average (5%). This was driven by strong growth in Leitrim, Sligo and Galway, which were the counties with the highest percentage growth nationally. As such, the Western Region accounted for 14.2% of the net growth nationally, higher than its share of total EI-backed jobs, indicating a strong performance in western counties.

Table 1: Net Change (gains less losses) in Total Jobs in Enterprise Ireland backed companies in Western Region counties, 2017

Source: https://www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/News/PressReleases/

While these results are very positive for the region, it is important to put them in a wider context. While the Western Region accounts for 11.2% of all EI-backed jobs nationally, this is below the Region’s 16.6% share of total national employment (Census 2016).  While these figures are not directly comparable (EI figures are based on the location of the firm and refer to 2017, Census figures are based on the location of the individual and refer to 2016) they do indicate that the Western Region’s share of EI-backed jobs considerably lags its share of total employment.

While EI-backed jobs account for approximately 10% of total job numbers nationally, for the Western Region they only account for about 7% of the total (calculated as the number of EI-backed jobs in 2017 as a % of total employment as counted in Census 2016).

This means that Government policy needs to build on and strengthen the very impressive performance of 2017 to ensure a growing role for high-value indigenous companies in the Western Region labour market.

Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Ireland

IDA Ireland issued their end of year statement on 4th January.  In total, employment levels in IDA supported, foreign owned companies reached 210,443 in 2017.  19,851 (net) new jobs were created by IDA-backed companies in 2017.

The end of year results do not include county data, but do include job figures at regional level. Fig. 2 shows the number of IDA-backed jobs in each region. It is important to note that these are based on the location of the firm, so for example some of the people who work in the Dublin & Mid-East region may be living in the Midlands or Border and commuting to work.

Fig. 2: Total Jobs in IDA backed companies by Region, 2017. Source: https://www.idaireland.com/IDAIreland/media/docs/IDA-Results-2017-Presentation.pdf

Nationally the number of IDA-backed jobs grew by 5.2% between 2016 and 2017.  The South-East region experienced the strongest growth at 9.2% with Dublin & Mid-East the second highest (5.7%).

Of the regions relevant to the Western Region, the Mid-West (5.3%) and West (5.1%) experienced job increases similar to the State average, however at just 3.6% the Border region had a weak performance. Brexit presents significant challenges for this region, so its poor performance is a cause for concern.  The Midlands, which has the smallest number of IDA-backed jobs, also experienced the lowest growth at 1.2%.

More detailed data on agency assisted employment in EI and IDA backed companies, as well as those supported by Udarás na Gaeltachta will be published by the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation in its Annual Employment Survey later in the year. This will allow differentiation between ‘Permanent Full-time Jobs’ and ‘Part-time/Temporary Jobs’ which are combined in the ‘Total Jobs’ figures here, as well as more detailed sectoral analysis at regional level.

 

WDC Insights Christmas Quiz Time Again!

We are sure you have been reading our WDC Insights blog and keeping an eye on our publications throughout 2017.  Take our Christmas Quiz (10 questions) and see just how well you can score on regional development and Western Region issues.   As the results of Census 2016 were released this year, the focus of this year’s quiz is on the census results!

The answers are at the end with links to more information and the relevant posts.

Good Luck!

1.   Census 2016- The Western Region Population

The Western Region comprises 7 of the 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland.

What proportion of the state population lives in the Western Region?

  1. 17.4%
  2. 18.2%
  3. 16.9%

2.   Census 2016- Western Region Population Growth

The population of the Western Region grew between 2011 and 2016 to 828,697.  What was the percentage growth rate?

  1. 4.4%
  2. 2.8%
  3. 1.0%

3.   Census 2016- Housing

According to Census 2016 the housing stock in three Western Region counties fell between 2011 and 2016.  In which 3 counties did it fall?

  1. Mayo, Donegal and Leitrim
  2. Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo
  3. Roscommon, Sligo and Clare

4.   Census 2016- looking back 175 years

The release of information from the Census of Population 2016 provided an interesting opportunity to look back 175 years to the Census of 1841 to see how population in the Western Region changed.  Roscommon was the county with the greatest percentage population loss in the decade after 1841.

Between 1841 and 1851 by how much did the population of Roscommon fall?

