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Broadband benefits – but when?

Recent statistics show that Ireland will not meet the EU 2020 targets for the universal availability of fast broadband[1]. Like other EU states, in Ireland there are particular challenges delivering fast broadband to rural areas and this is not helped by the complicated and lengthy procurement process.

Given the many initiatives in the recent past aimed at delivering better universal broadband, the WDC has believed that this current Plan, aimed at providing ‘future proofed services’ is the right approach, however given the fast pace of technological change, it is and will be imperative that future proofed technology is at the cornerstone of delivery to all.

There have been various analyses of the economic and social benefits of broadband and some Irish research was presented at a recent ESRI seminar. The seminar, titled Evidence of Some Economic effects of Local Infrastructure in Ireland focussed on the economic benefits of broadband infrastructure. Key findings included:

  • The availability of broadband infrastructure is a significant determinant on the location of new business, but its effects may be influenced by the presence of the levels of human capital and skill levels in the area.
  • Therefore when rolling out broadband in a structurally weak area, parallel measures to boost human capital should be deployed.
  • Human capital and proximity to third level institutions is important for all firms.
  • The effect of broadband depends on education levels within an area.
  • Infrastructure roll-out can help to re-balance economic activity.
  • Government departments and agencies usually have discrete mandates designed not to overlap too much.
  • Decisions to build infrastructure often not taken together (e.g. broadband or transport) or considered along with other factors such as health care provision or education.

The latter two points in particular highlight the need for co-ordination and the value of a comprehensive spatial and economic development plan such as Project Ireland 2040. See here for more information on the ESRI seminar.

Previously, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment conducted its own research which examined the benefits of high speed broadband and research and this is available here. In particular the research identified travel savings through more remote working and increased gross value added, see here.

The analysis measured benefits arising from delivery of high speed broadband planned under the forthcoming National Broadband Plan, to the ‘Intervention Area’ (IA), which comprises approximately 757,000 premises across rural areas throughout Ireland. These areas are not currently receiving high speed services from commercial providers.

The analysis found that each house in the IA could yield a benefit of €89.00 per household per annum resulting from journey time and fuel cost savings from increased e-Working as a consequence of the availability of high speed broadband. This would amount to an annual total saving of €48.39 million, which does not include other benefits such as carbon emissions savings etc.

Increased productivity is also forecast, generated from improved productivity of white collar workers living in rural areas (the IA) but commuting to work in urban areas. This shows the benefit to the enterprise expressed as an increase in GVA per employee of 1.53% (€1,342) per worker, working from home or remote working on a 1 day per week basis. This does not capture benefits such as increased staff retention and more satisfied employees.

Research elsewhere reflects some of the findings of the ESRI research. For example, work undertaken in the US by Professor Mark Partridge found that our review of the economic research finds that broadband’s contribution to economic development in rural regions is often overstated. Broadband expansion does produce positive economic effects in certain rural area, specifically more populated rural counties adjacent to metro areas.

The same research quantifies the economic benefits of additional consumer choice, produced when households are able to access a broader range of products and services at lower prices. The research conducted in Ohio, see here, estimates that reaching full broadband coverage there would generate between $1 billion and $2 billion in economic benefits over the next 15 years. This estimate does not include other potential benefits that broadband offers such as reducing the period of unemployment among job seekers.

Professor Mark Partridge is due to present at the forthcoming Regional Studies Association Irish Section Annual Conference, to be held in Sligo IT on Friday 7th September 2018.

The theme of the conference is ‘City-Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions’ and the call for papers is now open. Further details are available here.

The WDC believes that to realise all benefits from next generation broadband, it is imperative that the National Broadband Plan deploying future proofed broadband is delivered as soon as possible.

Deirdre Frost

[1] Reported in Irish Times 6th June 2018

‘Delivering Balanced Regional Development’ … 10 years on

I was recently reminded that it’s been ten years since the WDC’s conference ‘Delivering Balanced Regional Development’ in May 2008. The context at that time was that balanced regional development had been included as a key objective of the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and was to have been a key consideration in public investment decisions.  At the same time however, the economic crisis was beginning to unfold. The WDC therefore felt it was timely to provide a forum in which the policy issues involved in balanced regional development could be discussed and debated.

