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Changing times! Looking back twenty years in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) recently published its strategy for the next five years 2019-2024 ‘Work Smarter Live Better’.  It was launched in Ballinasloe on 15th April, and that launch provided us with an opportunity to look back at how the seven county Western Region has changed since the WDC was set up.

The WDC was established by the Western Development Commission Act in 1998 so it is interesting to consider the changes experienced by the Region since the WDC came into being.  As the seven counties (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Galway and Clare) which make up the Western Region (the area under the remit of the WDC) do not align with other statistical regions for data collection, the best Western Region data comes from sources which publish data by county, such as the Census of Population, which allow us to combine county data to get statistics for the Western Region.  Comparing the Censuses of 1996 and 2016 gives a good picture of change in the Region over two decades.  It is not often we look back so far but it is a useful exercise, highlighting how much has changed in twenty years.

In this post I briefly consider changes in population and demographics, labour force, employment, and finally, income.  There are many other areas which merit examination which will be covered in a future post.

 

The Western Region population.

Looking first at population change, in 1996 the population of the Western Region was 657,231.  By 2016 after a very significant 26.1% increase, it was 828,697.   Different counties grew at very different rates, showing (Figure 1) the uneven rates of development and change.

The largest population growth in the period was in Galway, which grew by more than a third (36%) and the smallest population growth was in Mayo (17%) and Sligo (17.4%).

Figure 1: Population Change in Western Region counties 1996-2016

Source: CSO Statbank E2001: Population at Each Census 1841 to 2016 by County, Sex and Census Year

 

Demographic change

The make up of the population has also changed over that period.  In 1996 13.7% of the Western Region population was over 65 and 3.3% was over 80.  By 2016, 15.4% were over 65 and over 65 and 3.7% over 80.

More significant changes occurred in the younger age categories, in 1996 24% were under 15 while 41% were under 25 and by 2016 this had changed to 21.1% under 15 and 33% under 25.

 

Employment and the Labour Force

The labour force has grown even more significantly than the population.  There were 266,102 in the labour force in the region in 1996 and this had grown to 387,770 by 2016, a 46% increase.  The percentage of the population (aged 15-65) in the labour force was 53.5% in 1996 and had increased to 59.3% by 2016.  This increase is largely the result of higher female participation and also reflects the changing age demographic.

Skills have also changed considerably.  In 1996 in the Western Region only 16.7% had a third level qualification but by 2016 39.2% did.

My colleague Pauline White is currently undertaking a detailed analysis of employment by sector in the region and has published on six sectors.  Looking at key Western Region sectors, the significant changes in employment are noted  here.

In 1996 15.6% were employed in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing and by 2016 only 6.8% were.  Similarly, in 1996 19% of those in employment worked in Industry, and in 2016 13.7% did.  In contrast, in 1996 40.1% were employed in Services but by 2016 67% were.

Incomes

Finally, although the data discussed so far is from the Census of Population it is useful to consider how income has changed over the same period.  In 1996 Household Disposable Income per person was €15,032 in the Western Region (2016 prices) and by 2016 it had risen to €22,689 an increase of 51% over that period.  However, in 1996 Western Region disposable income per person was 89.2% of the State average, but by 2016 it had fallen to 83.5% of the state average.  Clearly the improvements in income have been greater in other parts of Ireland.

 

Conclusion

This short post has provided a useful reminder of how things have changed in the Western Region in the period since the WDC was set up.  A future post will focus on spatial changes in infrastructure and where people live.  Looking back, the changes that have taken place over the 20 year period examined have seemed dramatic, though many of them have taken place gradually.  It is interesting to contemplate how things will change between 2016 and 2036 but, unless the retirement age increases even more, I won’t be around to blog about them.  And perhaps blogging won’t be around either.

 

Helen McHenry

Travel to Work Areas and Border Labour Catchments

The WDC will present analysis on Travel to Work Areas (TTWAS) and the smaller labour catchments located along the Border at a conference in Derry, organised by NERI on 1st May see here for more details.

This work is part of a larger piece of work examining the smaller labour catchments across the Western Region which in turn is part of the WDC programme of research on Travel to Work Areas and Labour Catchments which has been a key element of the WDC Policy Analysis work programme for the last 10 years.

The work on smaller labour catchments follows on from the WDC report published in 2018, Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments (2018). This provides a detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region, based on travel to work patterns, namely: Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon and is available for download here. (14.2MB)

The map below illustrates all the labour catchments across the Western Region, arising from the analysis of Census 2016 data.

Map 1 Labour Catchments across the Western Region 2016

The analysis of smaller labour catchments reviews the remaining 26 complete labour catchments contained within the Western Region and the 26 reports will be published shortly. Here is a sneak preview of some findings and points of interest.

The 26 complete smaller labour catchments are distributed across each of the counties of the Western Region as the table below shows.

Table 1 The 26 smaller Labour Catchments in Western Region Counties, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The smaller labour catchments range in size from the largest, Ballina in Co. Mayo with 9,034 resident workers, to the smallest, Charlestown-Bellahy with 962 resident workers.

Each labour catchments has a greater number of workers living there compared to the figure reported in the Census for the town at its core, indicating a greater labour supply available than might otherwise be considered.

Of the 26 smaller labour catchments 15 reported an increase in numbers over the 10 year period from 2006 to 2016, while 11 of the smaller labour catchments reported a decline in numbers over the same period.

