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Energy and Climate Action in the Western Region- what is the way forward?

The Western Development Commission (WDC) recently made a submission to the Initial Consultation on Ireland’s National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (NECP).  This consultation was based on the template for the draft plan which Ireland is required to complete by the end of the year. The draft plan, once completed, will itself be the subject of a separate consultation process.  The WDC response focused on areas on which we work and on issues of key importance to the Region including rural issues, renewable energy and biomass use and electricity and natural gas transmission infrastructure.  The full WDC submission is available here.

Rural Issues

The Western Region (the area under the WDC remit) is very rural. Using the CSO definition 64.7% in of the population live outside of towns of 1,500 or more. Using the definition in Ireland 2040 the National Planning Framework 80% of people in Western Region live outside of towns of 10,000. Thus WDC work has a particular focus on the needs of, and opportunities for, more rural and peripheral areas.

Not only is the Western Region is very rural, it is important to also remember in regard to this Plan, that Ireland is one of the more rural members of the EU. It is critical, therefore, that the NECP takes this pattern of living into account and addresses the opportunities it provides as well as the challenges. Climate action for rural areas is not often discussed in policy and there is no significant body of work (internationally or nationally) on climate change and emissions issues for rural areas in developed countries and yet there are important differences in energy use patterns and emissions, in rural areas. While it is often acknowledged that rural dwellers have higher individual emissions the ways of addressing these are not usually explored partly because emissions reductions may be more difficult to achieve in rural areas and partly because the focus is usually on larger populations and ways to reduce the emissions of individuals living in more densely populated areas.

It should be remembered that, as in other policy areas, urban/rural is a rather simplistic division, which ignores the ‘suburban’ and the differences between rural towns and the open countryside which all have distinctive emission patterns. It is also important to be aware that people’s carbon footprints are closely linked to their incomes and consumption patterns and so do not necessarily relate directly to their location (urban or rural). In fact research in Finland[1] has highlighted higher emissions from urban dwellers based on their higher consumptions patterns. Nonetheless, despite the difficulties with a simple urban/rural dichotomy, there are of course concerns specific to rural dwellers emissions that deserve consideration.

Electricity, heat and transport are the three forms of energy use and therefore the source of emissions, for residential and commercial users and so the different urban and rural use patterns for each of these should be considered.  For more discussion of rural dwellers and climate mitigation see this post.

The WDC believes that it is essential that part of the NECP should have a specific focus on issues for rural areas, and actions to ensure that rural areas are in a position to benefit from a move to a low carbon economy (and there are many opportunities for them to do so) and that rural dwellers make a fair contribution to national goals for renewable energy and to actions to mitigate climate change.

Renewable Energy and Biomass

The WDC has been active in developing measures to promote the use of energy (in particular heat) from biomass, assessing biomass availability and the development of supply chains for its local use. Our experience has shown that strategic policy interventions must recognise the wider market environment in order to design and deliver effective, value for money policy and identify actions which result in sustainable market growth.

The WDC has shown that the renewable heat market has the potential to create considerable levels of employment across the Western Region and to provide long-term stable markets for low value wood fuels which can compete with fossil fuels and stabilise energy prices for end users (see here for WDC work on renewable energy).

An OECD report Linking Renewable Energy to Rural Development contains a useful examination of policy options and actions in fifteen OECD regions. It shows how bioenergy can provide greater local and national economic benefits than other renewable energies  and notes that bioenergy policy interventions are typically most effective when delivered at a regional and/or local level where they can be tailored to local resources and conditions.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is one of the most important areas to be addressed in our NECP and this will require strategies for public, private and domestic users. The WDC believes that the public sector should be a model for energy efficiency and for use of renewable energy in heat and transport. In doing so, as well as providing examples and participating in pilot actions, the public sector will be an important customer for businesses in the developing renewable energy or climate action sectors. Given the difficulties of matching supply and demand at local levels in emerging renewable heat markets, public sector investment in energy efficiency and making use of renewable energy in day to day activities will help to stimulate the development of businesses and allow  supply chains to develop securely.

