Posts

Changes and Trends in Disposable Incomes in Western Region Counties

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Table 1: Disposable income data for Western Region counties

*CSO Estimate  ^Own calculations

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

 

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

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

 

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

*CSO Estimate  ^Own calculations

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Trends in Disposable Incomes over time

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

 

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

Source:  CSO, 2019, Statbank Table CIA02

 

Disposable Incomes in the Western Region compared to the State

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

 

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

Source:  CSO, 2019, Statbank Table CIA02

 

Have Disposable Incomes Recovered?

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

 

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

Source:  CSO, 2019,  Statbank Table CIA02

 

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

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

 

Helen McHenry

 

 

Hospitality plays a larger role in employment & enterprise in the Western Region

The WDC has just published its latest Regional Sectoral Profile which examines the region’s fifth largest employment sector – Accommodation & Food Service.  Both the detailed report ‘Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profileand a two-page summaryWDC Insights: Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region’ can be downloaded here

Accommodation & Food Service includes all those working in hotels, guesthouses, pubs, clubs, restaurants, takeaways, coffee shops, catering companies and mobile food / coffee vans.  Essentially it is the hospitality industry.  The Western Region is home to 19.7% of everyone working in hospitality in Ireland and 23.7% of all of the sector’s enterprises.

Accommodation & Food Service as a share of total employment 

According to Census 2016, 23,038 people were employed in Accommodation & Food Service in the Western Region.  It plays a greater role in the region’s labour market than nationally (Fig. 1) accounting for 6.9% of total employment compared with 5.8%.  Among western counties, it is most important in Galway City at 9.9%, followed by Donegal and Mayo.  These three counties are among the top five in Ireland in terms of the share of their workforce engaged in hospitality.  Roscommon has the lowest share in the region and is fourth lowest in the state.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in Accommodation & Food Service in Western Region and state, 2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

At 27.6% of total employment, Clifden has the highest share working in hospitality of Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population) with Bundoran (21.7%), Westport (21.1%), Donegal town (20.3%) and Carrick-on-Shannon (15%) also among the top 10 towns in Ireland.   At under 6%, Ballyhaunis, Ballymote and Boyle have the lowest shares working in the sector in the region.

Employment by gender 

Hospitality is a more important employer for women than men (Fig. 2) with 8.2% of all working women and 5.8% of all working men in the Western Region working in the sector.  The sector plays a more significant role in both female and male employment in the region than nationally, most notably for women.

Galway City, Donegal and Mayo are where hospitality is most important for female employment employing close to 1 in 10 of all women.  In the case of Donegal and Mayo the sector is considerably more important for women’s jobs than men’s.  Galway City is the only area where hospitality is more important to male than female employment however the shares are quite similar indicating the sector is more gender-balanced, as it also seems to be in Sligo.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total male and total female employment that is in Accommodation & Food Service in Western Region and state, 2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

Self-employment in Accommodation & Food Service

14.1% (3,237 people) of people working in the sector are self-employed (employer or own account worker). The Western Region has a considerably higher incidence of self-employment than the national average (11.5%).  This could indicate that hospitality operations in the Western Region tend to be smaller in scale with fewer employees and that owner-manager/family-run businesses are more common.  The extent of self-employment declined between 2011 and 2016, most strongly in more rural counties.

Accommodation & Food Service Enterprises

In 2016 there were 4,358 Accommodation & Food Service enterprises registered in the Western Region which was 23.7% of all such enterprises in the state.  This is the sector where the region accounts for its highest share of all enterprises nationally.

Hospitality accounted for 10.2% of all business economy[1] enterprises registered in the Western Region 2016.  Donegal, Leitrim and Mayo have the highest share of enterprises in the sector at 11+% showing the importance of the sector in their overall enterprise profile.