Generally, those that reported a decline are somewhat remote, for example five of those that reported a decline are located in Co. Donegal, namely, Ballybofey-Stranorlar, Buncrana, Killybegs, Bunbeg and Ballyshannon. Belmullet in west Mayo also recorded a decline in the number of resident workers living there over the 10 year period. A further four catchments in east Mayo/Roscommon reported a decline; namely Charlestown, Ballaghaderreen, Boyle and Castlerea, while Gort in co. Galway also had a decline in resident workers living there over the 10 year intercensal period.

In the case of the labour catchments in Co. Donegal, the larger labour catchments of Donegal town and Letterkenny, both recorded an increase over the period indicating move from the smaller more rural catchments in the county to the larger centres and this in part accounts for the changes.

For the centres in Mayo and Roscommon which reported a decline in numbers, some of this can be accounted for by growth in adjacent centres such as Castlebar and Carrick-on-Shannon but further analysis is needed to explain the changes in detail.

There is also some evidence of greater levels of longer distance commuting to Dublin and other locations, for example, the numbers travelling from the larger catchments of Galway city, Sligo and Ennis to work in Dublin has more than doubled over the 10 year period. This trend is likely to be evident for the smaller centres also.

However, it is also true that rural areas remain very important places of work. Across many of the 26 labour catchments the second most important place of work after the town itself is the rural parts of the county. Smaller centres and rural areas are very important employment centres and the analysis will show that this employment extends across sectors such as Education, health and Social Work, Manufacturing and Wholesale, Retail and Commerce.

Further detail will be available following the presentation at the NERI conference and will be posted here

 

Deirdre Frost

 

 

Changes and Trends in Disposable Incomes in Western Region Counties

The CSO has recently published data on Household Disposable Incomes at county level as part of the ‘County Incomes and Regional GDP 2016’ release.  This release contains useful trend data on incomes for counties as well as information about the levels of different household income components for each county.  Data on regional GDP, which is also part of this release, will be considered in a future post.

Here I give an overview of the 2016 Disposable Income data (and the estimates for 2017) before considering some of the changes over time.  It should be remembered that the ‘Disposable Incomes’ as discussed in this post are calculated at a macro level and the county data is most useful for comparison among counties and over time.  Indeed the CSO notes that “While the county figures involve uncertainty, they do provide a useful indication of the degree of variability at county level.”

The map from the CSO below gives a quick overview of Household Disposable Income per person in 2016.  It shows, unsurprisingly, that the highest disposable incomes are in the east and south, while counties in the west and north have the  lowest disposable incomes.   Dublin, Limerick and Kildare are the only counties where per capita disposable income exceeded the state average in 2016 although Wicklow, Cork and Waterford, were just below (see Figure 2below for more detail).

 

Source:  CSO, 2019, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2016

A summary of key data for the Western Region is provided in Table 1 below.  The data for 2016 can be regarded as more robust than the 2017 estimates and so it is used for most of the comparisons in this post.  In 2016 Disposable income per person in the Western Region was €17,934 and in 2017 it had increased to €18,128 (I have calculated the Western Region figures using inferred population estimates).

 

Table 1: Disposable income data for Western Region counties

*CSO Estimate  ^Own calculations

Source:  CSO, 2019, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2016  and CSO Statbank Table CIA02

 

Disposable income per person in Donegal is consistently the lowest in the region (and nationally) and estimates for 2017 show a small decline (-0.6%) in incomes in Donegal between the two years.  Disposable Incomes in Donegal in 2016 were only 77% of the state average.  Only three Western Region counties (Sligo, Galway and Leitrim) had disposable incomes of more than 90% of the state average, while Clare had a disposable income of 88% of the state average, Mayo 86% and Roscommon 83%.  The Western Region as a whole had a disposable income per person of 87% of the state average in 2016.

The small changes in disposable incomes between 2016 and the 2017 estimates are shown in Figure 1 below.  As noted, there was a decline in Donegal, and in Leitrim, Mayo and Roscommon the growth was less than 1%.  The most significant growth between 2016 and 2017 was in Clare (2.4%).  For the Western Region as a whole, disposable incomes showed a growth of 1.1%.  Disposable income per person in the State was €20,638 in 2016 and is estimated to have grown by 3.7% to €21,397 in 2017.  As noted, however, the 2017 data is estimated.  All counties showed more significant growth in Disposable Incomes between 2015 and 2016 (Table 1 above).  The largest growth in the region that period was in Mayo (4.6%) and Roscommon (4.4%).

 

Figure 1: Disposable Income per person for Western Region counties and the State, 2016 and 2017 (€)

*CSO Estimate  ^Own calculations

Source:  CSO, 2019, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2016

 

Disposable income per person for all Irish counties is shown in Figure 2 below.  Disposable income per person in Donegal is lowest in the state, and it is third lowest in Roscommon (Offaly is second lowest).  In contrast, Sligo has the tenth highest disposable income per person, and Galway is in eleventh place.  The highest disposable incomes nationally are in Dublin, Limerick and Kildare.   These, along with Wicklow, Cork and Waterford, all have Disposable Income per person of more than €20,000 per annum.

 

Figure 2: Disposable Income per Person for all Counties, Western Region and State.

Source:  CSO, 2019, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2016

 

Trends in Disposable Incomes over time

It is also interesting to look at changes in disposable incomes over time.  Figure 3 shows trends in disposable incomes in the Western Region between 2000 and 2016.  All of the counties show a very similar growth trajectory with rapid growth to the 2008 peak followed by rapid decline.  There was a small peak in 2012 followed by a fall in 2013 which related to a decline in social transfers as discussed here.  This decline between 2012 and 2013 which occurred in all counties, has mostly been followed by a period of growth to 2016.

