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City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions- Conference Report

The Regional Studies Association Irish Branch Annual Conference was held in the Institute of Technology Sligo on Friday 7th September.  Appropriate for the location, it had the theme “City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions”.  The presentations are available here.

Figure 1: Dr Chris O’Malley from Sligo IT

The conference covered a range of themes relating to regional development and how urban areas interact with their rural regions.  It was opened by Dr Chris O’Malley from Sligo IT who discussed the role of Sligo IT in the development of industry and manufacturing in the region and the IT’s role as an integrator of national policy at regional level.  Dr Deirdre Garvey, chairperson of the Western Development Commission, welcomed delegates to the conference noting how pleased the WDC was to be sponsoring the Annual Conference.  She also welcomed the fact that the conference was taking place in the North West, given the recognition in the National Planning Framework of the specific challenges for the region and how the National Planning Framework (NPF) and Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) process highlight the distinct challenges and opportunities for our predominantly rural region.

These addresses were followed by a very interesting session on the history of Irish planning over the last 50 years.  Dr Proinnsias Breathnach (Maynooth University) presented on regional development policy following the 1968 Buchanan report and its impact on industry locations and spatial development.  Dr Breathnach also presented the paper by Prof. Jim Walsh (Maynooth University) who was unable to attend the conference.  He examined the influence of both the Buchanan report and the 2002 National Spatial Strategy, considered the learnings from these and the factors which will influence the success of the National Planning Framework process.  Finally in this session, Prof. Des McCafferty (University of Limerick) presented on the structural and spatial evolution of the Irish urban hierarchy since Buchanan, and examined urban population data over time and the distribution of population across the settlement hierarchy.  He noted that it was important to understand changes projected by the NPF in the context of historic trends

Figure 2: Dr Proinnsias Breathnach (Maynooth University), Prof. Des McCafferty (University of Limerick) and Deirdre Frost (WDC)

After coffee the session on Regional Strategy and Planning covered a broad range of topics.  Louis Nuachi (DIT) presented on the importance of social and cultural objectives in town planning using a case study of planning in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.  David Minton, the CEO of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) discussed issues for the development of the North and West in the RSES, some of the historic development of the region and a number of the challenges in developing a region wide approach.  Finally in that session, John Nugent (IDA) discussed the IDA role in attracting Foreign Direct Investment to the region and some of the important factors which influence the location of FDI, including the importance of having a strong indigenous sector already in place and the ways the indigenous and foreign sectors are mutually beneficial.

After lunch international perspectives were provided by Dr Andrew Copus from the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen and Professor Mark Partridge, the C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University.

Dr Copus paper  The Scottish City Region Deals – A rural development perspective noted that optimistic assumptions about how a wider functional region benefits from city investments, are commonplace and generally unquestioned, despite meagre evidence of such impacts.   He discussed the two strands of ideas on policy for urban rural development that of polycentricity and rural urban co-operation (theories which are stronger in EU countries and in OECD work), and City Regions (which have tended to have more focus in the UK).  He highlighted the importance of defining what is meant by rural when considering the impact of such regional policies and  he discussed the development and implementation of regional policy by the Scottish and UK governments in Scotland.

He noted that in general in these deals the dominant rationale relates more to “Smart Specialisation” than to any kind of urban rural cooperation, interaction or spread effect concept, but the way growth deals developing for rural areas of Scotland will fit into the Post Brexit rural development landscape remains to be seen.

Figure 3: Audience at the conference

Prof. Mark Partridge’s paper Is there a future for Rural in an Urbanizing World and Should We Care? noted how rural areas have received increased attention with the rise of right-wing populist parties in Western countries, in which a strong part of their support is rural based. Thus, bridging this rural-urban economic divide takes on added importance in not only improving the individual livelihoods of rural residents but in increasing social cohesion.

He discussed the background of rural and peripheral economic growth, noting the United States is a good place to examine these due its spatial heterogeneity.   He showed that, contrary to public perceptions, in the US urban areas do not entirely dominate rural areas in terms of growth.  Rural US counties with greater shares of knowledge workers grow faster than metro areas (even metros with knowledge workers).