Held at the Hodson Bay Hotel in Athlone, speakers included academics and researchers Professor Neil Ward from the Centre for Urban and Rural Development Studies at Newcastle University, Professors Gerry Boyle (NUI Maynooth) and Michael Keane (NUI Galway), as well Dr. Edgar Morgenroth (ESRI).  The line-up also included a number of policymakers including Julie O’Neill, Secretary General of the Department of Transport, Mark Griffin (Department of Planning) and Dermot O’ Doherty (InterTradeIreland).  All the presentations can be downloaded from here.

The focus of this post however is the paper by the WDC Policy Analysis team, presented by Dr Patricia O’Hara, then Policy Manager of the WDC.  Looking back at the paper I’m struck by how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.  The past ten years have seen massive changes in the country – the recession and recovery, a return to emigration, Brexit, significant social changes (very evident from last week’s referendum).

While the initial years of the recession actually saw some narrowing of regional disparities as all regions took a hit, the recovery has been spatially uneven and it could be argued that some of the trends driving the recovery e.g. multinational IT services firms, is accentuating regional imbalance.

2018 has seen the launch of the new National Planning Framework and a new National Development Plan, with three Regional Economic and Spatial Strategies currently being devised.  Therefore it seems an opportune time to reflect on what we had to say about balanced regional development a decade ago.

Deirdre Frost, Helen McHenry, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, Patricia O’Hara, Pauline White at the ‘Delivering Balanced Regional Development’ conference, 23 May 2008

The WDC’s paper was titled ‘The Regional Development Challenge: A Western Region Perspective’ and it set out what we considered better regional balance might look like, i.e. what regional development policies should be trying to achieve.  The list still seems as relevant today as then (but replacing the word ‘Gateway’ with city and key regional centres).

  • Future population growth distributed more evenly across Ireland.
  • Gateway centres with sufficient critical mass to serve as drivers for their regions.
  • Population increase in hubs and in small and medium-sized towns across the regions based on inward investment and indigenous economic activity, including significant employment in the public sector and locally traded services.
  • The natural resources of rural areas utilised in a sustainable manner and such areas well-linked to local centres.
  • An infrastructure base that enables all regions to optimise their participation in, and contribution to, the knowledge economy.
  • Quality social provision at local level and efficient access to services in other centres so that location does not contribute to social exclusion.
  • Careful planning and management of the environment, including landscape, cultural and heritage resources.

Following a discussion of regional disparities and trends, as well as international insights, the paper concluded with seven policy recommendations on what was needed to achieve more balanced regional development:

  1. Political commitment and vision based on an understanding of the kind of spatial structure most suited to Ireland’s social values, history and geography.
  2. Clear responsibility for delivery of regional development policy so that key government departments ‘mainstream’ the regional dimension into their spending decisions. One government department should have the mandate and resources for this and ensure, for instance, that other relevant departments include regional development outputs in their Annual Output statements to the Oireachtas.
  3. Resources should be provided to address the research and intelligence gap for policy-making, especially the development of regional indicators, measures of output and urban-rural links. Robust analyses of policy successes and failures are also necessary.
  4. Regional investment strategies should be directed to improving regions’ infrastructure, skill endowment and quality of life as the key drivers of their capacity to maximise their resource endowment and attract inward investment. Spending decisions in transport, energy, telecommunications, human resources, research, development and knowledge issues should clearly target reducing structural disparities between regions and not reinforce them.
  5. The NSS provides a robust framework for balanced regional development, but its operationalisation needs to be informed by a thorough understanding of the investment and planning requirements at different spatial levels.
  • The new, smaller gateways need support appropriate to their scale and state of development that maximises the possibility of sustainable growth and encourages them to form strategic alliances.
  • The interaction between gateways, hubs, provincial towns and rural areas needs to be investigated and understood in order to construct effective policy to support their function in the spatial hierarchy.
  1. All levels of government and stakeholders should be involved with common purpose in structures that facilitate knowledge-sharing and efficiency. Pending other reform, ‘ad hoc coalitions’ of local authorities could be an effective way of tackling common problems and facilitating cross-boundary/border cooperation between towns and smaller centres.
  2. The north-west of Ireland has some particular weaknesses that could be addressed by acceleration of investment in infrastructure links which would facilitate crossborder links and act as a counterbalance to the Dublin-Belfast corridor.