 

Figure 3: Disposable Income per Person for Western Region Counties 2000-2016 (€)

Source:  CSO, 2019, Statbank Table CIA02

 

Disposable Incomes in the Western Region compared to the State

While Figure 3 shows the actual Disposable Incomes per person, when considering the trends among counties it is helpful to use indices so that county figures can be examined relative to the State (State=100).  Thus Figure 4 provides a contrast to the more positive growth trend indicated above in Figure 3 which showed growth in disposable incomes in Western Region counties between 2013 and 2016.  Growth rates in the Western Region were lower than for the state as a whole and so Figure 4 shows that Disposable Incomes in Western Region counties are declining relative to the state average (although there is some recovery relative to the State indicated between 2015 and 2016).  Figure 4 also reminds us that Galway was the only Western Region to have had a Disposable Income of higher than the state average during this period and this was only for one year in 2010.

 

Figure 4: Index of Disposable Incomes per person in Western Region counties 2000-2016, State=100

Source:  CSO, 2019, Statbank Table CIA02

 

Have Disposable Incomes Recovered?

Given the significance of the peak in Disposable Incomes in 2008 it is interesting to examine how Disposable Incomes performed in 2016 relative to that peak.  Although there has been some recovery in Disposable Income since their lowest point in 2013, Disposable Income per person in 2016 was below that for 2008 in all of the counties in Ireland (Figure 5).   Indeed for seven of the counties Disposable income was over than €4,000 per person less in 2016 than it had been in 2008.  Two of these counties (Roscommon and Clare) are in the Western Region.  As was shown in Table 1 above Disposable Income in 2016 was more than 20% lower in Roscommon (€4,401) in 2016 than it had been in 2008, while in Clare it was more than 19.1% less (€4,277).  Most significantly, in Meath incomes were €5,544 higher in 2008 than in 2016.

 

Figure 5: Difference in Household Disposable Income per person in 2008 and 2016

Source:  CSO, 2019,  Statbank Table CIA02

 

In contrast, Limerick is the county showing least difference in disposable income per person in 2008 compared with 2016 (- €321).  Dublin and Kerry have also recovered relatively well, although there is still a significant difference between Disposable Incomes in these counties in 2016 and 2008.  Of the Western Region counties Sligo has recovered best, with disposable incomes only 8% below that in 2008 (€1,746).  Interestingly, Donegal (14% less) and Mayo (13%), which are among the Western Region counties with the lowest Disposable Incomes per person, also show a less significant gap to 2008 than other Western Region counties.  However, it is of concern that disposable incomes in all counties are still considerably lower than they were in 2008.  While the Irish economy has recovered well in the last few years, this has not fed through to disposable incomes as measured in this data.

The differences in disposable incomes among counties can be explained by the changing patterns in the components of household incomes (as was discussed here and here).  I will examine trends in these in the most recent data on income components in a future post.  The growth and change in the regional economies as shown by the Regional GVA data will also be examined in a future post.

 

Helen McHenry

 

 

Galway as a Key Regional Driver

The WDC recently presented to Galway Chamber (presentation available here), noting some of the work they have recently undertaken and highlighting some policy implications for the Region as well as the city.

Galway – which Galway?!

Galway city and its reach goes well beyond the city boundary, but measuring this is complicated. In part because there are different measures depending on the role performed by the city, for example as a centre of excellence for health it has an extensive regional remit. More recently there is consideration of the Galway Metropolitan Area Spatial Plan (MASP) as part of Ireland 2040 and the National Planning Framework.

Travel to Work Areas

Another way of examining the impact and influence of Galway is examining its labour catchment. The WDC has analysed labour catchments, based on Travel to Work Areas, which in turn are based on the commuting patterns of workers resident in the Western Region. The WDC first undertook this exercise based on Census 2006 data and has completed the same analysis 10 years later with the most recent Census in 2016. This provides useful trend data, which shows a growth in the size of the Galway city labour catchment over the period. The Galway city labour catchment and the extent of commuting to the city highlights the extensive reach of the city across the entire county and beyond into parts of Galway and Mayo.

Highlights from 2016 Census

The recent Census data shows that between 2011 and 2016 the number of people living in Galway city grew by over 4% (4.2%), and by 2.4% in County Galway. Both the city and county had much higher population increases than anywhere else across the Western Region, (Mayo and Donegal recorded slight declines).

When examining the socio-economic profile of residents, the figures for Galway city are generally very similar to the state average, for example, in terms of the employment (53.4%) and unemployment rates (7.9%) and the share not economically active (38%) the Galway city figures and the State are the same.

NPF and RSES

There was a discussion on the National Planning Framework and the Northern & Western Regional Economic and Spatial Plan. While the NPF is to be a move away from ‘business as usual’, from a regional perspective the focus is on the five cities. A concern is implementation and the importance of sectoral policy as an instrument of change for both capital & current spending. Sectoral polices need to be aligned to support the move ‘away from business as usual’. However, there is little evidence of this in the NPF, so for example, policies such as the National Aviation Policy devised well before the NPF now need to be reviewed to support the regional population and employment targets.

