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Self-employment – What does the Census tell us?

Regular followers of the WDC Insights blog will know that self-employment is a topic we’ve examined a number of times before, drawing on Quarterly National Household Survey data.  However this can only tell us what is happening in the Western Region as a whole, not in the individual counties.

The publication of Census 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, included some initial data on labour force status including self-employment. Again, as mentioned in our previous post on Principal Economic Status, it must be remembered that the labour market definitions used in the QNHS and in the Census are different, so the figures are not directly comparable.  In the Census, self-employed are referred to as ‘Employer or own account worker’.

Share of self-employed in workforce 

In 2016, according to the Census, there were 61,107 employers or own account workers (self-employed) living in the Western Region. This was 18.3% of all working people in the region. As we’ve mentioned before, self-employment is a particularly important source of employment in the Western Region.

From Fig. 1 it is clear that there is a very strong spatial pattern to self-employment. The State average is that 15.6% of those in employment are employers/own account workers.  The cities are where this is least common. Only 10% or less of workers in Cork and Dublin cities are self-employed. Galway city is next lowest at 11.1% and shows a very different pattern to the rest of the Western Region.

Besides these three cities, it is the other Dublin local authority areas, counties in the Greater Dublin Area and the other two cities (Limerick and Waterford) which have the lowest incidence of self-employment. Indeed the 11 areas with the lowest share of self-employment are the five cities and the Mid-East.

Fig. 1: Percentage of all ‘at work’ who are employer/own account worker by county, 2016. Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ003: http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=EZ003&PLanguage=0

 

At the other end of the spectrum are the most rural counties. Co Kerry has the highest share of self-employment nationally at 21.1%, followed by Leitrim (20.3%), Cavan (19.9%) and Roscommon (19.9%).  In total, five of the Western Region counties are in the top  ten in terms of share of self-employment, with Mayo (19.6%), Galway county (19.5%) and Clare (19.5%) also having almost 1 in 5 of their workers self-employed.

The strong spatial pattern of self-employment in Ireland is related to many factors but notably the sectoral and occupational pattern of employment. Agriculture is a major influence, with construction trades also having high shares of self-employed. These sectors play a more significant role in the economies of rural counties. The relative lack of alternative employment opportunities, especially in the more remote rural areas, means that more people choose (or are necessitated) to turn to the self-employment route.  The WDC will be conducting further analysis of the sectoral and occupational data from the Census and its link with employment status, over the coming months.

Change in the share self-employed

In every county in Ireland, a smaller share of the workforce was self-employed in 2016 compared with five years earlier.  The national average declined from 16.9% of workers to 15.6%, with a decline from 19.9% to 18.3% in the Western Region (Fig. 2).

Leitrim, Galway county, Roscommon, Mayo and Clare all had shares above 20% in 2011, with only Leitrim remaining over 20% by 2016.  Among the western counties, Sligo had the smallest change in the share self-employed, declining from 18.2% down to 18%. From Fig. 2 it is also clear how strongly Galway city differs from the rest of the region.

 

Fig. 2: Percentage of all ‘at work’ who are employer/own account worker in western counties, Western Region, State and Rest of State, 2011 and 2016. Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ003: http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=EZ003&PLanguage=0

 

One of the key reasons for the declining share of self-employment in the inter-censal period is the recovery in the jobs market.  During the depth of the recession 2008-2011 employment declined hugely.  Self-employment was not quite as impacted as some people who lost their job turned to self-employment, existing employers and own account workers may have been able to sustain their own jobs while having to let to employees, and there was the continuation of the trend of some jobs becoming contract/self-employment that would previously have been employees. Therefore as overall job numbers fell, the relative importance of self-employment as a share of total employment remained strong. As the jobs recovery began from 2012 and more employment opportunities emerged, the relative importance of self-employment declined.

Change in numbers self-employed

From Fig. 3 it is clear that between 2011 and 2016 the number of employees grew far more strongly than the number of self-employed. Nationally the number of employees in 2016 was 12.9% higher than in 2011, whereas the number of self-employed was only 2.3% higher.  In the Western Region the number of self-employed actually declined in this period, down -1% while the number of employees grew by 9.8%.  It is notable that for both forms of employment, the Western Region’s performance was weaker than the State average and the Rest of State.  The decline in the numbers self-employed in the region is of some concern given its continuing greater significance in the labour market, especially in more rural counties (see Fig. 1 above).