The WDC also believes that it is very important to ensure that local communities are in a position to participate in energy efficiency and renewable energy development projects. Given that a complex mix of policy instruments will be required to incentivise and empower people to achieve 2030 targets, it should be remembered that the SEAI Better Energy Community Programme has delivered almost 10% of the overall Irish energy efficiency target. If there was a suite of additional community supports in addition to the grant aid even more could be delivered. Community groups often lack time, technical expertise, access to finance and financial expertise, bargaining skills, equipment and capacity to complete lengthy grant application documents.

Energy Infrastructure

Electricity transmission

The WDC believes that it is important that we make the most of our opportunities to generate electricity where the best resource is available. For this it is essential that there is investment in transmission infrastructure in areas which have the greatest potential resources.

The WDC recently commissioned a study[2] of current and future needs for electricity transmission infrastructure in the Region.  The Western Region has a significant capacity of connected renewable generation. By 2020 there could be approximately 1,760MW of renewable generation connected in the WDC region, consisting of 1,595MW of wind generation and 165MW of hydro generation. The Western Region is currently producing enough renewable generation to meet 100% of its own demand. By 2020 it will be a net exporter of renewable energy, providing approximately 15% of the total national demand and making a significant contribution to the 2020 RES-E targets.

The Western Region has some of the best resources for on shore wind in Europe, and in the future, as technology improves, for offshore energy generation. It is therefore important to the Region and to Ireland, as well as the rest of the EU, that there is development of significant electricity transmission infrastructure projects in Donegal and North Mayo[3] in order to make the best use of this resource. While there are opportunities to use smart grid technologies to maximise the use of existing transmission infrastructure, further investment in new infrastructure is also needed. Developing electricity transmission infrastructure is a slow process, so it is important that the NECP has clear objectives in this area which can then feed into any new Grid Development Strategy so that EirGrid can develop a transmission grid fit for a low carbon economy in the long term.

Gas transmission

A significant part of the north west of Ireland does not have access to the natural gas transmission grid. As has been discussed by the WDC elsewhere, the development of the gas grid can give rise to significant savings for both commercial and domestic users (see Why invest in gas? Benefits of natural gas infrastructure for the north west). As a lower emission fossil fuel natural gas can also contribute to a reduction in emissions by users who connect and, in the future with the development of renewable gas, there will be further opportunities to lower emissions through its use in place of natural gas.

In addition, a high level study commissioned by government (conducted by KPMG) last year into the Irish National Gas Network examined issues relating to the wider economic costs and benefits of potential extensions to the Irish natural gas network, including decarbonisation, air quality, climate and emissions and regional and rural development benefits. The findings of this study have not yet been published but they should feed in to the NECP. The WDC believes that further focus on the use of natural gas as a transition fuel and on the development of gas transmission in the north west should form a key part of the NECP.

Conclusion

In this post I have outlined some of the key points in the WDC submission to the NECP Initial Consultation.  The WDC believes that the renewable energy and climate action have the potential to create considerable employment across the Western Region and to provide long term stable markets for many low value biological outputs, as well as ensuring that much of the money spent on energy remains in Ireland.  However, in order to make this happen we suggest that high level targets in the NECP should be translated into a regional and local context so they can drive the delivery of a thriving low carbon economy and spread the benefits throughout the country.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] Heinonen J and S Junnila, 2011 A Carbon Consumption Comparison of Rural and Urban Lifestyles Sustainability 2011, 3, 1234-1249;

[2] This study was conducted for the WDC by MullanGrid and will be available shortly.

[3] In addition to the North Connacht Project which is currently planned in North Mayo and which is unlikely to have any spare capacity by the time it is commissioned

Payments and income from farming in the Western Region

As discussed in the last blog post on farmers in the Western Region, agriculture is an important sector of Irish economy and particularly important to the rural economy and society.  In this post different measures of payments and income are examined using three different sources.  Data on CAP beneficiaries is available at county level, showing how much is received in each county, while the recently published Revenue data for 2016 provides information on average Farming Income and Gross Income for the ‘farming cases’.  Finally, the National Farm Survey, conducted by Teagasc, provides detailed information on farming income.

Each of these sources is measuring different things for different purposes so it is useful to compare them to add to our understanding of farming in the Western Region.