On the Northern & Western Regional Economic and Spatial Plan, while the WDC welcomes regional population targets there needs to be more commitments to help deliver. There is much potential in the regional centres but there needs to be better links and investment, however much of this is at the back end of the programme rather than being front loaded. As we know from previous spatial planning exercises (e.g. National Spatial Strategy), implementation is key. What happens if priorities of a Government Department or sectoral agency conflict with RSES?

Policy implications for Galway

Better intra-regional transport links e.g. M18 have extended labour catchments & opened up new opportunities, for example there is now more commuting for work between Galway, Ennis, Shannon and Limerick. This can be a key asset for large employers looking to access the skills they need. The Galway-Ennis-Shannon- Limerick may currently be the most cohesive element of the Atlantic Economic Corridor and it illustrates how good transport links are critical.

Employment and good job opportunities are important in ensuring skilled people will stay in the region and Galway needs to attract new and dynamic enterprises. Employment is very important but Galway as a place to live is equally, if not more important. Place of residence is usually more stable than place of employment, therefore retaining the good quality of life available in Galway and improving on it should also be a policy priority.

Galway City and Chambers city Regions Conference

The idea of the regional cities working together more cohesively was a key theme discussed at the conference on urban development hosted by the Chambers of Commerce in the five cities – Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, held in NUI Galway on 28th March. The conference, entitled ‘Ireland’s Cities – Powerhouses of Regional Growth’, explored how Ireland’s five cities can fulfill the goals of economic development for their regions set out in the National Planning Framework (NPF) and Project Ireland 2040.

The Minster for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy TD, opened the conference and welcomed the initiative, pointing to the opportunities for urban growth and regeneration without urban sprawl. John Moran, Chair of the Land Development Agency pointed to the opportunities for the four regional cities to work together to create a counterbalance to the East and to combine capacities to create more opportunities. Other speakers included Anne Graham, CEO of the National Transport Authority.  John O’Regan, Director of AECOM discussed the results of their Survey on Our Cities’ Infrastructure Needs and Dr. Patrick Collins from NUI Galway discussed a Vision for Galway as an example of urban regeneration highlighting issues and opportunities. The presentations will be made available on the Galway Chamber website shortly.

 

Deirdre Frost

A Tale of Three Regions: GDP in the new NUTS2 Regions

Regional GDP for 2017 has recently been published by Eurostat for 281 NUTS2 regions in the EU28.  This data shows how the different EU regions compare in terms of GDP and how they rank in relation to each other and to the EU average.  This data is of particular interest in Ireland as it is the first data on regional GDP available for the new Irish NUTS 2 regions.  As discussed here and here, instead of two NUTS2 regions in Ireland (the Border, Midland and West (BMW) Region and the Southern and Eastern (S&E) Region) there are now three regions: Northern and Western, Southern, and Eastern and Midland.  The Northern and Western region is very similar to the Western Region under the remit of the WDC[1].  While this is the first GDP data available for the three regions it is expected that the CSO will shortly publish regional GDP data in Ireland for the same years, at both NUTS2 and NUTS3 level, though there may be some issues relating to confidentiality at NUTS3 level which could delay the publication.

Regional GDP over the last decade.

Eurostat has published the data for 2006 to 2017 (although for Ireland the 2017 data is an estimate) allowing for a good examination of the changing output of the three regions, as measured by GDP.  Figure 1 below shows regional GDP (€million) in three NUTS2 regions for that period, highlighting the very different growth trends in the regions in the last decade.

 

Figure 1: Regional GDP (€m) for Ireland’s NUTS2 regions, 2006-2017

Source: Eurostat Table tgs000. 2017 data estimated. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&plugin=1&language=en&pcode=tgs00003

In 2006 the Northern and Western region accounted for 12% of the national economy, but by 2017 it was estimated to account for only 8%.  GDP in the region had grown by only 5% in that period.  In contrast the Eastern and Midland region economy grew by 47% between 2006 and 2017, while the Southern region’s economy had more than doubled in size (101% growth).  The Irish economy as a whole, as measured here, grew by 59% over that time. The Eastern and Midland has the largest regional economy, accounting for 56% of the national economy in 2006.  This fell to 51% in 2017.  The Southern region accounted for 32% of the economy in 2006 and 41% by 2017.

The level shift in the size of the economy Ireland in 2015 discussed in detail here, is shown clearly in the chart.  The relocation to Ireland by significant Multi National Enterprises (MNEs) of some or all of their business activities and assets (in particular valuable Intellectual Property) alongside increased contract manufacturing conducted abroad (which is included in Irish accounts), all contributed to this shift in GDP.  It is evident that the most significant shift was experienced in the Southern region, previously with the Southern and Eastern regional data combined this was less obvious.  Nonetheless growth in the Eastern and Midland region from 2013 onward was also very significant while the Northern and Western region GDP does not appear to have been affected by the factors which gave rise to the level shift, or to have achieved steady economic growth.

While Figure 1 shows the actual GDP, Figure 2 below shows GDP per person in each of the regions, a format which is more comparable across regions within Ireland and Europe and highlights the very significant widening of disparity among Ireland’s regions.

 

Figure 2: Regional GDP per inhabitant in PPS for Ireland’s NUTS2 regions, 2006-2017

Eurostat Table tgs0005 https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&plugin=1&language=en&pcode=tgs00005

It should be noted that Figure 2 shows the data from 2006 to 2017 in terms of in terms of purchasing power standards (PPS)[2] rather than euro.  The disparity in GDP per person has grown significantly since 2006.  In 2006 GDP (PPS per inhabitant) in the Northern and Western region was 69% of the national average, by 2017 it was only 46%.  Meanwhile, in 2006 in the Eastern and Midland region GDP per person was 115% of the national average and 104% in 2017.  The most rapid change has been in the Southern region where GDP per person was 95% of the state average in 2006 and 122% in 2017.