Key Policy Issues for the Western Region’s Hospitality Sector

Accommodation & Food Service plays a larger role than nationally in the Western Region’s economy, in terms of its employment profile and enterprise base.  Any changes in demand for this sector e.g. from Brexit, an economic downturn, will have a particularly large impact on the region and national policy needs to address issues specific to the region such as improved accessibility for visitors and the viability of rural hospitality businesses relying on local demand.

As it is quite widely distributed, hospitality helps to sustain the regional and rural economy and is becoming an increasingly important reason for people to visit town centres. Therefore it is a critical element in town centre renewal efforts.  It is also an important source of jobs for those with lower skills or limited experience, whose rights need to be protected, as well as providing highly skilled occupations and considerable opportunities for entrepreneurship.  Self-employment, while still higher in the region than elsewhere, is declining and it is important to support and encourage self-employment to maintain the diversity of the region’s hospitality offering.

Hospitality is highly sensitive to changing economic conditions which influence both the level of disposable income of local residents and overseas and domestic tourism activity. The balance between local and tourist demand in sustaining the hospitality sector varies considerably across the region (from tourism ‘hotspots’ to small rural towns depending on local custom) and policy aimed at strengthening the sector needs to be tailored to the specific circumstances of different areas.  Rural and border counties are particularly exposed to Brexit while the sector as a whole needs to adapt to emerging trends e.g. Airbnb, changing demographics, low carbon economy.

Download Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile and WDC Insights: Accommodation & Food Service sector in the Western Region here

The report also examines data on overseas and domestic tourism revenue and numbers to the Western Region, which will be the subject of a future post.

 

Pauline White

[1] Business economy includes all economic sectors except Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Public Administration & Defence, Education, Health & Social Work and Other Services.

Industry’s role in total ‘agency assisted’ jobs declining nationally but remains highly stable in Western Region

In a recent post I outlined some of the main findings from our analysis of Census employment data on the Industry sector in the Western Region.   Our recent report ‘Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ also examined agency assisted Industry jobs and they are the subject of this post.

Each year the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (DBEI) (and formerly Forfás) conducts a survey of all firms in Ireland who have ever received assistance from IDA, EI or Udarás na Gaeltachta.  This is published as the Annual Employment Survey (AES) and these firms are referred to as ‘agency assisted’.  They are limited to Industry or International Services firms currently or with the potential to export.  For Industry this would include most enterprises.   Unlike Census data, which is based on where a person lives, AES data is based on where the company is located, so is the location of the job, even if the person travels from another county.

Agency assisted jobs in Industry in the Western Region

The latest AES data is from 2017 when there were 49,435 agency assisted Industry jobs in the Western Region.  From a low of 38,000 in 2010, assisted Industry jobs have grown steadily, accelerating since 2013.

Of total assisted Industry jobs in the region, 87.6% are Permanent Full Time (PFT) with the rest ‘Other Jobs’ (temporary, part-time or contract).  The share of PFT jobs in the region is lower than nationally (89.5%) indicating that other forms of employment are more common in the region’s industrial sector.   The share of jobs that are PFT declined over the decade from 92.2% in the state and 90% in the region in 2008 indicating a rising prevalence of other forms of employment.  Every western county, except Donegal, had a lower share of PFT assisted Industry jobs in 2017 than a decade earlier.

Industry’s share of total assisted jobs

In the Western Region, the share of total assisted jobs (Industry + International Services) accounted for by Industry has remained extremely stable at around three-quarters over the past decade (Fig. 1). This contrasts strongly with a steady decline nationally from 64.2% in 2008 to 55.6% by 2017.  International services account for a far higher and growing share of assisted jobs nationally than in the region, where Industry continues to play a greater role.

Due to confidentiality reasons, data on assisted jobs at county level is combined for Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo.  In 2017, this is where Industry accounts for its highest share of assisted jobs (88.6%). There has been a considerable increase in Industry’s importance, partly due to substantial job losses in international services over this period.[1]  Mayo has the next highest share (87.3% in 2017) in Industry with a number of significant Irish and multinational manufacturing plants but limited international services activity.