  1. 17%
  2. 28%
  3. 32%

5.   Census 2016- Rurality in the Western Region

In Ireland 37% of people live in rural areas (outside of towns of 1,500) and the Western Region covers some of the most rural parts of Ireland.  The Western Region is very rural, what percentage of people live in rural areas in the Region?

  1. 42%
  2. 76%
  3. 65%

6.   Census 2016- The Older population

In the EU 28 some 28.7% of the population is over 65, while in Ireland as a whole only 13.4% of the population is over 65.

What proportion of the Western Region population is over 65?

  1. 15.4%
  2. 17.9%
  3. 19.2%

7.   Census 2016- Broadband

The WDC has been highlighting rural broadband needs for more than a decade. It is a particular issue for our largely rural region

What percentage of households in the Western Region had broadband in April 2016?

  1. 73.6%
  2. 65.5%
  3. 42.8%

8.   Census 2016-Travel to work in the Western Region

The proportion of people travelling to work by car in the Western Region did not change between Census 2011 and 2016.

What percentage of people in the region travel to work by car?

  1. 87.3%
  2. 69.8%
  3. 72.4%

9.   Census 2016 – Island living in the Western Region

If you fancy island living there are 55 inhabited islands in the Western Region, although recent freezing temperatures, storms and plenty of rainfall mean you will have to be tough!

How many coastal islands in the Western Region had a population of more than 50 people in 2016?

  1. 16
  2. 23
  3. 19

10.   Census 2016- languages spoken in the Western Region

Apart from English and Irish which language is most commonly spoken at home in the Western Region?

  1. Lithuanian
  2. Polish
  3. French

Answers

Don’t forget to keep count of how many correct answers you have.

 

1.   Census 2016- The Western Region Population

Answer: 1) 17.4%

2.   Census 2016- Western Region Population

Answer: 3) 1.0%

For more on population change in the Western Region see the post here.

3.   Census 2016- Housing

Answer 2) Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo

For more information from Census 2016 on housing in the Western Region see this post

4.   Census 2016- looking back 175 years

Answer 3) 32%

Read more about the dramatic changes in the Western Region population between 1841 and 2016 here

5.   Census 2016- Rurality in the Western Region

Answer 3) 65%

Read more about rurality, population density and the urban population of the Western Region here

6.   Census 2016- The Older population

Answer 1) 15.4%

Read more about dependency and the age profile of the Western Region here

7.   Census 2016- Broadband

Answer: 2) 65.5%

Read more about the issue of rural broadband on the blog here and here.

8.   Census 2016-Travel to work in the Western Region

Answer: 3) 72.4%

Read more about commuting patterns and modes of commuting in the Western Region here.

9.   Census 2016 – Island living in the Western Region

Answer 1) 16

For more on island populations in the Western Region see this post 

10.   Census 2016- Languages spoken at home

Answer: 2) Polish

For more on diversity in Ireland see this census publication.

How well did you do?

You got 9 or 10 answers correct

CONGRATULATIONS! You really know a lot about regional development, the Western Region and the Western Development Commission’s work.

 You got between 4 and 8 answers correct

WELL DONE, a good score but some deficiencies in your knowledge. Perhaps you should read our WDC Insights posts more carefully in 2017!

 You got between 0 and 3 answers correct

OH DEAR! Time to pay more attention to regional development and Western Region issues. You’ll have to do some extra study over the holiday! Reread the WDC Insights blog and check out the WDC publications page and re-take the quiz in the New Year :)

 

Happy Christmas!

Census 2016: The Western Region’s Labour Market – in pictures!

As the final Census 2016 Profile ‘Employment, Occupations and Industry’ was published by the CSO last week, we now have a pretty good picture of the Western Region’s labour market in 2016.  The Western Development Commission (WDC) has today published an infographic on some interesting facts about the Western Region’s labour market.

This is the second in a series of infographics to be published using data from the Census and focusing on the Western Region – the seven counties under the remit of the WDC.  The aim is to make key regional statistics available in an easily accessible manner.

In this infographic we show that:

  • The Western Region had 17.4% of the State population in 2016, 16.6% of all employment and 19.5% of all self-employment
  • There are over 100,000 retired people living in the Western Region
  • Industry is the biggest employment sector in the Western Region and also enjoyed the biggest gain in employment between 2011 and 2016

You can download ‘The Western Region’s Labour Market’ infographic here