Data for 2017 was also provided in euros.  The GDP per person in 2017 for the Northern and Western region was €28,400, for the Southern region it was €74,700 (163% higher), for the Eastern and Midland it was €64,000 per person, 125% higher than the Northern and Western region.  Nationally GDP was €61,200 per person.

 

Comparison with EU28 Regions

The GDP per person in the Southern region is 3rd highest (63,000 PPS) of the 323 regions for which there is NUTS2 regional GDP 2016 data, after Inner London West (185,100 PPS) and Luxembourg (76,200 PPS).  The Eastern and Midland region is 8th (54,000 PPS) while the Northern and Western Region lags considerably, in 181st place (23,900 PPS).

Given that the eligibility for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) is calculated on the basis of regional GDP per inhabitant (in PPS and averaged over a three year period) this rank is important.  The NUTS 2 regions are split into three groups for the programming period 2021–27:

  • less developed regions (where GDP per inhabitant was less than 75% of the EU average);
  • transition regions (where GDP per inhabitant was between 75% and 100% of the EU average); and
  • more developed regions (where GDP per inhabitant was more than 100% of the EU average).

For the programming period 2021-2027, the Commission envisages the continued use of the NUTS classification for determining the regional eligibility  and co-financing rates for support from the ERDF and the ESF.

In the Southern region in 2017 GDP was 220% of the EU28 average (see Figure 3 below) and the Eastern and Midland region GDP was 189% of the EU average neither region would qualify as transition regions for the ERDF or the ESP, but would be classified as ‘more developed regions’.

 

Figure 3: NUTS2 Regional GDP per person as percentage of the EU average (EU=100)

Source: Eurostat Table tgs0005 Regional Gross Domestic Product (PPS per inhabitant in % of the EU28 average) by NUTS 2 regions. 2017 estimated. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&plugin=1&language=en&pcode=tgs00006

 

The Northern and Western Region, however, had a GDP of 82% of the EU average in 2016.  It was more than 90% of the EU average in only two of the last ten years (2011 and 2012), although in 2006 it was greater than the EU average at 102%.  It is estimated at 84% of the EU average in 2017 and so the Northern and Western Region would qualify as a ‘transition’ region in the programming period 2021-2027.

Edited to add: Despite publication of GDP data for the new NUTS2 regions it appears that for the next round of cohesion policy funding (2021-2027) the old NUTS 2 regions will be used (BMW and S&E) rather than the three new regions (including the NW).  This means the BMW will have Transition Region status and the Southern and Eastern Region will be classified as a ‘more developed region’.

Conclusion

There are of course difficulties with the use of GDP as a measure of regional disparities and regional well being (see here and here) but despite these concerns it remains the most important statistic for regional economic activity.  It is essential to our understanding of the changes taking place in Irish regions, although, in order to fully understand regional growth and change, it is important to use GDP in combination with other data such as that on employment, enterprise activity, income, wealth and consumption.

The rapid growth in GDP in the Southern Region and in the Eastern and Midland regions contrasts sharply with the very significantly slower growth in the Northern and Western Region.  The substantial differences in regional GDP per person in 2017 in the three regions, when compared to that in 2006, should be of great concern for Ireland as a whole and for the Northern and Western Region in particular.

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] The WDC remit covers Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.  The Northern and Western region is similar, but includes Cavan and Monaghan and excludes Clare (which is part of the Southern Region).

[2] PPS is the technical term used by Eurostat for the common currency in which national accounts aggregates are expressed when adjusted for price level differences using PPPs.  Basic figures are expressed in PPS, i.e. a common currency that eliminates the differences in price levels between countries allowing meaningful volume comparisons of GDP between countries.

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

Energy and Climate Action- the WDC View of the Draft National Plan

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just made a submission to DCCAE on the Draft National Energy and Climate Plan 2012-2030 (NECP).  The development of clear energy and climate action to 2030 is essential to achieving the national goal of a low carbon economy in Ireland by 2050.  The WDC recognises that energy and climate action will bring important opportunities for our largely rural region, but at the same time it will bring challenges that we would wish to see addressed in the NECP.   The WDC made a detailed submission to the previous consultation on the draft NECP (November 2018), therefore in this submission we only addressed specific issues arising from this draft of relevance to our region and our remit.

The Draft National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP)

The NECP usefully brings together and summarises energy and climate policy.  However, much of the focus is on current policy and, while there is a recognition that it will be difficult to meet targets with the policy that is currently in place, there is little information about the additional policies or regulations which will be needed to ensure we achieve targets.

The Plan recognises that heating is a particular issue in rural areas (p4) but there is no specific commitment or policy to address the needs of rural areas either in relation heating or transport.  Nor is there a recognition that there are unique opportunities for rural areas from the low carbon economy.  We believe that specific rural focused policies could be introduced for this. This would have benefit both in terms of achievement of EU targets and in relation to the development of the rural and regional economies.