In Galway, Industry’s share declined markedly between 2009 and 2012 but has remained relatively steady since as its growth in Industry and international services jobs has been similar (29.2% in Industry and 25.2% in international services during 2012-2017). While there has been fluctuation in the relative importance of Industry in Clare, by 2017 73% of Clare’s assisted jobs were in Industry, the same share as a decade earlier.  Industry’s role in Donegal declined throughout the period, partly due to very strong growth in international services as well as manufacturing job losses.  At 61.8% Donegal has the lowest share of Industry jobs in the region but is still above the state average.

Fig. 1: Industry as a percentage of total assisted jobs in Western Region and state, 2008-2017

Source: Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2018), Annual Employment Survey 2017, special run. Note: For ease of interpretation the vertical axis starts at 50%.

Assisted jobs in Industry sub-sectors

MedTech dominates assisted Industry jobs in the Western Region (Fig. 2) accounting for 29.7% of all such jobs in the region compared with 13.3% nationally.  For the country as a whole, Agri-food is by far the largest assisted Industry sector.  As well as Agri-food, the region also has a notably lower share involved in the high-tech Chemicals & Pharma and Computer & Electronic sectors.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total assisted jobs in Industry in each sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2017

Source: Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2018), Annual Employment Survey 2017, special run

During 2012-2017 the region performed considerably better than nationally in the region’s three strongest growing sub-sectors (Fig. 3).  Valeo in Tuam would be a key factor in the strong growth in Transport Equipment, while recovery in the building industry drove the next highest growing sub-sectors.  In many other sub-sectors, jobs growth in the region was relatively similar to the national experience.  It did have a notably stronger performance in Clothing & Textiles while there was a decline in Mining & Quarrying jobs in the Western Region compared with growth nationally.

Fig. 3: Percentage change in assisted jobs in Industry sub-sectors in Western Region and state, 2012-2017

Source: Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2018), Annual Employment Survey 2017, special run

Assisted Industry jobs by ownership

Of total assisted Industry jobs in the Western Region in 2017, 55.1% (27,214) were in foreign owned companies, higher than the 45.3% share nationally.

During the early years of the recession (2008-2012), the share in foreign ownership increased substantially (from 52.7% to 55.8%) due to large job losses in predominantly Irish owned sectors supplying construction, as well as jobs recovery beginning earlier in the foreign owned sector, strongly influenced by the performance of MedTech.  While jobs growth has extended more widely in the Irish owned sector, the share jobs in foreign ownership remains at a higher level than pre-recession.  Foreign ownership is not only more important to Industry in the Western Region, but the recession further strengthened its role.

The ownership pattern differs across Industry sub-sectors.  At 96.8% of assisted jobs in foreign ownership MedTech is very heavily reliant on FDI companies with large employers such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific and Abbot.  Transport Equipment, which has shown strong jobs growth, has the next highest level of foreign ownership at 84.4%.

In terms of Irish ownership, all assisted jobs in Mining & Quarrying and practically all (98.2%) in Clothing & Textiles, is in Irish owned firms.  For Clothing & Textiles, the loss of previous foreign owned jobs in the sector e.g. Fruit of the Loom in Donegal, and the changing character of the sector to focus on high value, hand crafted products e.g. Magees of Donegal, Foxford Woollen Mills, means it is now largely an indigenous industry.  Agri-food has the next highest level of Irish ownership at 85% of assisted jobs.

Conclusion

Industry plays a considerably more significant role in agency assisted employment in the Western Region accounting for 3 in 4 of all assisted jobs.  While Industry’s share is declining nationally, it is highly stable in the region with its strong Life Sciences cluster a contributing factor.

While Industry’s share of assisted jobs has remained highly stable, there have been many changes within the sector over the past decade including a growing share of non-permanent jobs and the increased significance of foreign owned employment.