It can be argued that some progress has been made in a number of these areas with efforts to more closely align the National Development Plan investment priorities with the National Planning Framework. However many of these recommendations remain relevant, the need to integrate regional development far more closely in the investment decisions of the main spending Departments, the need to understand the interactions between different levels on the spatial hierarchy far better and to develop effective policy for cities, towns and rural areas and of course the continuing challenge for development in the north-west, which has been further exacerbated by Brexit.

It seems that delivering on effective balanced regional development is still a work in progress.

Pauline White

 

 

 

New WDC report on Travel to Work Patterns in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) will shortly publish Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments (2018) which will be available for download here.

In this publication, the WDC 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), identifies 42 labour catchments ranging in size from the largest, Galway City, with over 70,000 resident workers, through to centres with fewer than 1,000 resident workers.

The report also 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. Trends are also examined, drawing on the original travel to work analysis based on Census 2006 conducted by the WDC.

The report notes some key findings:

  • All seven town labour catchments have significantly more people at work than the resident population of workers in each town as identified in the Census. They therefore have access to a larger labour supply. For example, Galway city labour catchment has a population at work more than double the Census population of resident workers, while Carrick-on-Shannon labour catchment has a population at work approximately 4.6 times the population of resident workers.
  • Compared to a decade earlier the seven county town labour catchments account for an increase of only 0.5% in the to­tal share of the population at work and living in the Western Region. This shows the limited change that has occurred over a long period and the need for very strong policy intervention to effect change.
  • The analysis highlights the importance of rural areas (centres with less than 1,000 persons) as employment locations. Generally over one fifth (in excess of 22%) of those living in the town labour catchment are employed in rural areas. The highest level of rural employment is in the Ennis labour catchment with over one quarter (26.9%) employed in the Clare rural area.
  • North-east Donegal is strongly linked to Northern Ireland. The ‘Derry Rural’ labour catchment accounts for over 5,000 resident workers, an increase of approximately 10% since 2006. This region will be most impacted by BREXIT, therefore policy needs to be developed and implemented to mitigate the impacts.

There are two outputs;

(i)    the full report, provides an overview of the travel to work analysis, identifies the 42 labour catchments, and provides an overview of change between 2006 and 2016.  It contains the detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region (Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon).

(ii)   Individual bulletins containing only the labour market profile of the principal towns are also available.

These reports will provide information for prospective employers, develop­ment agencies and regional and local authorities. These data can also be used in determining catchments for various services which will be of interest to transport providers, planners and local authorities. The outputs of the report will also be a useful evidence base for researchers and planners en­gaged with the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES) for both the Northern and Western Region­al Assembly (NWRA) and the Southern Regional Assembly (SRA) and also for Project Ireland 2014, the National Planning Framework (NPF).

Educational attainment in the Western Region

A recently published ESRI Research Bulletin, ‘The local factors that affect where new businesses are set up’ summarises their analysis of new firms setting up in Ireland. Data from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) on the number of start-up firms each year in 190 localities, all outside of the Greater Dublin Area, is linked to data on local characteristics thought to be important to business location. This data is used to develop models of how much each factor (or combination of factors) contributes to the number of business start-ups in a given place and time.

The authors state that the results of this analysis show that

‘Educational attainment of local residents is highly attractive to start-ups; we use the share of the population with a third-level qualification as an indicator for this, and it has the largest effect of the factors in our models.’

The analysis also shows that broadband access is a significant factor

‘However, a key finding is that broadband’s effect on start-ups depends on the education level of an area’s population. Only areas with enough highly qualified staff seem to enjoy a boost in start-ups when they have broadband network access.’

This analysis clearly points to the importance of human capital in the location decision of new business start-ups. Of course the direction of causality is a challenge, new businesses are attracted to areas with a highly skilled population, but highly skilled people will only remain/move to an area if suitable job opportunities exist.

The latest WDC Insights, published by the WDC last week (27 March), ‘Census 2016: Education Levels in the Western Region’ is therefore very timely, as it examines the level of educational attainment of the adult population of the Western Region and its seven counties.

Highest level of education completed

Overall, the Western Region displays a lower educational profile, with a smaller share of its adult population (aged 15+ years and who have ceased education) having third level qualifications and a greater share having low levels of education (Fig. 1) than the rest of the state. 13.4% of adults in the Western Region have only completed primary education compared with 11.1% in the rest of the state. The region’s older age profile contributes to this.