 

Payments from the CAP.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) contributes a significant amount to the local economy.  In 2016 more than €525m was received from the CAP by the 54,215 beneficiaries in the Western Region (Table 1) with an average of €9,689 per recipient in the Western Region.

Table 1: CAP beneficiaries in the Western Region in 2016

Source: DAFM CAP Beneficiaries Database

Galway (€ 135m) and Mayo (€105m) had the highest receipts and also had the highest numbers of recipients, while Leitrim (€35m) and Sligo (€37m) had the lowest total receipts.  However, when the average receipt is considered (Figure 1) the pattern is different.

Figure 1: Average received by CAP beneficiaries in the Western Region

Source: DAFM CAP Beneficiaries Database 2016

Average receipts in 2016 were highest in Clare (€10,945), Galway (€10,292), and Roscommon (€10,050), but these were still among the lowest in the country (Clare has the 17th highest average receipt, and average receipts in Galway and Roscommon were 20th and 21st of the 26 counties). The four lowest average payments in the country were in the Western Region with Sligo the lowest in the country.  In contrast, the highest average receipts were in Dublin (€19,062 and which has a very small number of beneficiaries (867)) and in the South East with €17,806 the average in Waterford, €17,205 the average in Kilkenny and €16,194 the average in Carlow.

The very significant different in receipts between the Western Region and the South East reflect both farm size, and the enterprise type.

 

Farm Incomes- Revenue Data

In addition to information about numbers of farming cases, data is available from Revenue for both average Gross income and average Farming Income.   The data for Revenue cases from farming is from the Revenue Statistics and Economic Research Branch publication ‘The Farming Sector in Ireland: A Profile of Revenue Data’ available here.

In 2016 nationally there were 137,109 ‘farmer’ cases with an average Farming Income of €21,952.  There were 40,709 ‘farmer’ cases in the Western Region with an average Farming Income of €13,338.  Data for each of the Western Region counties is shown in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Average Farm Income by county- Revenue data

Source: The farming sector in Ireland: A profile from Revenue data, 2016 data, published 2018

The lowest average Farm Income is in Leitrim (€10,679), while the highest was in Clare (€16,701), but the seven Western Region counties are the seven counties with the lowest average Farm Income nationally.  Waterford has the highest average Farm Income (€35,026), followed by Kilkenny (€32,408) and Kildare (€32,292)

Interestingly, for farmer cases the Revenue also provides information about the average Gross income.  This includes income from other sources (the two most significant of these are PAYE income from employment and income from other business sources). It therefore includes income from off farm work.  It should be remembered that where couples are jointly assessed this includes the earnings of both.

Figure 3: Average Gross Income and average Farm Income in Western Region counties –revenue data

Source: The farming sector in Ireland: A profile from Revenue data, 2016 data, published 2018

Non farm income is very significant in the Western Region, accounting for most of the income in the farming cases in the Western Region indicating the importance of off farm employment in farming households.

The National Farm Survey

The final source of data on farm income is the National Farm Survey (NFS) which has been conducted by Teagasc on an annual basis since 1972.  The survey is operated as part of the Farm Accountancy Data Network of the EU and fulfils Ireland’s statutory obligation to provide data on farm output, costs and income to the European Commission. A random, nationally representative sample is selected annually in conjunction with the Central Statistics Office (CSO).  In 2016 the sample of 861 farms which represented 84,736 farms nationally.  Pig and Poultry farms are not included in the survey.

Data from the NFS is not available at county level, but Figure 4 below shows the Family Farm Income[1] for 2016 for each of the NUTS 3 regions.

Figure 4: National Farm Survey Family Farm Income by Region, 2016

Source: Teagasc, 2017, National Farm Survey 2016

The Border and the West regions, which account for six of the seven Western Region counties have the lowest Family Farm Income in 2016.  Clare is part of the Mid West region.

Comparing the data.

As Family Farm Income from the National Farm Survey is not available at county level, it is useful to compare the data on CAP beneficiaries and from Revenue tax cases at regional level.  Figure 5 shows the three different payment and income measures for the NUTS 3 regions.

In most regions, except the Border (and it should be noted the NFS does not include pigs and poultry which are concentrated in the Region) the Family Farm Income is the highest figure, while the average Farm Income for Revenue is lower.  As expected, given that it is only one of the elements of farm income, CAP receipts are lower than either income figure.