He had some clear suggestions for regional policy, noting that governance should shift from separate farm/rural/urban policies to a regional policy though a key issue is to get all actors to participate and believe their input is valued. In rural development it is important to leverage local social capital and networks to promote good governance and to treat all businesses alike and avoid “picking winners.  Rural communities should be attractive to knowledge workers and commuters, while quality of life, pleasant environment, sustainable development; good public services such as schools are important to attract return migrants.  Building local entrepreneurship is key too and business retention and expansion is better than tax incentives for outside investment.

Figure 4: Dr Chris Van Egeraat (Maynooth University)

In the final session ‘Understanding Regional and Urban Dynamics’ I gave a presentation on what regional accounts can tell up about our regional economies and discussed some of the issues associated with the regional data and the widening of disparities among regions.  Dr Chris Van Egeraat (Maynooth University) presented a paper, written with Dr Justin Doran (UCC) which used a similar method to Prof. Partridge to estimate trickle down effects of Irish Urban centres and how they influence the population in their wider regions.  Finally Prof. Edgar Morgenroth (DCU) presented on the impacts of improvements in transport accessibility across Ireland highlighting some of the changes in accessibility over time and noted that despite these changes human capital is the most important factor influencing an area’s development.

While the conference had smaller attendance than previous years there was good audience participation and discussion of the themes.  The conference papers are now available on the WDC website here and will shortly be available on the RSA website.

 

Helen McHenry

Issues for the Western Region’s SMEs

The WDC recently made a submission to the Seanad Public Consultation Committee on the important topic of Small and Medium Sized Businesses in Ireland.

In our submission we highlighted that the Western Region is a predominantly rural region with 65% of the population living in rural areas (outside centres of 1,500).  Trends in the location of FDI investments, especially in the period of the recovery, have shown increasing concentration in Ireland’s cities and their hinterlands, although this year has seen greater distribution (e.g. to Sligo) as Dublin’s cost of living and housing shortages drive multinationals to seek other locations. Regardless of this however, FDI is only one element of job and enterprise growth and is not the solution for the vast majority of the Western Region.  Therefore supporting the start-up, expansion and viability of Irish indigenous SMEs is at the core of both the region and Ireland’s future growth.

Indeed the important role of SMEs in regional development will be among the topics discussed at this Friday’s Regional Studies Association Annual Conference at IT Sligo, on the theme City-Led Development & Peripheral Regions.  International keynote speakers Professor Mark Partridge (US) and Dr Andrew Copus (Scotland) will be joined by academics and policymakers from Ireland to consider how (or indeed if) a ‘city-region’ regional policy approach can really bring benefits for peripheral regions and rural areas. Register now

SMEs in the Western Region

In 2016 there were 54,410 enterprises registered in the seven-county Western Region, and only 50 of these were large (250+) enterprises.[1]  Next week the WDC will publish a new WDC Insights publication examining enterprise data for the Western Region.

In our submission, we noted that SMEs located in the Western Region, including those in small and medium-sized towns, villages and rural areas, face some specific challenges:

  • Small local markets and distance from larger markets;
  • Poor transport connectivity (for staff and freight) with no motorway in the Western Region north of Tuam and often poor quality local and regional roads linking to primary and secondary routes;
  • Weaker broadband infrastructure (access and speed) constraining online operations;
  • Poor mobile phone coverage for voice calls and data;
  • Difficulties in identifying and recruiting suitably qualified staff, especially at senior managerial and technical levels;
  • Lack of regional seed and early stage venture capital funders;
  • Declining populations in some areas, especially in the economically active (and higher spending) age categories;
  • Reduced activity and footfall in smaller town centres with the growth of online retail and improved transport access to larger urban centres offering greater retail and service choice;
  • Isolation and lack of networking opportunities;
  • For SMEs based around Galway city, traffic congestion can be a major constraint;
  • SMEs in Border counties and throughout the Western Region currently face uncertainty regarding the implications of BREXIT. After March 2019 there may be very significant impacts on their businesses.  These smaller businesses are most vulnerable, lacking staff and resources to change and develop in response to changes in their commercial relationships with the UK.

The submission then goes on to set out some specific policy recommendations on access to finance, recruitment and retention of suitably qualified staff and infrastructure.

Read the full submission here.