 

Fig. 3: Percentage change in number of employer/own account workers in western counties, Western Region, State and Rest of State, 2011-2016. Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ003: http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=EZ003&PLanguage=0

 

Across the region, Mayo, Galway county, Roscommon and Leitrim, the four counties where self-employment continues to play the largest role in their labour market (see Fig. 1) and the most rural, experienced declines in the actual number of people self-employed between 2011-2016.  All other western counties had some growth in the numbers self-employed with the strongest growth in Galway City (2.8%), which nevertheless continues to have a low share of self-employed.

In all cases the growth in self-employment was always substantially less than the growth in the number of employees.  The main exception to this was Sligo, which had very low growth in employees at only 2.6%. Indeed Sligo had the lowest growth in employee numbers in the State in this period.

Conclusion 

While the relative importance of self-employment within the labour market declined between 2011-2016, largely due to the strengthening jobs market, it remains a very significant form of employment. In the five most rural western counties of Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway county Clare, 1 in 5 of those at work, work for themselves.  Nationally there is a very strong spatial pattern of higher rates of self-employment in rural counties, with the lowest shares in the cities and Mid-East.

Some of the region’s most rural counties experienced a decline in the numbers self-employed between 2011 and 2016, the underlying reasons for this will only be apparent when the sectoral and occupational pattern of employment change in these counties is explored.

 

 

Pauline White

 

 

 

How is the Western Region doing?

On 31 January, the WDC was invited to give a presentation to officials of the Department of Social Protection working across the Western Region. The objective was to give an overview of the WDC’s analysis of data across a range of socio-economic issues.

Analysing regional data provides information on the areas for which we are responsible and highlights the multi-dimensional nature of the concept of regional development.  A regional perspective is necessary since changes and inequalities not only occur among individuals but also the places where they live

This (very) comprehensive presentation analyses the following indicators:

  1. Population: Preliminary Census 2016 Results
  2. Labour Market: QNHS Q1 2016, special run
  3. Income: County Incomes & Regional GDP, 2013-2014
  4. Enterprise: Business Demography, 2014

These are some of the key points emerging from the analysis.

Population

  • Population of Western Region grew +0.9% 2011-2016 compared with +3.7% growth nationally.
  • Three counties in the Western Region showed population decline 2011-2016 –(Donegal -1.5%, Mayo -0.2% and Sligo -0.1%) – only counties in Ireland to do so. In addition Leitrim and Roscommon had the lowest growth.  Galway city had 5th highest population growth in Ireland.
  • Every county in Ireland had a positive natural increase (more births than deaths) during 2011-2016. Donegal, Sligo and Mayo however had enough negative net migration to lead to population decline.
  • All western counties, and all but six areas nationally, had negative net migration between 2011 and 2016. Donegal and Sligo had the two highest rates of negative net migration.
  • Male out-migration considerably higher than female leading to a +1.5% increase in the female population of the Western Region and only +2% growth in the male population.
Figure 1: Percentage change in population by administrative area, 2011-2016. CSO (2016), Preliminary Results Census 2016

Figure 1: Percentage change in population by administrative area, 2011-2016. CSO (2016), Preliminary Results Census 2016

Labour Market

  • The Western Region’s labour force declined marginally (-1.2%) between 2007 and 2016. Within this the male labour force fell by -6.1% while the female rose by +5.7%.
  • The Western Region has a lower share of its labour force aged under 35 years and a higher share aged over 44 Its labour force participation rate is lower for both men and women, and across all age groups (except 65+).
  • Total employment in the region fell by -5.8% 2007-2016 compared with a -6.5% decline in the rest of the state (all counties outside Western Region)
  • There has been exceptionally strong growth in self-employment in the Western Region since 2012, increasing by +31.1% in the region compared with +7.2% in the rest of the state.
  • Growth of self-employment tied to sectoral pattern of growth with strongest jobs growth since 2012 in Agriculture, Construction, Accommodation & Food Service and Wholesale & Retail, all with high self-emp
  • Since 2012 the Western Region has had jobs decline in 7 out of 14 sectors, in the rest of the state there was only decline in 1 out of 14. Jobs recovery in the Western Region is not as diversified across the economy as elsewhere and more concentrated in domestic sectors
  • Unemployment numbers declining steadily in region, but share of long-term unemployment growing. Western Region has higher unemployment rate in all age groups (except 65+ & 25-34) and particularly among youth.
Figure 2: % change in employment by sector in Western Region and Rest of State, 2012-2016. CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2012-2016, special run