Figure 5: DAFM receipts, Revenue average Farm Income and NFS Family Farm Income 2016 by Region

Source: Teagasc National Farm Survey, 2016; The farming sector in Ireland: A profile from Revenue data, 2016 data, published 2018; DAFM CAP Beneficiaries Database2016

 

In the Border, Midland and the West Region in particular, the CAP receipts are a higher proportion of income figures, indicating the greater contribution of the subsidies to income in these regions.

Conclusions

While these three different measures are derived from different sources they are all consistent.  The West and Border have lowest income and lowest average CAP benefit as well as lower taxable income from farming.  The pattern of farming is different in these regions, with different enterprise types, smaller farm sizes and greater reliance on off farm income.  Yet farming in these regions is integral to their rural economy, the rural landscape and CAP payments and their multipliers make a significant contribution the local economy.  These are all important considerations when negotiating the next CAP.

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] Family Farm Income represents the return from farming for the farm family to their labour, land and capital. It does not include non-farm income.  See here for more information.

Creating Stronger Rural Economies and Communities- A Forum

The Rural and Regional strand of Project Ireland 2040 was launched in Westport last Friday (13 July 2018) at a Forum held in the Town Hall Theatre.  The focus was on the National Strategic Outcome 3 in Project Ireland 2040 ‘Strengthened Rural Economies and Communities’.

The Forum, themed “Creating Stronger Rural Economies and Communities”, was co-hosted by the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and featured panel discussions and a keynote address from An Taoiseach .  The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D. also spoke at the event as did Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring T.D.  Minister of State Sean Kyne T.D. was also in attendance and participated in the event.

The speeches highlighted the recently launched €1 billion Regeneration & Development Fund which was a key commitment in Project Ireland 2040.  The Fund is to support collaborative, innovative and transformative projects across both public and private sector bodies and successful projects will leverage additional funding to maximise their impact in communities.

The Forum was structured around two panel discussions on the themes of creating stronger rural communities and creating stronger rural economies.

Creating Stronger Rural Communities

The first “How do we create stronger rural communities?” included An Taoiseach Leo Vardakar on the Panel along with Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring T.D.  Also on the panel were Dr Maura Farrell from NUI Galway and the designated researcher for the National Rural Network (NRN), Ms Anna Marie Delaney the Chief Executive of Offaly County Council and Ms Irene Kavanagh from Kerry Social Farming.

The discussion was largely focussed on the farm family and farm diversification although Minister Ring also stressed the significant investments made under the Town and Village Renewal scheme and the benefits of investment in Digital and Food Hubs in rural towns under that Programme.

Creating Stronger Rural Economies

The second Panel discussion “How do we create stronger rural economies?” was preceded by a short presentation from Minister of State Sean Kyne T.D. and the panel members were three rural entrepreneurs. Mr Colman Keohane from Keohane Seafoods in Co Cork, Ms Evelyn O’Toole founder and CEO of CLS in Co. Galway and Ms Natalie Keane, from Bean and Goose , artisan chocolate company from Co. Wexford.  The panel also included Enterprise Ireland’s Manager for Regions & Entrepreneurship, Mark Christal.

The entrepreneurs told stories of their business set up and development and there was lively discussion of the positives and negatives for small business in rural Ireland.

 

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D. closed the Forum with thoughtful comments on the need to reimagine a rural Ireland that is fit for purpose today.  He noted that for rural Ireland to thrive it needs young people and they will want good quality of life, good jobs and connectivity in order to remain in rural Ireland.  He emphasised that, in thinking of the future for rural Ireland the focus should not just be on what worked before.  We need to consider the current context and develop a rural Ireland that works for now.

Attendees also received a publication “Strengthening Rural Economies and Communities’ which includes descriptions of schemes and policies which impact on rural Ireland and a number of case studies of businesses, farms and communities which have benefited from the schemes.

 

 

Helen McHenry

The Southern Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy – Beyond Cities

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

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

Cities

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

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

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

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

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

Ennis

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

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

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

Shannon

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

Rural Areas

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Measuring Rural Employment

Much has been said and written about rural decline in Ireland particularly in the last few years. However despite this there are very few measures which capture ‘rural’ change in a statistical sense.