Pauline White

 

[1] CSO (2018), Business Demography 2016

City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions- join the debate!

The theme of this year’s Regional Studies Association Irish Branch Annual Conference, to be held in the Institute of Technology Sligo on Friday 7th September, is “City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions”.

The conference will examine how urban areas interact with their rural regions and whether the development of the city or urban area leads to wider development.

Two international experts, Dr Andrew Copus from the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen and Professor Mark Partridge, the C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University, have been invited to present other countries’ experience on this theme and to stimulate debate about the reality of city led development.

Andrew’s paper  The Scottish City Region Deals – A rural development perspective. considers how urban-rural interaction is a long-established element of the “theory of change” associated with regional development policy. Optimistic assumptions about wider functional region benefits of city investments, are commonplace and generally unquestioned, despite meagre evidence of such impacts. A summary history of urban-rural concepts in the European policy discourse, will be followed by a brief account of rural/regional policy in Scotland. Against this background the origin and evolution of Scotland’s City Region Deals, and Regional Partnerships, will be described. The presentation will conclude with some reflections on the how these evolving arrangements fit into an already cluttered policy landscape, their compatibility with rural policy “mainstreaming”, and the likely benefits for rural Scotland.

Mark’s paper Is there a future for Rural in an Urbanizing World and Should We Care? examines how rural areas have received increased attention with the rise of right-wing populist parties in Western countries, in which a strong part of their support is rural based. While the underlying reasons are complex and unique to each country, one common feature is that rural areas have typically faced recent economic decline, creating anxiety, and in some cases, anger of rural residents directed at their urban counterparts. Thus, bridging this rural-urban economic divide takes on added importance in not only improving the individual livelihoods of rural residents but in increasing social cohesion. One way to bridge this economic gap is to improve rural-urban economic linkages through an urban-led economic strategy. For example, urban growth can create commuting and market opportunities for rural residents and firms if there is sufficient connectivity. While such a process has strong theoretical advantages it also requires rural areas to more carefully think about quality of life to attract and retain residents who would otherwise relocate to urban areas.

The issues in Ireland are examined in other presentations and it is to be hoped that the conference will provide useful input to the discussion about regional development in Ireland as the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies of Project Ireland 2040 are drafted. The draft conference programme is below.

Detailed Conference Information can be accessed here (including speaker bios, directions, and accommodation). 

Register here for the conference (€70 including lunch) and come along and join in the debate.

 

Helen McHenry

A Snapshot of the Western Region – WDC publishes a series of county infographics

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published a series of eight infographics showing of key statistics for the Western Region and each of its seven counties.  The data is from the CSO’s Census of Population in 2016 with analysis by the WDC.

 

The infographic shows

  • The population of the county
  • The percentage living in rural areas.
  • The percentage of the working age population is in the labour force
  • Average time to travel to work in minutes

There is a different infographic for each county and there is also one for the Western Region.   The Region’s infographic  shows the Western Region population growth since the last Census in 2011 (1.0%) and the growth over the last ten years (8.7%).

The Region has more females (50.4%) than males and that 15% of the population are over 65 and more than a fifth are under 15 (21.1%).

Infographics are an entertaining way to provide information about the Region and its counties.  They show important county characteristics and information in an accessible and lively way.  We hope they will be used in schools and in workplaces and anywhere that people want to know more about the places where they live or are visiting.

There is a good mix of statistics highlighted on the infographics, showing access to broadband in the Western Region (64%) and also that most of the population consider themselves to be in very good health (57.6%).

The infographics also give information about work and education.  In the Western Region the average time taken to travel to work is 24.8 minutes.  59% of the working age population is in the work force and 39% have a third level qualification.  Two employment sectors are also shown.  Almost 14% of the Region’s workers are in Industry and 6.8% working in agriculture.

You can download the infographics for the Western Region and for the seven counties here:  https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

 

Helen McHenry

Understanding Changes in the Components of County Incomes

While my previous post on county incomes (based on the CSO’s publications County Incomes and Regional GDP, 2015) considered the changes in Disposable Income over time, in this post I look at the components of Disposable Income, some of the changes in these since 2000, differences among Western Region counties and their impact on the changes in Disposable Income.  The key component of Disposable Income is Total Household Income (which includes Primary Income and Social Transfers) and this is examined first.