Similarly the NECP acknowledges that the dispersed population pattern results in particular challenges in terms of transportation options.  Again there is no specific commitment or policy to address the needs of rural areas.   The National Policy Framework on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland 2017-2030 notes that it is likely that in future electricity will fuel the majority of passenger cars, commuter rail and taxis while natural gas and biofuels will play an increasingly important role for larger vehicles like HGV and buses.  While we would agree with this, we believe that services such as EV charging points and CNG fueling points must be widely available in rural areas where population is dispersed.  Without these services being available and reliable, rural dwellers could be reluctant to adopt the new technologies and it could deter visitors who might be concerned about the availability of charging/fueling points.  In the case of HGVs and buses, lack of refueling options could increase costs of delivery or services in more rural and peripheral regions.

Electricity transmission network

In relation to the development of the electricity transmission network there is no mention of the issues noted by EirGrid in the recently published Systems Needs Assessment (Nov 2018) in the West (high need for grid development), North West (high need for grid development) and Midland (moderate need for grid development).  These need to be included. A study recently commissioned by the WDC, which we blogged about here reviewed the transmission network and current planned renewable generation to identify areas of the Western Region that have transmission capacity for new renewable generation. It found that North Mayo/West Sligo and Co. Donegal have no capacity for new generation without substantial transmission investment. Sligo/Leitrim, South Mayo and West Galway has limited capacity and will require transmission investment in the future. The WDC believes that significant investment is needed in these areas, so that the current and contracted renewable generation requirements are met and that there is potential for further future connections to ensure areas of best resource can produce most.

Gas transmission network

There is a need to review the natural gas network coverage to ensure that it is future proofed to meet the needs of all key urban centres (currently large settlements such as Sligo and Letterkenny are not connected).  There is important potential for decarbonisation in the gas network, through the future use of biogas, and through the transmission of gas for CNG refueling.  There are also economic benefits for urban centres which are connected to the natural gas network.  In the context of the NECP the broader government criteria for developing the transmission network should be reviewed.  This should include information from the study of wider benefits of connecting regions to the natural gas which has been undertaken for DCCAE but which has not been published.

Electric Vehicles

We welcomed the target of 500K EVs by 2030 but to help achieve this charging investment needs to be early and widespread. This will not just benefit those living in rural areas but will be important for those for those visiting for business or pleasure.  Lack of charging points could in future become a disincentive for visitors and could further concentrate tourism and other economic activities in areas near larger urban centres.

Built environment

We agree energy efficiency is important and welcome the ambition to increase the number of homes with a BER rating of B and above.  However, the most recent BER ratings data from the CSO shows that currently only 15% of homes assessed nationally have a rating of B or above.  In the Western Region only 10% achieve this and it is as low as 7% in Roscommon.  This highlights the need to specifically address energy efficiency and home heating issues in more rural and less well-off regions.  For dwellings in the in lowest rating categories and the costs and difficulties of achieving upgrade to a B rating are most significant.

Most homes in our region use oil for heating.  There needs to be a specific effort to encourage change in rural areas which are oil dependent.  While many of the incentives are for the installation of heat pumps it should be remembered that the use of wood biomass for heating brings very significant local economic benefits.

Transport

Employment is only one factor generating trips and the National Travel Survey shows that majority of travel is associated with non-work trips.  The importance of these non-work trips and the potential for change in this demand needs to be more central to climate action planning.

Rural people are reliant on car based transport, they have little available public transport and tend to travel greater distances. Therefore clearly rural dwellers’ transport demand patterns need to be central to planning for climate action. There must be detailed consideration of transport issues for smaller settlements and rural areas.  The majority of the population will continue to live in the historical settlement pattern and spatial planning will not change that pattern significantly to 2030 or even in the longer term (to 2050). Thus the NCEP needs to focus on current spatial patterns.

In conclusion, the WDC believes that it is essential that part of the NECP should have a specific focus on issues for rural areas, and on actions to ensure that rural areas are both in a position to benefit from a move to a low carbon economy and to meet the challenges of doing so.  This will enable them to make a fair contribution national goals in relation to renewable energy and to actions to mitigate climate change.

 

Read our full submission here

 

 

 

Helen McHenry

WDC Submission on Draft RSES for Northern & Western Region 

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

As we’ve provided substantial input previously to the preparation of the Draft RSES, in this submission we mainly comment on the specific text and content of the Draft RSES document and pay particular focus to the 211 Regional Policy Objectives set out.

Some of the general comments contained in our submission include:

A Rural Region

  • Adapting the ‘city-led development’ approach of the National Planning Framework (NPF) to a highly rural region presents a considerable challenge. The RSES for the NWRA Region needs to have flexibility to take an approach more suited to the rural nature of its settlement pattern.
  • Rural areas provide much of the urban workforce and urban demand. Rural-urban interlinkages, including travel to work patterns, need to be given greater consideration.
  • Job creation in smaller towns, villages and rural areas, as well as remote working, can bring closer alignment of housing and jobs. Building more houses in large urban centres is not the only route to greater alignment.

Implementation

  • Many of the Regional Policy Objectives do not include detail of how they will be implemented, who will be involved in leading or implementing them or the timeframe for implementation.
  • A mechanism is needed to achieve the required alignment of a large array of national, regional, local, sectoral, public and private organisations, policies, priorities and strategies to ensure implementation of the RSES. It needs to be clear what will happen if the priorities of a Government Department or sectoral agency conflict with the RSES.