To date rural decline is often described in the context of rural challenges such as out migration, population loss and the withdrawal of services in rural areas but there are few statistical measures capturing trends in rural and urban areas, with the notable exception of rural and urban poverty rates reported in the CSO Survey of Income and living conditions (SILC).

Measuring rural employment – Regions

Measuring rural change in the context of job creation has focused on the observable change at NUTS3 level with the fortunes of the 8 regional authority areas reported regularly in the Regional Action Plans for Jobs. However, each of these 8 regions (Dublin, Mid East, West, South West, Midlands, North East/North West and South east), comprise both urban and rural areas of varying degrees.

It is clear that much of the recent job creation has been focussed on the cities and by only examining regional figures the significant differences between urban and rural areas are not captured. So for example in the case of the West region, much job creation is located in Galway city while counties Mayo and Roscommon would not have experienced the same degree of employment growth.

Rural Employment

Realising our Rural Potential Action Plan for Rural Development, download here published in January 2017, is the Government’s action plan aimed at ‘ensuring the success of vibrant rural communities’ and provides for 276 targeted actions across five themes. One of the main targets is the objective to support the creation of 135,000 jobs in rural Ireland.

However in monitoring the success of rural job creation, the measure reported is employment creation across the 8 NUTS3 regions, with rural classified as the 7 NUTS3 regions – excluding the Dublin region and as such is essentially a regional measure.

Defining rural

Possibly part of the reason for the lack of a measure of rural employment or unemployment is the difficulty in agreeing a measure of rural. Rural is defined in many ways – succinctly summarised in a recent WDC Insights blogpost What is Rural?

The CSO measure of Rural used in the CSO SILC since 2014 defines urban as areas with a population density of greater than 1,000 and rural as those areas with a population density of 999 or less.

Rural employment

Very recently the CSO have provided data from the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) on employment and unemployment by NUTS3 region and broken down by densely, intermediate and thinly populated areas.  This is based on a Eurostat definition based on degree of urbanisation, with three categories, densely, intermediate and thinly populated areas. See here for the detailed definition.

Under this measure, the entire Dublin region is all classed as densely populated, while the Border region for example has no densely populated category and is only composed of intermediate and thinly populated areas.

The Table below shows the unemployment rates for the Border and State by type of population area in 2014 and 2017.

Table 1. ILO unemployment rates, Border region and State and type of Population Area, 2014 and 2017

Source CSO, QNHS Q2 2014 and 2017, Special run.

Nationally the unemployment rate in 2014 was 10.9% in densely populated areas, compared to 12.2% in thinly populated areas, but the highest rate is in the intermediate area – 12.4%.

With the exception of the densely populated area in the South-East, the intermediate area in the Border region has the highest unemployment rate in 2014, 16.2%, compared to 12.0 % in the thinly populated area. There is no densely populated category within the Border region- counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth.

By 2017 there is some evidence of convergence across regions and areas, with unemployment rates declining across all categories. Nationally the rate is 6.4%, while the unemployment rate for the Border region is 6.6%. However the intermediate area in the Border remains the area with the highest levels of unemployment across all categories with 9.6%.

The intermediate areas, broadly defined as Towns and suburbs (see here for the detailed definition), are the areas most impacted by unemployment, though there are regional differences.

As such this CSO measure of economic status based on the QNHS data with trend data at NUTS3 and with a rural/urban dimension is a valuable tool. It provides a measure of rural change which is more nuanced and which can provide better insights than relying exclusively on the NUTS3 Regional measure.

 

E-Working – what are the trends?

E-work or electronic working, also referred to as teleworking, are terms used to describe work which uses communications technology to work remotely from the office location.

With the widespread rollout of broadband services it might be expected that e-working is becoming more common. Is e-work more prevalent in urban or rural areas? To what extent does weaker broadband access in more rural locations impact on the rate of e-working? What are the other factors driving e-work?

What does the data say?

The evidence on e-working in Ireland is limited and complicated by different definitions.

Time series data is available from the Census and the most recent data available is from 2011. The 2011 Census asks whether one ‘works mainly at or from home’. Trend data shows that the level and share of those working mainly at or from home is in decline, as the chart below shows.