 

Total Household Income is the amount of income from available to the household from earnings, and Rent of Dwellings (imputed) and net Interest and Dividends, as well as ‘Social Benefits and Other Current Transfers’.  Total Household Income grew steadily (Figure 1) in all counties between 2000 and 2008 (in Donegal there was a tiny decline between 2007 and 2008).  In most counties it declined between 2008 and 2011 and then began to grow slowly.  Despite this growth, preliminary figures show that by 2016 neither in the State nor any Western Region county had Total Household Income per person recovered to 2008 levels.  In Roscommon, for example, it was €25,061 per person in 2008 and €21,522 in 2016 (a difference of €3,539) , while in contrast in Sligo it was €24,940 in 2008 and €24,818 in 2016 (a difference of only €122).

 

Figure 1: Total Household Income per person

Source: CSO, 2018, County Incomes and Regional GDP ; Estimates per person based on own calculations using inferred population estimates. 2016 figures are preliminary.

 

Primary Income

Primary Income is the main component of Total Household Income and Figure 2 shows Primary Income as a percentage of Total Household Income over the period 2000-2016.  It should noted that Total Household Income also includes Social Benefits and Other Current Transfers and is balanced by the Statistical Discrepancy (arising from different collection methods being used to estimate income and expenditure).  Therefore that Total Household Income does not equal the sum of Primary Income & Social Transfers.

Nonetheless, it is useful to see how the importance of Primary Income (and by inference social transfers) has been to Total Household Income.  In 2000, in the State as a whole, Primary Income was 87% of Total Household Income.  It was also 87% in Clare but as low as 80% in Donegal but by 2016 it was 81% in the State, 79% in Clare and 70% in Donegal, indicating the increased importance of social transfers.

 

Figure 2: Primary Income as a percentage of Total Household Income

Source: CSO, 2018, County Incomes and Regional GDP

 

What is Primary Income made up of?

Looking at the breakdown of Primary Income (Figure 3) in 2015[1], it is clear that the main component in all counties is wages and salaries (Compensation of Employees (i.e. Wages and Salaries, Benefits in kind, Employers’ social insurance contribution) which nationally makes up 77% of Primary Income.  In the Western Region, Primary Income accounts for 77% in Sligo, 76% in Galway and 75% in Clare.  It accounts for 74% of Primary Income in Donegal, Mayo and Leitrim while in Roscommon it is only 73%.

 

Figure 3: Contributors to Primary Income, 2015

Source: CSO, 2018, County Incomes and Regional GDP

Other elements of Primary Income are accounted for by Net Interest and Dividends (4% in the State and all Western Region counties), and Rent of Dwellings (imputed) which is between 8% and 10% in Western Region counties and 9% in the State.

Income from self employment is the other main component of Primary Income, and this accounts for 14% of Primary Income in Roscommon  and Leitrim, and 11% in Galway and 10% in Sligo and 10% in the State as a while.  Income from self employment is more significant in all Western Region counties than the State as a whole.

Alongside a decline in self employment shown in recent years  there has been a significant decline in the proportion of Primary Income coming from self-employment (Figure 4).  In the State it accounted for 16% of Primary Income in 2000 and was 10% by 2016.  Western Region counties, though starting from a higher base, have followed a similar pattern.  For example in Roscommon income from self-employment was 24% of Primary Income in 2000, but 13% in 2016.  It is not clear why this decline has taken place, perhaps because of a decline in the numbers in farming, or perhaps because of poorer earnings from self-employment.

 

Figure 4: Self employment as percentage of Primary Income

Source: CSO, 2018, County Incomes and Regional GDP

 

Social Benefits over Time

Looking again at Total Household Income, it is interesting to examine the changes in social benefits (Figure 5) over time.   With the growing economy in the early part of the century, the amount received in social benefits per person grew alongside the growth in Primary Income, peaking in most counties in 2009.  After the downturn, however, there was a slow decline in the level of social transfer per person.  This was during a period of significant in some of the social benefits, but high levels of unemployment kept the level of transfers per person quite high.  The decline has continued, to 2016, presumably as the numbers claiming unemployment benefit and assistance has decreased.