Figure 2: % change in employment by sector in Western Region and Rest of State, 2012-2016. CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2012-2016, special run

Income

  • Disposable income per person in the Western Region was €17,260 in 2013 (92.3% of State). Provisional 2014 figures show some growth (€17,768) but still well below the 2008 peak (€21,167).
  • Longer term, the gap is narrowing, the Western Region had disposable income of 84.3% of State in 1995, 92.3% of State in 2013.
  • Within the Western Region, Roscommon had a significantly lower income relative to the State in 2014 (87.2%) compared with 2005 (95.8%). Clare has also fallen relative to the State starting at 95.5% in 2005 and dropping to 93.3% in 2014. Sligo, Galway, Mayo and Donegal have all improved their position relative to the State since 2005, albeit with some variation. Galway and Sligo had greatest improvements.
Figure 3: Index of disposable income per person in western counties, 2005-2014 (Index State=100). CSO, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013, provisional 2014

Figure 3: Index of disposable income per person in western counties, 2005-2014 (Index State=100). CSO, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013, provisional 2014

Gross Value Added

  • Dublin region is the only region where the preliminary 2014 GVA per person figure is higher than the peak GVA per person in 2007. None of the other regions have recovered to the 2007 level, though the difference in the West region is slight.
  • Dublin and Mid-East and South West, only regions with a greater share of national GVA than share of persons at work.
  • In 2005 there were 60.6 index points between the lowest GVA per person in a region (Midland, 65.4) and the highest (Dublin and the Mid-East, 126.0).  In 2014 the difference between Midland (59.2) and Dublin and the Mid-East, (130.6) was 71.4 index points (71.3 in 2013).
Figure 4: Index of GVA per person by region, 2005-2014 (Index State=100). CSO, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013, provisional 2014

Figure 4: Index of GVA per person by region, 2005-2014 (Index State=100). CSO, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013, provisional 2014

Enterprise

  • The share of enterprises nationally that are based in the Western Region is declining and was 17.1% of the total in 2014.
  • Construction, Wholesale & Retail, Professional activities and Accommodation & Food Service are the largest enterprise sectors in the region. Less than 5% of the region’s enterprises are in Financial & Insurance and Information & Communications combined.
  • There has been a far greater decline in enterprise numbers in the Western Region than the rest of the state since 2008 and the region had a weaker performance – greater decline or lower growth – in every sector (ex. real estate).
  • The enterprise base differs across more urban and rural counties. Highly rural counties of Roscommon, Mayo and Donegal have 34-36% of enterprises in Industry and Construction but in more urban counties of Clare and Sligo it is around 30%.  A higher share of enterprises in Galway and Sligo are active in knowledge services sectors, though even Galway is below national average. Local services play a larger role in more rural counties.
  • Western counties had among the greatest losses of enterprises since 2008. Donegal lost more than 1 in 3 of its Construction firms; Wholesale & Retail declined most strongly in Donegal and Clare; Accommodation & Food Service declined across most counties.
  • Knowledge services performed best, though from a low base.
Figure 5: % change in number of active enterprises by sector in Western Region & Rest of State, 2008-2014. CSO, Business Demography, 2014

Figure 5: % change in number of active enterprises by sector in Western Region & Rest of State, 2008-2014. CSO, Business Demography, 2014

The full presentation can be downloaded here  (PDF, 2MB)

 

Pauline White & Helen McHenry

Self-employment increases by 10,000 in Western Region

The biggest change in the Western Region’s labour market over the past year has been an exceptionally rapid expansion in self-employment.  According to a special run of the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey for Quarter 1 2016 for the Western Region, between Quarter 1 2015 and Quarter 1 2016 the number of people in the Western Region who are self-employed grew by 15.4%. That was an increase of 10,000 people, from 65,000 up to 75,000.  This was in sharp contrast to the change in the number of people who were working as employees in the region, which actually declined marginally over the same period -0.2% (from 249,600 down to 249,200).

