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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.