Growth Ambitions

The Draft RSES is based on a Growth Framework composed of 5 Growth Ambitions: 1) Vibrant Region; 2) Natural Region; 3) Connected Region; 4) Inclusive Region; 5) Enabling our Region.  Some of our key points on these included:

  • The Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC), as an agreed place-based platform for economic growth, should be designated as an Economic Zone in the RSES.
  • Adopting a ‘sector’ approach to economic and enterprise development misses out on many ‘cross-cutting’ themes e.g. digitalisation, AI, finance.
  • There is an urgent need to review national Ports and Aviation policy to move away from the ‘business as usual’ approach which reinforces the dominance of Dublin Port and Airport.
  • Delivering Atlantic Corridor road projects (on the N17/15) should be prioritised to take place earlier (no commitment in current NDP to begin construction before 2027).
  • Some care is needed in focusing on ‘infrastructure corridors’ – this approach will not work in all circumstances and areas distant from such ‘corridors’ risk further disadvantage.
  • RSES should contain a stronger commitment to the extension of the natural gas grid.
  • RSES needs to focus on improving living standards for residents of the Region as a key objective in its own right, rather than simply as a way to attract companies and support business.
  • More reference is needed to the potential impact of Brexit.

The full submission is available here

Following the public consultation (which closed on 8 February) the NWRA 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.

The Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Regional Assembly  is still open for consultation, with a deadline of 8 March 2019, and a future post will discuss the WDC’s submission to that consultation.

Pauline White

Even Nuttier about NUTS!

Last July I published a blog post Nuts about NUTS! where I discussed the introduction of the new regional classification for statistics in Ireland.  Briefly, a new regional classification for collecting statistics in Ireland was approved by the EU in 2016, following the Local Government Act 2014 and the establishment of three new Regional Assemblies.  The CSO first used this new regional classification in the Labour Force Survey for Quarter 1 2018.  It has since used the new regional classification in any data release which includes regional data.

The new structure involves three NUTS2 level regions (replacing the two previous NUTS2 regions (Southern & Eastern and Border, Midland & West)) and eight (revised) NUTS3 level regions as follows:

  • NUTS2 Northern & Western: Composed of NUTS3 West (Galway, Mayo, Roscommon) and NUTS3 Border (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan).
  • NUTS2 Southern: Composed of NUTS3 Mid-West (Clare, Limerick, Tipperary), NUTS3 South East (Wexford, Waterford, Carlow, Kilkenny) and NUTS3 South West (Cork, Kerry).
  • NUTS2 Eastern & Midland: Composed of NUTS3 Dublin, NUTS3 Mid-East (Wicklow, Kildare, Meath, Louth) and NUTS3 Midlands (Offaly, Laois, Westmeath, Longford).

The changes at NUTS3 level are the transfer of South Tipperary from the South-East NUTS3 region into the Mid-West NUTS3 region (following the amalgamation of North and South Tipperary Councils) and the movement of Louth from the Border NUTS3 region to the Mid-East NUTS3 region.  Therefore four out of the eight NUTS3 regions changed and four (West, South West, Dublin and Midlands) remained the same.  The CSO published an Information Note on the revisions.

Transition Period

Like the UK leaving the EU, we are currently in something of a ‘transition period’ when it comes to regional statistics in Ireland, and while nowhere near as traumatic, it is causing a few problems and some confusion, namely:

Which NUTS3 regions? It is easy to tell the ‘new’ classification when it includes the NUTS2 regions.  If you see Northern & Western, Southern and Eastern & Midland you know it is the ‘new’ one.

However as the names of the NUTS3 regions remained unchanged, when you just see a list of the NUTS3 regions, it is not clear if the ‘old’ or ‘new’ classification is being used. A good example of how this can be confusing was the recent Census of Industrial Production 2016.  In this release data was provided for five NUTS3 regions (Border, Dublin, Mid-East, Midland and West) as the data for the South West, South East and Mid-East were suppressed for confidentiality reasons. No data was therefore given in the release publication for the NUTS2 regions. Reading the release it was not clear which regional classification was used and it was not included in the Background Notes to the release.  Only by going into Statbank to download the data, and seeing the NUTS2 regions of Northern & Western etc. listed was it clear that the ‘new’ classification was used.

When using the CSO’s Statbank system, a ‘Note’ will usually appear in a dialog box at the top of the page (see below), and also at the bottom of the spreadsheet you download indicating if the new regional classification is used.  If you are looking at a published CSO ‘Release’ such as the Adult Education Survey 2017, then the regional classification is usually included in the ‘Background Notes’.

Fig. 1: Screengrab from CSO Statbank

Different CSO data sets: As mentioned above, any new data (which includes a regional breakdown) issued by the CSO since mid-2018 uses the new regional classification.  However data sets published prior to that use the older classification.  So for example the most recent Labour Force Survey data, which measures employment and unemployment, uses the new regional structure but the County Incomes and Regional GDP 2015 data issued last February uses the older classification.  Therefore a report or analysis drawing on a number of different CSO data sets may find that the regional classifications are not necessarily comparable.

Different data sources: While the CSO has adopted the ‘new’ regional classifications for all releases, this may not be true of all data providers.  Earlier this year the IDA issued its end of year results for 2018.  The results included data for the number of jobs in IDA-backed companies by region and the annual change.  The release did not specify which regional classification was used, so it was unclear if their ‘Border’ was the ‘old’ region including Louth or the ‘new’ region without Louth.

I got in touch with IDA and they confirmed they were continuing to use the ‘old’ regional structure as it aligned with their regional office structure, the regional targets set in their Strategy and current EU State Aid regulations.  Their intention is to switch to the new structures from 2020.