 

Figure 5: Social Benefits and Other Current Transfers per person

Source: CSO, 2018, County Incomes and Regional GDP ; Estimates per person based on own calculations using inferred population estimates. 2016 figures are preliminary.

 

Taxation levels over time

Much of the discussion above has related to the components of Total Household Income, but in order to get to a figure for Disposable Income taxation has to be taken into account.

As would have been expected (see Figure 6), in line with growth in incomes between 2000 and 2007 taxes on income (per person) also grew to 2007.  With pay cuts and job losses, there was a sharp decline between 2007 and 2010 but then then taxation on income grew again to 2016.  It is likely that in the first few years this related to increases in tax levied, and then in more recent years the growth has probably come from the increase in the numbers employed and paying tax.

 

Figure 6: Taxation on Income (2000-2016) per person

Source: CSO, 2018, County Incomes and Regional GDP ; Estimates per person based on own calculations using inferred population estimates. 2016 figures are preliminary.

 While I have looked at changes in taxation and social benefits estimated on a per capita basis from 2000 to 2016 it is also interesting to see a direct comparison of the two for each county in 2015. Figure 7 shows social benefits and taxation as a percentage of Total Household Income (as noted above, these percentages should be used to compare the differences amount the Western Region counties, rather than as absolute proportions, as they do not take account of the effect of the statistical discrepancy).  Nonetheless it is useful to compare the different levels of taxation on income and social transfers among the counties.  Higher numbers of people in non-working categories (children, older people and people with disabilities) influences both the amount of tax paid and the level of social transfers received.  For a more detailed discussion of the levelling effects of the redistributive tax and transfer system (as relates to income inequality rather than regional inequality) see this paper from the ESRI.

 

Figure 7: Social Benefits and Taxation as a percentage of Total Household Income 2015

Source: CSO, 2018, County Incomes and Regional GDP; own calculations.

In the State as a whole taxation (24%) is a higher proportion of Total Household Income than Social Benefits (20%), and this is also the case in Galway and Clare.  In the five other Western Region counties social benefits are a higher proportion of Total Household Income than taxation.  This is most evidently the case in Donegal with taxation 18% and social benefits 31% of Total Household Income in the county.

 

Conclusion

Finally, given that this post has examined the various components of disposable incomes Figure 8 gives an overview of the different broad income components in Western Region counties in 2015.  As discussed above, Primary Income is largely made up of earned income (and imputed rent and net interest and dividends), while Total Household Income also includes social benefits.  Taxes are deducted from Total Household Income to give Disposable Income per person.

 

Figure 8: Primary, Total Household and Disposable Incomes for State and Western Region counties in 2015

Source: CSO, 2018, County Incomes and Regional GDP ; Estimates per person based on own calculations using inferred population estimates.

Disposable Income, the key ‘county income’ measure, is made up of different sources of income and transfers and is also affected by taxation, therefore it is valuable to understand the changes in each of these components in the different counties when considering changes to income.

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] Figures published this year (2018) are for 2015, with provisional figures for 2016.  Therefore when looking at the most recent components of income, 2015 is examined

Nuts about NUTS!

Anyone not familiar with regional policy or regional statistics always gets a bit of a laugh when we start talking about NUTS. It actually stands for Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) and this system of defining territorial units for statistics across the EU was created by Eurostat. The NUTS classification got legal status in 2003.

The concept of NUTS is that each country in the EU is divided into different territorial areas at descending levels. So in the case of Ireland, the country as a whole is classified as NUTS Level 1, this is then broken into a number of large regions which are NUTS Level 2 (or NUTS2), these are further broken into smaller regions which are NUTS Level 3 (or NUTS3) and then local authority areas are below that (called LAU, or Local Administrative Unit).

In 2003, when the NUTS categories were introduced, Ireland was divided into two NUTS2 regions – the Southern & Eastern region and the Border, Midland & West region (called the BMW which also raised a few laughs). These two larger regions were further sub-divided into eight smaller NUTS3 regions.

When the 2014 Local Government Act was introduced, which made a number of changes to administrative boundaries in Ireland, the Government through the CSO applied to Eurostat to revise Ireland’s NUTS2 and NUTS3 statistical regions to match these new boundaries. The changes to the NUTS boundaries were given legal status in 2016.