Chart 1. Population at work, population working mainly at or from home and share of working population working mainly at or from home

E-working trends

Source: CSO Census of Population: Statbank Interactive tables

In 1986 17.2% of workers were reported as working at or mainly from home and this had declined to 4.7% in 2011. However this includes those engaged in agricultural employment and the decline in numbers engaged in this sector would largely explain the overall decline.

In 2002, the CSO carried out a special survey on Teleworking, which examined the profile of teleworkers in Ireland across a range of characteristics. It distinguished between (1) those who work from home and (2) those who work from home and use a computer and (3) those who work from home and need a computer with a telecommunications link, this latter group are defined as teleworkers. This survey found that nationally 2.3% of those in employment were classed as teleworkers. It should be noted that these data exclude workers in the Agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

More recently a survey conducted by UPC (3.41 MB) in 2014 found that 47% of Irish employees use the internet at home in relation to work, up from 45% in 2012.

Regional differences

There are regional differences recorded, for example in the CSO 2002 survey the Mid-East region recording the highest rate at 2.9%. This is followed by Dublin with 2.7% of those in employment classed as teleworkers. Commuting to Dublin is likely to be an important driver explaining the higher rate in the Mid-East. The lowest rate of teleworking was recorded in the Mid-West with a rate of 1.5% of all in employment classified as teleworking. The West region, comprising largely rural counties of Mayo, Roscommon and Galway, recorded a rate of 2.2% teleworkers as a percentage of those in employment, higher than might be expected if access to quality broadband was a key driver.

More questions than answers

The difference in e-working levels reported – from 2.3% in the CSO 2002 survey through to 47% employees from the UPC 2014 survey raise further questions. Definitional differences no doubt explain some of the difference, though it is also likely that excluding Agriculture, the trend is may be upward, as evidenced by the UPC findings.

The 2016 Census figures should be available next year and it will be interesting to identify trends, especially since the return to employment growth. In the meantime further analysis of Census 2011 data is planned, examining occupational, sectoral and regional differences.

Other aspects to be examined in forthcoming work by the WDC include positive benefits that can accrue from more e-working such as carbon savings through lower transport emissions, more family friendly working and greater opportunities for employment creation and retention in more rural locations.

 

Deirdre Frost

 

Image source:www.alliedworldwide.com

 


Rural Commuting to Urban Jobs

Data recently published by the WDC examines the extent of rural commuting to urban centres for work.

The WDC Policy Briefing No. 6 Commuting to Work, Rural Dwellers, Urban Jobs shows that over a third (35.5%) of workers live in rural areas, but just over a fifth of jobs (21.3%) are in rural areas.

This Policy Briefing shows that many rural dwellers commute to work over long distances and shows the importance of urban based employment as a very important element in sustaining rural communities. It highlights the need for job creation strategies to focus on where people live, in rural areas and towns across the country, and not just on the larger cities. Without greater efforts to disperse employment growth there is likely to be more pressure on rural dwellers to commute or move to take up jobs in the larger gateways.

The WDC Policy Briefing notes that

  • nearly one in five (19%) of all rural dwellers commute to work in one of the nine NSS gateways; and
  • one in four (24.4%) commute to work in towns
  • over a quarter of rural dwellers commuting to work in the Galway (25.6%) and Waterford (24.9%) gateways, work in IDA business parks
  • over 18% of rural dwellers commuting to work in Sligo work in IDA business parks

Based on analysis of Census 2011 Place of Work data (POWSCAR), the data show that across the country the most significant employment destination for rural dwellers is urban areas. These workers are profiled and case studies provide further insights.

The Policy Briefing can be downloaded from https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC_Policy-Briefing-no-6-Commuting-Final.pdf

Deirdre Frost

Note:

  • The Gateways are the nine National Spatial Strategy Gateways of Dublin, Cork, Limerick/Shannon, Galway, Waterford, Dundalk, Sligo, Letterkenny/(Derry) and Athlone/Tullamore/Mullingar.
  • Towns are those population centres of 1,500 and above and excluding the nine NSS gateways.
  • Rural is defined using the CSO classification where settlements with a population of less than 1,500 and open countryside are defined as rural.