Greater diversity in the industrial profile of a region increases its resilience and capacity to withstand external shocks.  The region’s greater reliance on foreign ownership and the dominant role of Life Sciences (while a key regional asset) could increase the region’s exposure to risk.  There needs to be a strong policy focus on further embedding existing regional strengths while also developing new areas of growth e.g. Energy, Transport Equipment, advanced engineering, to further diversify the region’s industrial profile and increase its resilience.

More detailed analysis of agency assisted employment in Industry in the Western Region is provided in Section 3 of ‘Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’.

Pauline White

[1] The numbers employed at the former MBNA (now Avantcard) call centre in Carrick-on-Shannon reduced substantially over this period, as well as a number of call centre closures in Sligo.

The Education Sector in the Western Region

The WDC recently published the third in our ongoing series of ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing employment and enterprise data for the Western Region on specific economic sectors and identifying key policy issues. The new report examines the Education Sector, the Western Region’s fourth largest employer.

The full report ‘The Education Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ and the two-pageWDC Insights: The Education Sector in the Western Region’, which summarises the key points, can be downloaded here

The Education sector plays a vital role in society, educating our young people, providing lifelong learning and personal development opportunities, as well as the necessary skills for the economy. It includes all those working in public, private or community/voluntary pre-primary, primary and secondary schools (e.g. teachers, support staff) as well as staff of further and higher education institutions and colleges. The sector also includes other types of educational activity such as music schools, adult education and driving schools.  Discussions of the Education sector generally focus on provision of services. This ‘Regional Sectoral Profile’ however focuses on its role as a key economic sector and regional employer.

Employment & Enterprise in the Education Sector

A few of the key findings from the report on employment and enterprise in the sector include:

  • 32,349 people were employed in the Education sector in the Western Region in 2016. Education plays a greater role in the region’s labour market than nationally, accounting for 9.7% of total employment compared with 8.8%.
  • Education is most important in Donegal (10.8% of all employment), followed by Galway County (10.2%). These are the highest shares working in Education in the country.
  • Moycullen in Co Galway (19%) has the highest share of residents working in Education across Ireland’s 200 towns and cities. The towns with the next largest shares in the region are Bearna (13.3%), Strandhill (12.2%) and Carndonagh (11.9%). It must be noted that this data refers to residents of the towns, although some may travel to work elsewhere e.g. NUI Galway, IT Sligo.
  • The number of people working in Education in the Western Region grew by 4.4% (2011-2016), weaker growth than the sector nationally (5.7%) and also weaker than total employment growth in the region (7.5%).
  • At 32.2% and 25% of total Education employment respectively, ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ are the two largest Education sub-sectors, with a higher share working in both in the region than nationally. In contrast the region has a lower share working in ‘Higher Education’ (15.2% v 16.8%).
  • ‘Pre-primary Education’ saw the strongest jobs growth, +44.8% in the region (2011-2016) largely driven by introduction of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme providing a free pre-school place to all children.
  • 7% of all working women and 4.4% of all working men in the Western Region work in Education. The sector plays a more significant role in both female and male employment in the region than nationally.
  • In 2016 there were 2,710 Education enterprises registered in the Western Region. Education enterprises account for 5% of all enterprises in the region, above the 4.4% share nationally.  Sligo is where the sector accounts for the largest share of enterprises (5.5%) with Clare and Galway next highest (5.2%).