At the highest levels of education the difference between the Western Region and the rest of state is quite substantial e.g. 8.5% in the Western Region have a postgraduate degree/diploma compared with 11.7% in the rest of the state. Given the importance of third level education for business location and stimulating overall economic growth, this presents a challenge for the region.

Fig. 1: Percentage of population (aged 15+ years and whose full-time education has ceased) by the highest level of education completed in the Western Region and rest of state, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016 Profile 10 – Education, Skills and the Irish Language, Table EA003

Highest level of education completed in western counties

There are significant differences across western counties in the share of the population with a third level qualification (Fig. 2).  At 55.2%, Galway City has the second highest share of residents with a third level qualification (Advanced Certificate/Completed Apprenticeship and higher) in Ireland. It is behind Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown but ahead of Fingal, Dublin City and Kildare. Within the region, Galway County, Clare and Sligo have the next highest shares of third level graduates, illustrating a strong concentration around Galway / Limerick and also in Sligo, clearly showing the influence of larger urban centres.

Donegal has the highest share of its population with no formal education or primary only (21.9%) in the State, with Mayo, Leitrim and Roscommon next highest in the region. This is partly due to greater reliance on sectors traditionally associated with lower qualifications.

In general, the counties offering fewer graduate employment opportunities tend to have weaker educational profiles, with many of those with higher qualifications having left these areas. This presents a double challenge for such areas – the weaker educational profile makes it more difficult to attract new business start-ups, while the lack of suitable job opportunities makes the area less attractive to those with higher qualifications. Often in such areas, it is the public sector (education, health, public administration) which presents the most significant graduate employment opportunities. Stimulating greater demand for highly qualified staff among private enterprise in these areas, as well as supporting opportunities for self-employment is required.

Fig. 2: Percentage of population (aged 15+ years and whose full-time education has ceased) in western counties by highest level of education completed, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016 Profile 10 – Education, Skills and the Irish Language, Table EA003

Conclusion

Overall the Western Region continues to display a lower educational profile than the rest of the state. Given the key role of human capital in regional development, this is a significant challenge for the region and in particular more rural counties.  A number of factors including the region’s older age profile and its sectoral pattern of employment – smaller shares working in sectors which demand higher qualifications (e.g. professional services, ICT, finance) and more working in sectors traditionally characterised by lower qualifications (e.g. hospitality, agriculture) – strongly influence its educational profile.

Galway City shows a very different educational pattern however with the second highest share of third level graduates in Ireland. This is both cause and effect of its recent strong economic performance. The sectoral pattern of employment in Galway City differs from the rest of the Western Region with a high share working in ICT and medical devices manufacturing which demand higher qualifications, the presence of NUI Galway is another key contributor.

Download the latest WDC InsightsCensus 2016: Education Levels in the Western Region

 

Caring for the West

The recent severe weather brought a lot of issues to national attention, not least of which was the extent to which people across the country are providing care and help to family, friends and neighbours, including older persons. As today is also International Women’s Day, this seemed like a good time to examine the extent of unpaid care being provided in the Western Region on a regular basis.

Census 2016 included the following question:

‘Do you provide regular unpaid personal help for a friend or family member with a long-term illness, health problem or disability? Include problems which are due to old age. Personal help includes help with basic tasks such as feeding or dressing.’

Those who answered Yes were asked how many hours of care they provided per week. The results of this question were published in Census 2016 Profile 9: Health, Disability and Carers. It should be noted that this data likely underestimates the full extent of unpaid caring activity as some people who are providing care may have underestimated this or not considered themselves as providing care e.g. an older person may not have counted that they are providing care for their spouse.

In total 37,075 people in the Western Region recorded themselves as providing unpaid care. This equates to 4.5% of the entire population of the region, higher than the 4.0% share in the rest of the state.

The Western Region is home to 19% of all carers in the State, higher than its 17.4% share of the national population, showing the greater need for, and provision of, unpaid care in the region. This is closely linked to the region’s older age profile. Of the people providing care in the region, 60% are women and 40% are men.