There has been a steady upward trend in the numbers self-employed in the region since 2012, but 2016 was marked by an exceptionally large rise (Fig. 1). From Fig. 1 it can be seen that the number of self-employed who are employing others actually declined between 2012 and 2014 but has grown strongly since.  Indeed between 2015 and 2016 this type of self-employment increased by a quarter (up 25%).  The strong growth in the number with employees is a very positive indication of the growth potential of some of these businesses. Currently there are 19,000 people self-employed and employing others in the Western Region.

Self-employed with no paid employees is by far the more common type of self-employment however.  This has grown in each year since 2012, except 2015, and increased by 12.4% in the past year to now stand at 56,000. This type of self-employment plays a key role in ensuring that people can continue to live and work in smaller towns and rural areas.

Fig. 1: Number of self-employed persons in the Western Region, with and without paid employees, Q1 2016. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2016, special run

Fig. 1: Number of self-employed persons in the Western Region, with and without paid employees, Q1 2016. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2016, special run

The growth in self-employment was the sole driver of any jobs growth that took place in the Western Region in this period.  The total number of people at work in the region rose by 3.5% between Q1 2015 and Q1 2016 and this was entirely due to self-employment.

Contrast to situation in rest of the state

The massive growth in self-employment between 2015 and 2016 was unique to the Western Region.  For the rest of the state (all other counties in Ireland combined) the number of self-employed people actually fell during this period by -1.3%, it was the same for those with and without employees.  The number of people working as employees grew however (up 2.8%) in contrast to the decline experienced in the Western Region.

Total jobs growth in the rest of the state was lower than that in the region (2.2% v 3.5%) over the period and the region’s stronger overall performance was caused by people creating their own jobs. While the region had stronger jobs growth during 2015-2016, over the longer period since 2012 the region has had lower growth.  The total number in employment rose by 6.4% in the Western Region between 2012 and 2016, but by 8.7% in the rest of the state.

High share of all jobs are in self-employment

The Western Region’s labour market differs markedly from that elsewhere.  The recent growth in self-employment in the region has further reinforced its key role.  22.9% of people at work in the Western Region work for themselves, while in the rest of the state it is 15.2% (Fig. 2).

In the rest of the state the share of self-employed has not fluctuated a great deal over the past decade.  There was only a 1.5 percentage point difference between the highest and lowest years.  In the Western Region, volatility has been far greater with a 4.3 percentage point difference between the highest (2016) and lowest (2012) years.  It is notable that the share now in 2016 is even higher than it was in 2007 or 2008 when self-employment in the construction sector would have been at its highest.

Fig. 2: Total self-employment as a percentage of total number in employment in Western Region and rest of state, Q1 2007 – Q1 2016. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2016, special run

Fig. 2: Total self-employment as a percentage of total number in employment in Western Region and rest of state, Q1 2007 – Q1 2016. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2016, special run

Reasons for growth

The underlying factors driving strong self-employment growth in the region are varied and complex.  The relative lack of more standard forms of job opportunities, especially in smaller towns and more rural areas can mean that in order to remain living in these areas people need to choose the option of self-employment.  General trends in the world of work such as the growth of the so-called ‘gig economy’, contract working and trends to outsourcing of certain services and activities by larger companies (e.g. transport) is also driving growth in self-employment, though whether such trends would manifest themselves more strongly in the Western Region is unclear.

The other key explanation for the growth in self-employment, while employee numbers fell, was the sectoral pattern of jobs growth during this period.  At a sectoral level the strongest jobs growth by far was in accommodation & food service, perhaps partly influenced by the Wild Atlantic Way tourism initiative as well as increasing domestic demand, followed by transportation & storage and construction (Fig. 3) all of which are sectors that show high levels of self-employment.