Key Policy Issues for the Western Region’s Education Sector

  • Higher reliance on the Education sector in the Western Region: Education is a more significant employer in the Western Region than nationally and plays a critical role in providing professional career opportunities, including in more rural areas where there may be fewer alternatives. While the main focus for Education policy must be the provision of quality services, the sector’s parallel employment role should also be a factor in policy decisions.
  • Central role in female employment: 3 out of 4 people working in the Education sector in the Western Region are women. Galway City has the lowest female share, and Roscommon and Leitrim have the highest, indicating that Higher Education has lower female involvement than other Education sub-sectors. Any future development in Education will have a far greater impact on female than male employment levels.
  • Demographic Factors: The most recent projections from the Department of Education and Skills indicate that primary school enrolments peaked in 2018, while for second level education the numbers are projected to peak in 2024. The expected decline in demand for primary and secondary education in the medium-term will impact on future Education employment trends. Demand for third level education is more varied. As well as direct transfers of young people from secondary school, demand also comes from mature students returning to education and from international students, while staff are also engaged in other activities e.g. research, which are separate to student enrolments.
  • Lifelong Learning: There is increasing recognition of the importance of lifelong learning and the need to continually update skills, or acquire new skills, to adapt to changing technology and an increasingly flexible labour market. As well as the demands of the labour market, lifelong learning is also pursued for personal development. There are regional differences however in participation in lifelong learning. In the Border region, just 5% of adults were engaged in formal education, in the West region it was 8% while it was highest in Dublin at 12%. Meeting the Government’s target of 10% of adults to be engaged in formal lifelong learning by 2020 (15% by 2025), particularly in the Border region, will require a very substantial increase in participation representing a growth opportunity for the Western Region’s Education sector.
  • Regional Skills: The Education sector is largely responsible for providing skills needed by the regional economy; skills needs which are continually changing. Provision of regional skills involves a wide range of education providers and close engagement with employers. Regional Skills Fora provide a useful structure. Changing skill demands impact on Education employment, as emerging skill needs can only be met if Education professionals with expertise in these new areas e.g. artificial intelligence, big data, are available.
  • Emerging Opportunities: The introduction of the ECCE had a very dramatic jobs impact on Pre-primary Education. This shows the potential for developing new opportunities in the Education sector, where job creation may not be the main objective but is nonetheless an important outcome. Brexit presents another potential opportunity. It is estimated that 10,000 students from the Republic of Ireland study in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the UK and institutions such as Letterkenny IT and IT Sligo in the Western Region, could attract some of these students. Also students from EU member states wishing to study abroad in an English-speaking country are more likely to choose Ireland following Brexit. Another opportunity is the Western Region’s growing number of retired people who represent potential new demand for Education services. Given demographic trends, increased demand for Education services from adults, including retired people, is an area of potential growth.

Download the full report ‘The Education Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ and the two-page WDC Insights: The Education Sector in the Western Region’ which summarises the key points, here

Pauline White

A year in review: WDC Policy Analysis 2018

Happy New Year from the WDC Policy Analysis team!  As we all try to settle back into work and look forward to 2019 (well as much as anyone can with Brexit looming large on the horizon) it’s a good chance to look back at the year that was 2018.

Here’s a few of our highlights:

Travel to Work analysis

In May, we published detailed analysis of the travel to work patterns of workers living in the Western Region. The analysis, undertaken by the All Island Research Observatory (AIRO), identified 42 labour catchments across the region.

Our report contains a detailed labour market profile of the principal town in each of the seven counties – Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon. All of these labour catchments have significantly more people at work than the resident population of workers in the town, highlighting that they have access to a larger labour supply than may be thought. Read more

Further analysis of 26 smaller labour catchments will be published later in January.

County Infographics

July saw one of our most popular outputs, ‘snapshot’ infographics for each of the seven western counties.  The infographics show a range of facts about each county such as its 2016 population as a percentage of its 1841 population, the percentage with a third level qualification, average time to travel to work and broadband access.  Read more

WDC Insights

During 2018 we continued to publish succinct, 2-page WDC Insights on a range of issues including Electricity Transmission for Renewable Generation, Enterprise in the Western Region 2016, County Incomes in the Western Region, Growth and Change in Regional GVA and Education Levels in the Western Region.

Regional Sectoral Profiles

October 2018 saw the launch of a series of Regional Sectoral Profiles of economic sectors in the Western Region, analysing the latest employment and enterprise data and drawing out key policy issues.  A detailed report and WDC Insights summary is published for each sector.

The first examined was Wholesale & Retail which employs just over 42,000 people in the Western Region, this was followed by Health & Care which employs a similar number.  The next in the series, on the Education sector, will be published later in January.