Percentage of population who are carers

The map below shows the percentage of the population of each administrative county who are providing unpaid care for a friend or family member. There is a very striking East/West pattern with the highest shares along the western seaboard and western Midlands, with the Greater Dublin Area showing the lowest shares.  Of the counties of the Western Region, 4.7% of the population of Mayo and Sligo are providing regular care and 4.6% in Clare.  Within the region the lowest share is in Galway city at 3.7%.

 

Source: CSO, Census 2016 http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-cp9hdc/p8hdc/p9cr/

Age of carers

The region has a higher share of carers across almost all age groups (see Fig. 1). The higher share of carers in the region is particularly evident in the age groups between 40 and 54.  In the region and elsewhere, people in the 50-54 age group are most likely to be providing care at 10.5% in the Western Region (9.4% in rest of state).  Generally, caring activity is most likely to occur when people are aged 40-60, strongly influenced by providing care for ageing parents.

In total 54.2% of all carers in the Western Region are aged 40-60. As the majority of people in this age group are working, this raises the issue of flexible working hours and leave for those providing such care.  While there are a number of initiatives to improve flexibility for those caring for young children (e.g. parental leave, term time), fewer options are available for those providing elder care or caring for persons with a disability. Given the older age profile of the population in the Western Region and increasing life expectancy, the issue of flexibility for employees providing elder care will become even more pressing in future.

Of all people aged over 65 years in the Western Region, 4.4% of them are providing care, somewhat lower than the share in the rest of the state (4.7%). However this group (65+) account for 15% of all carers in the Western Region and also the rest of state.  Just under 1 in 6 of all carers are aged over 65 years.

Source: CSO, Census 2016, Table E9072 http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=E9072&PLanguage=0

Hours of care

In total 1,254,778 hours of unpaid care were provided per week in the Western Region. This was 19% of the total hours of unpaid care provided in the State. The average number of hours of care provided in the Western Region ranged from a high of 42.6 hours per week in Donegal to 34.1 hours per week in Galway City.

There were substantial gender variations in this however (Fig. 2).  The average number of hours of care provided by women was higher than the average for men in each county. In Roscommon female carers provided an average of 44.8 hours of care per week compared with 35.8 hours for male carers.  This was the largest gender difference in the region with the smallest gender difference in Donegal.

Source: CSO, Census 2016, Table E9049 http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=E9049&PLanguage=0

Conclusion

In the Western Region, 28.3% of over 65s live alone and there are 30,330 people aged over 80 years. The Western Region’s older age profile and increasing life expectancy means the demand for care, especially for older persons, will increase.  Increasing female labour force participation means that a growing share of those who are providing this care are also in employment.  As over half of all those providing care are aged 40-60 years, the need to balance caring for ageing parents and other relatives with work commitments is a critical and growing issue that needs to be more effectively addressed by policy.  While a lot of focus has been on trying to facilitate the childcare needs of employees (where more still needs to be done …) the issue of elder care commitments now needs to receive far greater attention.  This is compounded by the limitations of the Home Care Package as demand increases but resources and staffing are limited.

 

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.

 

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

Employment by economic sector in western counties: what’s happening?

A few weeks ago, the WDC published eight new WDC Insights publications.  Each examined 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). This data was the focus of a previous blog post.  They also examine the sectors where the county’s residents work, compared with the national average, and how this has changed since 2011.

In this blog post, I’ll focus on the sectoral pattern of employment in each of the western counties.  It is important to remember that this data counts a person where they live rather than where they work, so it measures what sectors the residents of a county work in, even though some may commute to another county (or country) to work.  Analysis of commuting patterns in the Western Region will be published very shortly.

Scroll down to find your county! (Apologies for any repetition, assuming most readers will only pick a county or two …)

1.  Clare

Total employment in Clare grew by 8.6% between 2011 and 2016, below the 11% State average.  The top three sectors for employment of Clare residents are: Industry, Wholesale & Retail and Health & Social Work, which together account for 36.5% of all jobs.

Industry employs a significantly higher percentage of the workforce in County Clare than nationally.  Numbers working in Industry have risen by 10.4% — or 723 people — in the past five years, outperforming the national average growth. This means that today 15.5% of Clare’s residents who are in employment are working in Industry, which includes sectors such as manufacturing, energy generation, waste and water. This compares to the national average of 11.4%.

Wholesale & Retail includes wholesale, the motor trade, all retails shops, with supermarkets forming the biggest sector. Employment in Wholesale & Retail in Clare, at 11.2%, is lower than the national average of 13.3%.