While this is very understandable, it does raise the possibility for some confusion and misunderstanding.  For example someone may compare total employment in the Border region in 2018 (derived from the LFS and using the ‘new’ regions) with employment in IDA companies (derived from IDA results and using the ‘old’ regions) without realising the two ‘Borders’ are not the same region.  This clearly illustrates the need for all data providers and users to state which regional classification is being used.

Time series: When releasing new regional data with the ‘new’ classifications, the CSO are (where applicable) issuing ‘backdated’ results for the ‘new’ regions to 2012, so for example in the CSO’s Statbank if you go to the Labour Force Survey, you can download data for the ‘new’ regions for each quarter from Q1 2012 to Q3 2018 (latest).  Clearly, recoding and backdating massive data sets with new classifications is a time-consuming task and providing six years of time series data is very welcome.

However it does mean conducting time series analysis at regional level (except for the four ‘unchanged’ NUTS3 regions) further back than 2012 involves a break in the data at 2012.  This break in the time series can cause some confusion, an example was the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) published late last year. The CSO used the new classification for the 2017 release and backdated to 2012, with the data prior to that (2004-2011) using the old classification.  They noted this in the dialog box (see below) and download in Statbank and in the ‘Information Note’ for the release.  However, there was some commentary by people comparing the regional poverty data from 2008 and 2017 without making reference to the fact that for four of the eight regions, the data for the two periods was not directly comparable.

Fig. 2: Screengrab from CSO Statbank

Also, while the CSO have committed to providing backdated time series for the new regions to 2012, it is not clear if all data providers will do the same.  Therefore it is important to check.

Coping with the transition!

Obviously over time this issue will largely resolve itself as the revised classification becomes the norm for all data and we move further away from the ‘break’ in the time series.  In the meantime however here are a few suggestions for coping with the transition:

  1. Check: When looking at or downloading any data at regional level, check which regional classification is used. For CSO data, it is usually included in a ‘dialog’ box in Statbank and the Background/Information Note for the release or if the data includes NUTS2 data it is easy to tell. In general any CSO data issued since June 2018 uses the ‘new’ classification and anything issued before that will be the ‘old’.  Also be sure to check if (and how far) any backdating of the data has been done, for CSO it will generally be to 2012. Other data sources would need to be checked on a case by case basis.
  2. Ask: If it is not stated or clear from the release or data, contact the data provider to check. The more people who make a query, the more conscious all data providers will be to clarify which classification is used.
  3. Say: If you are a data provider and publishing data at regional level, be conscious to explicitly state which regional classification is used. If you are a data user and are publishing analysis or commentary using regional data, clarify which classification you are using. This is particularly critical if multiple data sets or sources are used with different regional classifications.

While this may all seem a little pedantic, given the current interest in the impact of Brexit on the border economy, knowing if someone discussing data for the Border is discussing a Border including Louth (with Dundalk and Drogheda) or a Border excluding Louth, could make quite a lot of difference.

Pauline White

Give your view on the development of the Northern and Western Region- make a submission on the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy

Just a reminder that the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) is currently out for consultation, with a closing date of 8th February 2019.

The National Planning Framework (NPF) published last year, provides a framework for development and investment over the coming years. Under the umbrella of Project Ireland 2040, it was published with its companion, the National Development Plan (NDP), a 10 year strategy for public investment.

The NPF is a framework for the development needed to underpin population growth in Ireland of up to 1 million people (by 2040) with approximately 50% of this growth to be in the five main cities.  The Framework is underpinned by 10 National Strategic Outcomes and, central to it, is the concept of Compact Growth identifying where new growth can take place within the existing envelope of our Cities, Towns and villages.

The primary vehicle for delivering the NPF is through the implementation of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES) for each of the three NUTS 2 Regions shown on the map below.  The Assembly in each of these Regions (the Northern and Western Region, the Southern Region  and the Eastern and Midlands Region) has a draft RSES currently under consultation.

The NWRA, through the RSES, aims to provide regional level strategic planning and economic policy in support of the implementation of the National Planning Framework and provide a greater level of focus around the National Policy Objectives and National Strategic Outcomes in the Region.  The challenge for the NWRA was to take the high-level framework and principles of the NPF and work out more detail at regional and local authority levels.  This NWRA RSES introduces the concept of a Growth Framework with ‘Five Growth Ambitions’ defining the priorities for the Region and how they are mutually intertwined. The five are:

  • Growth Ambition 1: Economy & Employment – Vibrant Region
  • Growth Ambition 2: Environment – Natural Heritage
  • Growth Ambition 3: Connectivity – Connected Region
  • Growth Ambition 4: Quality of Life
  • Growth Ambition 5: Infrastructure – Enabling Our Region

The draft NWRA Strategy can be viewed or downloaded here.

Written submissions or observations with respect to the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western Regional Assembly and the accompanying reports may be made between 19th November 2018 and 5pm on 8th February 2019 (both dates inclusive) through one of the following media:

On Line: Completing the RSES Web Submission Form available here.

Email: rses@nwra.ie

Mail: ‘RSES Submissions’, NWRA, The Square, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon. F45 W674

The focus of this post has been on the NWRA RSES.  In a future post we will outline key elements of the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Regional Assembly  (consultation closing date is 8th March 2019).  The Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly Draft RSES is also currently out for consultation, with a closing date of 23rd January 2019.

 

Helen McHenry