Policy Submissions

One of the big work areas in any year is making submissions to national and regional policy consultations and 2018 proved particularly busy on the submissions front.

The year kicked off with submissions on the Issues Paper published for both the Northern & Western and Southern Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES).  Following the consultation period in early 2018, the Draft RSES documents are currently open for public consultation and we’ll be updating on the WDC’s submissions shortly.

Other submissions during 2018 included EirGrid’s Electricity Transmission Development Plan 2017-2027, Seanad Consultation on SMEs and the National Digital Strategy among others.

City-Led Development & Peripheral Regions

In September the WDC sponsored the Annual Conference of the Irish Branch of the Regional Studies Association.  The programme featured two international keynote speakers: from the US Prof. Mark Partridge and from Scotland Dr Andrew Copus.  Both focused on different aspects of the interaction between rural and urban areas.  The day also included a range of presentations from Irish academics and policymakers including WDC Policy Analyst Dr Helen McHenry.  A report on the conference appeared in the Winter edition of the Local Authority Times.  Read more

WDC Insights Blog

We continued to post an (almost!) weekly blog throughout the year with posts on all of the above publications, outputs and activities.  Other topics ranged from Nuts about NUTS and How many farmers are in the Western Region? to Leprechauns in Invisible Regions, Caring for the West and Is e-working on the increase?

To keep up to date with new WDC Policy Analysis outputs published during 2019, sign-up to our Mailing List.  To receive our weekly WDC Insights Policy blog by e-mail, follow the blog. And to follow us on Twitter we’re @WDCInsights.

And if you want to get in touch with any of us directly, we’re firstnamelastname@wdc.ie

Looking forward to working with you in 2019.

Deirdre Frost, Helen McHenry & Pauline White

WDC Insights Christmas Quiz Time Again! Take the 2018 quiz now.

It’s the WDC Insights Christmas Quiz time again.  How much do you know about the Western Region and regional development issues?

Take the quiz now or save it for ‘light reading’ over the holiday…. Or take it in January to inspire you for 2019.

Whenever you do take it, I hope you enjoy it and learn from it.  Thanks to all our blog readers this year.  We hope you have found it interesting, informative and, occasionally fun (rarely you might say…) . See you next year!

The answers are at the end with links to more information and the relevant posts.

You can add up your score and see what it says about your knowledge (and personality).

 

Good Luck!

1       The Western Region  

The Western Development Commission (WDC) is a statutory body that was set up to promote, foster and encourage social and economic development in the Western Region

How many counties are under the remit of the Western Development Commission?

  1. 9
  2. 11
  3. 7

2      Caring for the West

The Western Region is home to 19% of all carers in the State, higher than its 17.4% share of the national population, showing the greater need for, and provision of, unpaid care in the region.

What proportion of the Western Region population recorded themselves as providing unpaid care in census 2016?

  1. 6.3%
  2. 2.8%
  3. 4.5%

3      Disposable Incomes in the Western Region, 2015

According to the CSO data for 2015 (released in 2018), which county in the Western Region had the highest disposable income per person?

  1. Sligo
  2. Galway
  3. Clare

4     The Creative Sector

The WDC has been working on the development of the creative economy for more than ten years, with analysis and projects to stimulate its development.

What is the average number of workers in creative enterprises in the Western Region?

  1. 4 employees per firm
  2. 6 employees per firm
  3. 3 employees per firm

  1. Nuts about NUTS

Much of the data used by WDC Insights at regional level is provided at NUTS 2 and 3 levels.

How many NUTS 2 regions are there in Ireland?

  1. 5 NUTS 2 regions
  2. 3 NUTS 2 regions
  3. 2 NUTS 2 regions

6 Renewable Electricity Generation

The Western Region has some of the best resources for on renewable energy in Europe.  The WDC has continued to highlight the opportunities and needs of this sector.

What proportion of the electricity generation capacity in the Western Region is from renewable sources?