A 12.4% growth in the Health & Social Work sector in Clare was just slightly below the national average (12.9%). Health & Social Work includes residential care and social services – including child care, nursing and care homes – as well as hospitals, dental and medical practices.

A growth in tourism is reflected in employment in the Accommodation and Food Service sector, which is up 13.5%, the second highest growth sector in the county. It is also seen in a 10.1% growth in employment in the Transport and Storage sector, influenced by Shannon Airport and Shannon Foynes Port. It places Clare well above the national average growth of 4%.

The biggest increase in employment was in the Information and Communications sector – which includes areas such as computer programming and consultancy as well as telecommunications — which grew by 13.9% in the past five years.

Employment in agriculture has declined by 8.7% in the county, compared to a national drop of 2.6%.  Administrative and Other Services — including leasing activities, business operations processing and personal services — accounts for just over 7% of Clare’s employment, slightly below the national average but the highest in the Western Region.  An 8% drop in numbers employed in financial services, is being linked to the closure of banks and other financial institutions.

2.  Donegal

Total employment in Donegal grew by 9.5% between 2011 and 2016, below the 11% State average.  The four top employers of Donegal residents – accounting for more than 46% of all jobs are: Wholesale & Retail, Health & Social Work, Education and Industry.

The Wholesale & Retail sector, which grew by just 0.9% in the past five years, is the principal employer of Donegal residents, employing 13.5% of working adults, with supermarkets the largest employer in this sector.

Some 12.7% are employed in Health & Social Work compared to 11.1% elsewhere. Health & Social Work includes residential care and social services – including child care, nursing and care homes – as well as hospitals, dental and medical practices.

A total of 10.8% of workers are employed in the Education sector compared to the national average of 8.8%. Between pre-school, primary, secondary and higher education, there are 6,328 people working in Education in county Donegal.

Unlike other western counties, Industry is substantially less important in Donegal than nationally, with just 9.2% of workers employed in this sector compared to 11.4% nationally.

Donegal’s strongest employment growth was in the Information and Communications sector, increasing by 39%, compared to national growth of 31.4%. This sector includes computer programming, computer consultancy, telecommunications, as well as radio broadcasting.

Benefit from the Wild Atlantic Way is reflected in an impressive growth of 19.9% in the Accommodation and Food Service sector compared with a 12.9% national growth, giving Donegal the third highest share working in this sector nationally, after Kerry and Galway City. In the past five years, there has been an additional 764 people employed in the hospitality sector, mainly in restaurants and hotels.

The data also shows a 9.3% growth in employment in Construction — significantly lower than the national average growth of 16.6%. The largest decline in employment over the past five years was in Public Administration (local authority, civil service, defence etc.) which dropped 14.2% compared to a national decline of 6.3% although it remains a more significant employer than elsewhere. There was a decline of 9% in employment in financial services compared with a national average decline of 1.3%. This is linked to the closure of banks and other financial institutions.

3.  Galway City

Total employment in Galway City grew by 10.8% between 2011 and 2016, close to the 11% State average.  Industry, Health & Social Work, and Wholesale & Retail are the top three employers, accounting for almost 40% of jobs for Galway City residents.

Industry is the most significant employer.  There was a 15.4% growth in Industry employment among Galway City residents since 2011, substantially higher than the national average of 9.4%. Industry accounts for a significantly higher proportion of jobs than nationally, 14.6% compared to 11.4% nationally.  In the single manufacturing field of medical devices, jobs for Galway City residents rose by 543 to 2,873 in the past five years.

Jobs in Health which include child, elder, residential care as well as hospitals and medical practices, also outperformed, growing by 16.4% for the City compared to a 13.4% national growth.

The Wholesale and Retail sector grew 2.4% in the City between 2011 and 2016 higher than the 1.7% national growth, though it only employs 12.3% of workers compared to a national average of 13.3%.

Although the 11.1% growth in the Accommodation and Food Service sector in the City was below the 12.9% national average in the past five years, Galway City is second only to Kerry when it comes to the share of residents working in hospitality. Almost 10% work in this sector compared to the national average of 5.8%.

Galway City’s strongest employment growth in the past five years was in Information and Communications — up 36% compared with 31.4% nationally — bringing it up to 6.1% of total employment, greater than the national average share of 4.5%.