The Labour Force Survey for Quarter 1 2018, published on 20 June, was the first time that the CSO published regional statistics based on these new regional divisions. For the Labour Force Survey they published backdated data, using the new regional boundaries, back to 2012.

Much of the data published by the CSO does not include any regional breakdown, but gradually the CSO will begin to apply the new regional classification to data which it does publish on a regional basis. One of the most anticipated will be the County Incomes and Regional GDP data which we have blogged about previously.

What are the new NUTS?

Instead of two NUTS2 regions, Ireland is now divided into three NUTS2 regions. These correspond to the areas covered by the three Regional Assemblies established under the 2014 Act – Northern & Western, Southern, Eastern & Midland . In the Map below these are coloured in blue, red/orange and green respectively.

Each of these three NUTS2 regions is composed of groups of NUTS3 regions, shown by different shades in map below. The main 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.

 

Map of new NUTS2 and NUTS3 regions in Ireland. Louth and Tipperary are cross-hatched to indicate their move from one NUTS3 region to another. Source: Reverb Studios/NWRA https://blog.reverbstudios.ie/2016/04/27/ireland-regions-map-vector/

 

The new structure is:

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 CSO has published an Information Note on the revisions.

Implications

The introduction of the new regional statistical areas has a number of implications. As the three Regional Assemblies are responsible for developing and implementing new Regional Spatial & Economic Strategies (to give effect to the National Planning Framework at regional level), having access to official statistics which align with this regional structure will be invaluable in the finalisation of the RSES and their ongoing monitoring.

As the three NUTS2 regions are now smaller than the previous two NUTS2 regions it may be easier to identify and understand differences and comparisons among the regions. Some statistics are only published at the NUTS2 level, such as expenditure on Research & Development, and previously interpretation of this data was somewhat meaningless given the huge disparity between the BMW region (with one university) and the Southern & Eastern region (with all the others). The three new regions may provide additional insights.

At the same time, looking at the NUTS2 level can hide very considerable inter-regional differences probably most apparent in the Eastern & Midland region. The latest Labour Force Survey showed an unemployment rate of 5.3% in Dublin compared with 8% in the Midland region. This highlights the value of analysis at the NUTS3 regional level.

The movement of county Louth from the Border NUTS3 region to the Mid-East NUTS3 region is probably the most significant change. Given Louth’s location on the Dublin-Belfast corridor and its key role within Dublin’s catchment, it always made sense to include it, along with Wicklow, Kildare and Meath, as part of the Greater Dublin Area, however statistically this was not possible as it was included in the Border region which stretched across to Donegal. Louth’s inclusion in the Border region made this one of the most heterogeneous NUTS3 regions, and its statistics among the most difficult to interpret at times. It will be interesting to see the impact of Louth’s move on both regions.

Pauline White

WDC Insights Publications on County Incomes and Regional GDP

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published two WDC Insights: How are we doing? County Incomes in the Western Region and What’s happening in our regional economies?  Growth and Change in Regional GVA.

Both of these examine data from the most recent CSO County Incomes and Regional GDP publication for 2015 (with preliminary data for 2016) and they have a particular emphasis on the counties of the Western Region and on our regional economy.

These two page WDC Insights publications provide succinct analysis and commentary on recently published data and on policy issues for the Western Region.  Both of these WDC Insights are shorter versions of the series of blog posts on County Incomes and Regional GVA which you may have read previously.

How are we doing? County Incomes in the Western Region

In this WDC Insights data on County Incomes in 2015 are examined with a focus on the difference among Western Region counties and changes over time.

Five Western Region counties had Household Disposable Income per Person (Disposable Income) of less than 90% of the state average, while Galway and Sligo were both 93%.  They  had the highest Disposable Incomes in the Western Region in 2015 (Galway (€18,991) and Sligo (€19,001)).

Donegal continues to have a significantly lower Disposable Income than any other county in Ireland (€15,705 in 2015).  Disposable Income in Roscommon was also significantly lower than the state average at €16,582 in 2015. This was the second lowest of any county in Ireland, while Mayo had the fourth lowest.