Fig. 3: Percentage change in number in employment by sector in Western Region, Q1 2015 - Q1 2016. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2016, special run

Fig. 3: Percentage change in number in employment by sector in Western Region, Q1 2015 – Q1 2016. Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2016, special run

The 2014 Business Demography data showed that in the Western Region 88.8% of those working in accommodation & food service enterprises were employees with the remainder (11.2%) either owners or relatives.  In the rest of the state only 6.5% were owners/relatives showing greater self-employment in this sector in the region.  For transport the share of owners/relatives was 33.7% in the region compared with 21.5% in the rest of the state while for construction the difference was 43.4% in the region compared with 30.1% elsewhere. The three sectors with the strongest jobs growth in the Western Region between 2015 and 2016 all exhibit a far greater extent of self-employment in the region.

In contrast, industry, the sector which has the highest share of employees (96%) and therefore the lowest share of self-employment (4%), actually had jobs decline in the Western Region between 2015 and 2016.  The predominantly public service sectors of education, health and public administration, which would have low shares of self-employment, also reduced employment over the past year.

Conclusion

Increasingly, jobs growth in the Western Region is driven by self-employment and far more so than in the rest of the state.  This has significant implications for how jobs growth in the region is being, and can be, supported and encouraged.  It shows the importance of supports for the self-employed including issues around social protection, enterprise supports especially soft supports as many may be in locally trading sectors not eligible for grant aid, work space, broadband access and opportunities for networking.  The growth in the number of self-employed with employees is very positive and shows the potential contribution of the self-employed to jobs growth.  It also shows the importance of making it as easy as possible for the self-employed to begin hiring employees as well as the provision of information and advice on employment law and employee rights.

At the same time, these figures raise concerns about the capacity of job creation in other types of businesses, as the number of employees actually declined in the past year in the region while growing elsewhere. This seems to have been due to employment in the predominantly public sectors of education and health (significant employers) falling in the region, while growing in the rest of the state.  Jobs in industry and information & communications also declined.  We will return to the topic of 2016’s sectoral employment performance in a future post, but for now it is important to note that in the Western Region those sectors driven by self-employment are strongly out-performing the others.

Pauline White

Self-employment Driving Jobs Growth in the Western Region

30.8% Youth Unemployment Rate

Jobs growth in the Western Region is much slower than in the rest of the country.  Over the three years 2012-2015, the number of people at work in the region grew by just 2.8%, which was less than half the growth in the rest of the state at 6.3%. That’s according to a new Western Development Commission (WDC) publication ‘Jobs Recovery and the Western Region’.

Interestingly, many of the new jobs are classified as self-employed which demonstrates that there is an entrepreneurial culture in the region.  Over this period, the number of self-employed increased by 13.6% compared with just 0.7% growth in the number of employees.  Self-employment is a more important source of jobs in the region than elsewhere, with 1 in 5 working people in the region self-employed, compared with 1 in 6 in the rest of Ireland.

‘While the jobs recovery that is taking place in the Western Region is welcome, the slower pace means the region is not fully benefitting from improving economic conditions.  Limited job options, particularly in smaller towns, villages and  more rural areas, means that more people are having to create their own jobs,’ according to Paddy McGuinness, Chairperson of the WDC.

‘65,000 people work for themselves in the Western Region with over three-quarters of them working alone.  Fully recognising and supporting self-employment as a source of jobs growth is central to the region’s future.  Addressing issues such as social protection, broadband access, isolation and support to scale are vital for the region’s self-employed,’ he added.

The region’s slower jobs recovery is impacting on young people (15-24 yrs) in particular.  In 2015 the region’s youth unemployment rate was 30.8% compared with just 20% for those living in the rest of the country.  Young people who are out of work and not in education or training for a long time, face serious barriers in finding work.

Fig 1 - Youth unemployment rate 2006-2015

Employment in several of the sectors where young people often find jobs, such as retail and hospitality, declined in the Western Region between 2012 and 2015, while it grew in the rest of the country.

‘Our region’s young people are suffering because of the uneven regional spread of Ireland’s jobs recovery.  This reality needs to be acknowledged and addressed in any Programme for Government agreed in discussions presently taking place on the formation of a new Government,’  concluded Mr. McGuinness.

Notes:

The two-page WDC Insights publication ‘Jobs Recovery and the Western Region’ can be downloaded here

All data taken from a special run of the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 1 2012-2015 for the seven county Western Region.