Jobs in Public Administration declined by 12.5% in Galway City compared to a national average decline of 6.3%. Decline of 10.7% in employment in Financial, Insurance and Real Estate compared to a 1.3% decline nationally, is being linked to the closure of banks and other financial institutions.

4.  Galway County

Total employment in Galway County grew by 8.5% between 2011 and 2016, below the 11% State average.  Industry, Health & Social Work and Wholesale & Retail are the top three employers, accounting for almost 43% of jobs for residents of Galway County.

Industry has emerged as the most significant employer for Galway County residents which has the fourth highest share working in Industry nationally.  The 20.7% growth in employment in the sector over the past five years is more than twice the national average (9.4%).  Industry accounts for a significantly higher proportion of jobs for Galway County residents than nationally, 16.3%, compared with 11.4%.  In the single manufacturing field of medical devices, jobs for Galway County residents rose by 1,173 to 4,951 in the past three years.

Jobs in Health which include child, elder, residential care as well as hospitals and medical practices, also outperformed, growing by 17.4% in the County, compared to a 13.4% national growth.

The Wholesale and Retail sector declined by 0.4% compared to a national increase of 1.7% and employs 12% of workers in Galway County.

Tourism activity is increasing in Galway County which registered a 13.3% growth in employment in the Accommodation and Food Service sector, slightly above the 12.9% national growth.  The Information and Communications sector accounted for Galway County’s second strongest employment growth of 18.7%.

A decline of 7.6% in employment in Financial, Insurance and Real Estate compared to a 1.3% decline nationally, is being linked to the closure of banks and other financial institutions. Galway County experienced a 6.8% decline in employment in agriculture compared to a 2.6% national decline.

5.  Leitrim

Total employment in Leitrim grew by 6.3% between 2011 and 2016, substantially below the 11% State average and the fifth lowest growth of any county in Ireland. The top three employment sectors for Leitrim’s residents are: Health & Social Work; Wholesale & Retail; and Industry, which account for 37.1% of all jobs.

Employment in Health grew by 10.6% since 2011, below the national average of 13.4%. Health and Social Work includes residential care and social services — including child care, nursing and care homes — as well as hospitals, dental and medical practices. Reflecting the county’s aging population, the biggest growth area was in residential care where an additional 207 jobs were created.

Employment in the second largest sector of Wholesale and Retail is less important to the county than elsewhere at 12.1% and grew marginally since 2011 by 0.6%. Wholesale and Retail includes wholesale, the motor trade, all retails shops, with supermarkets forming the biggest sector.

Meanwhile, Industry employment rose by 21.1%, more than double the national average of 9.4%.  Industry includes manufacturing, energy generation, waste, water – with manufacturing the largest element. Some 127 additional jobs were created in the medical devices field alone in the past five years. Some 11.4% of the county’s workers are working in Industry.

Agriculture’s share of employment in Leitrim is double the national average, contributing to the county’s higher self-employment, but the numbers are on the decline. It was one of four sectors that experienced employment decline in the county since 2011, down 8.6% compared with a State average decline of 2.7%.

Leitrim’s largest employment decline was in the Administrative and Other Services sector, which includes call centres.  Construction jobs rose by 7.2%, significantly lower than the national average increase of 16.6%. Leitrim performed on a par with other counties in the Accommodation and Food Service sector, which enjoyed Leitrim’s second highest growth of 12.4%.  There was a 10% drop in numbers employed in financial services.

6.  Mayo

Total employment in Mayo grew by 4.8% between 2011 and 2016, substantially below the 11% State average and the second lowest growth of any county in Ireland. The top three employment sectors for Mayo residents are: Wholesale & Retail; Industry; and Health & Social Work, which account for 36.5% of all jobs.

Topping the list with a 14.4% share of employment is the Wholesale & Retail sector. However, this sector has been performing poorly and declined 2.7% in Mayo compared with a 1.7% growth nationally between 2011 and 2016.

But Industry grew strongly in the county over the same period, increasing employment by 14% since 2011, compared to the 9.4% growth nationally. Industry currently accounts for a 14.2% share of Mayo’s workers, compared with an 11.4% share nationally.