Regional divergence was at its least in 2010 when all parts of the country were significantly affected by recession. Since then, incomes in some counties have begun to grow faster and divergence has again increased, particularly since 2012.

The WDC Insights How are we doing? County Incomes in the Western Region can be downloaded here  (PDF 260KB)

 

What’s happening in our regional economies?  Growth and Change in Regional GVA

The most recent regional GVA and GDP data (for 2015 and preliminary 2016) published by the CSO is discussed in this WDC Insights with a focus on the regions which include the seven Western Region counties.

Between 2014 and 2015 there was very significant growth in GVA and GDP nationally (a level shift which occurred for a variety of reasons). It is therefore valuable to examine how this rapid economic growth was spread among regions. While data for the largest regions of Dublin and the South West has been suppressed by the CSO, to preserve the confidentiality, variation in growth and disparity in the other regions continues to be of national and regional importance.

The data shows that disparities are widening and economic activity, as measured by GVA, is becoming more and more concentrated.  The smaller contribution to national GVA from other regions highlights their significant untapped potential.

The WDC Insights What’s happening in our regional economies?  Growth and Change in Regional GVA can be downloaded here  (PDF  350 KB)

 

If you find these WDC Insights on County Incomes and Regional GVA interesting and would like to read more detailed discussion of the data please visit these recent WDC Insights blog posts:

Leprechauns in Invisible Regions: Regional GVA (GDP) in 2015

What’s happening in our regional economies? Growth and change in Regional GVA.

How are we doing? County Incomes in the Western Region

I hope that you find these WDC Insights useful.  Let us know what you think.  We’d welcome your feedback.

 

Helen McHenry

Annual Conference of Regional Studies Association

The WDC is sponsoring this year’s Annual Conference of the Irish Branch of the Regional Studies Association. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions’ and takes place on Friday, 7th September at IT Sligo

Submission themes

The call for papers for the conference is now open. Abstracts of no more than 250 words can be submitted here. Presentations from policymakers, academia and practitioners active in the field of regional studies, as well as post-graduate students are welcome. Presentations may deal with, amongst others, the following themes:

  • Cities as a source of economic growth
  • Development in peripheral regions
  • Urban centres and economic development
  • The National Planning Framework and governance
  • The National Planning Framework and housing
  • Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies
  • Local and regional economic forums
  • New approaches to regional development
  • International comparator cases

Other contributions dealing with the topic of regional studies are invited and may be included in focussed sessions.

Speakers

Two international speakers have already been confirmed:

Dr Andrew Copus, The James Hutton Institute, Scotland: Andrew Copus joined the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Group of The James Hutton Institute in March 2013. For the previous eight years he was a Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio (Nordic Centre for Spatial Development, Stockholm) and the Centre for Remote and Rural Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands.

Andrew is an economic geographer by training, whose research interests relate to the changing rural economy and rural/regional policy. Much of his work has been based upon analysis of small area or regional secondary data and indicators. He has a long-standing interest in territorial rural development and regional disparities, which through recent projects is presented as “rural cohesion policy”.

Much of Andrew’s work has had a European perspective, variously funded by Framework Programmes, ESPON and as a consultant for the European Commission. He has studied the role of rural business networks, the changing nature of peripherality and most recently, patterns and trends in poverty and social exclusion.

Professor Mark Partridge, ​Ohio State University, USA: Mark Partridge is the C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University and a Professor in the AED Economics Department. He has published over 125 peer-reviewed journal papers in journals such as the American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Geography, Journal of Urban Economics, and Review of Economics and Statistics. He co-authored the book ‘The Geography of American Poverty: Is there a Role for Place-Based Policy?’

Dr. Partridge’s current research interests include investigating regional economic growth, urban spillovers on rural economies, why regions grow at different rates, and spatial differences in income equality and poverty.  Dr. Partridge has consulted with OECD, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, and various governments in the U.S. and Canada, as well as with the European Commission. He has presented to the U.S. Congress and the Canadian Parliament on regional issues.

Registration

The conference fee will be €70, including lunch, and online registration will open in the coming months. In the meantime any queries regarding registration should be sent to chris.vanegeraat@mu.ie or Justin.doran@ucc.ie

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