Employment in the Health sector grew by 15.7% compared with a national rise of 13.4%, the county’s strongest growing sector. An additional 593 jobs in the residential care field during this period reflects the county’s older age profile.

Almost twice the national average (8.5% compared with 4.4%) are employed in agriculture but employment in this sector has plummeted. There are over 1,000 fewer farmers now than five years ago, representing a decline of 17.9%, compared to an average State decline of 2.6%.

Since 2011, employment in the Accommodation and Food Service sector is up 11.7%, now representing 7.6% of the total workforce, compared to a national average of 5.8%.

Employment in Public Administration declined more in Mayo than elsewhere, dropping 10.1% in five years compared to a 6.3% national decline.  Construction jobs were up by 8.4%, compared to a national increase of 16.6% but it still remains a significant employer in the county, accounting for 6.3% of all jobs. Mayo saw its biggest jobs loss, an 18.8% decline, in financial services, compared to a national decline of 1.3% in the same sector. This is linked to the closure of bank branches and other financial institutions.

7.  Roscommon

Total employment in Roscommon grew by 5.9% between 2011 and 2016, substantially below the 11% State average and the fourth lowest growth of any county in Ireland. The top three sectors for employment of Roscommon residents are: Wholesale & Retail, Health & Social Work and Industry, which account for 40% of all jobs.

Wholesale and Retail at 13.9% is the most significant employer but jobs in this sector have declined slightly (0.9%) in the past five years compared to a national increase of 1.7%.

Industry, which was up by 15.9%, outperformed the national average increase of 9.4%. Included here was an additional 228 jobs in the manufacture of medical devices.

Employment in the Health and Social Work sector in Roscommon grew by 24.4% in the past five years, compared with a national rise of 13.4%.  As this sector includes child and elder care, the county’s age profile could be a factor. An additional 539 jobs were created in the residential care branch of this sector during the period 2011 – 2016.

Agriculture’s share of employment in Roscommon is close to double the national average, contributing to the county’s higher self-employment. However, employment in agriculture was down 3.9% in the past five years, higher than the State average decline of 2.7%.

Employment in Public Administration is down by 7% while a 13% decline in jobs in Financial Services is linked to closures of local banks and other financial institutions. Jobs in the Accommodation and Food Services sector grew only marginally by 1.4% compared to a national growth of 12.9% indicating that the county is not benefitting from a growth in tourism.

Though the smallest sector, employment in Information and Communications grew by 20.1%, while Professional Services employment was up by 13.2%.

8.  Sligo

Total employment in Sligo grew by 2.2% between 2011 and 2016, substantially below the 11% State average and the lowest growth of any county in Ireland.  The top three employment sectors for Sligo residents are: Health & Social Work, Wholesale & Retail and Industry, which account for 40.7% of all jobs.

Health is considerably more important to the county than elsewhere and Sligo has the highest share working in this sector in the State. This sector – which includes residential care and child care as well as hospitals — employs 15.5% of Sligo’s workers, compared to a national average of 11.1%.

Employment in Wholesale and Retail, the second largest employer at 12.7%, performed poorly, declining by 5.9% since 2011, in contrast to a national average growth of 1.7% in this sector. It accounts for a lower share of jobs than elsewhere.

At 12.5%, Industry accounts for a higher share of jobs than in neighbouring Leitrim and Donegal, but its growth of 0.3% in the past five years falls significantly below the national average growth of 9.4%.  Industry includes manufacturing, energy generation, waste, water – with manufacturing the largest element.

Agriculture performed strongly with jobs in this sector growing by 8.5% compared to a national decline of 2.6%. This was in part due to an additional 162 jobs created in the animal and mixed farming sector.

Employment in Education was up by 4.7%, while jobs in the Accommodation and Food Service sector grew by 7.8%, compared with a 12.9% national growth.  Employment in Public Administration was down by 4.5%, a better performance than the national drop of 6.3%.

Sligo saw a decrease of 0.3% in jobs in the Construction sector, compared to a strong national growth of 16.6%.  Sligo’s highest employment growth was in the Administrative and Other Services sector at 9.2% with arts and entertainment, as well as hairdressing and beauty, the main drivers.  A 14.1% drop in numbers employed in financial services, compared with a 1.3% decline nationally, is being linked to the closure of banks and other financial institutions.

 

All eight WDC Insights can be downloaded here