  1. 49.5%
  2. 73.2%
  3. 40.9%

7      Broadband

The WDC has been highlighting rural broadband needs for more than a decade. It is a particular issue for our largely rural region.

What proportion of SMEs in Connacht and Ulster rate their internet connection as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’?

  1. 73%
  2. 25%
  3. 34%

8      Enterprise in the Western Region

In September the WDC Insights publication.  ‘Enterprise in the Western Region 2016’ analysed the latest data from the CSO’s Business Demography which measured active enterprises in 2016.

How many enterprises were registered in the Western Region in 2016?

  1. 67,432
  2. 95,763
  3. 54,410

9      Farmers in the Western Region

There are three different measures of the number of ‘farmers’ in the Western Region.  The Census of Population was held in 2016, and this provides one measures of those involved in farming, data on CAP beneficiaries for 2016 provides another measure and recently released Revenue data for 2016 provides the third statistic.

Which measure shows the highest number of farmers in the region?

  1. Census 2016
  2. CAP beneficiaries
  3. Revenue data
  1. The Christmas Quiz

Why are you completing the Christmas Quiz today??

  1. You know loads about the Western Region and want to show off
  2. Your boss told you to.
  3. You are afraid Santa Claus won’t come if you don’t get a high score…

 

Answers

Don’t forget to keep count of how many correct answers you have.

 

  1. The Western Region

Answer: 3) 7 counties

The seven counties in the Western Region are: Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare

Read the WDC Insights blog to find out more about the issues in the region here

 

2          Caring for the West

Answer: 3) 4.5%

For more on caring in the Western Region see the post here.

 

3          Disposable Incomes in the Western Region, 2015

Answer 1) Sligo

For more information on county incomes in the Western Region see this post

 

4          Creative Economy

Answer 2) 2.6 employees per firm

Read more about the creative economy in the Western Region here

 

5          Nuts about NUTS

Answer 2) 3 NUTS2 regions

Read more changes in NUTS 2 regions here

 

6          Renewable electricity in the Western Region

Answer 1) 49.5%

Read more about Renewable electricity in the Western Region here

 

7         Broadband

Answer: 2) 25%

Read more about the issue of rural broadband here, here and here

 

8      Enterprise in the Western Region

Answer: 3) 54,410

Read more about the enterprise in the Western Region here

9        Farmers in the Western Region

Answer 2)  CAP beneficiaries

See here for more information about different measures of the number of ‘farmers’.

10      The Christmas Quiz

Any or all of these answers may be correct.  Give yourself the point for just getting this far and scroll down to see what your results mean.

 

How well did you do?

You got 9 or 10 answers correct

CONGRATULATIONS! You should be a WDC Policy Analyst!  You really know a lot about regional development, the Western Region and the Western Development Commission’s work.

 

You got between 4 and 8 answers correct

WELL DONE, a good score but some deficiencies in your knowledge. Perhaps you should read our WDC Insights posts more carefully in 2017!

 

You got between 0 and 3 answers correct

OH DEAR! Time to pay more attention to regional development and Western Region issues! You’ll have to do some extra study over the holiday! Reread the WDC Insights blog and check out the WDC publications page and re-take the quiz in the New Year  J

 

Happy Christmas!

 

 

Helen McHenry

 

SMEs in Ireland: What are the issues?

Earlier this year the WDC made a submission to the Seanad Public Consultation Committee. They are currently investigating the issue of Small and Medium Sized Businesses in Ireland.  Last Tuesday we were among 15 individuals and organisations invited to address a public hearing of the Seanad on the topic.  A video of the hearings is available here (the WDC’s contribution begins at 3:48) and the final report will be published by the Seanad early next year.

The inputs to the public hearing covered the owner, national and regional perspectives on SMEs in Ireland.  Over the course of five hours a very broad range of topics and issues relevant to the operation and future of SMEs in Ireland was discussed, here are just a few of the themes which emerged.

Incentivising entrepreneurship:  How can we make it more attractive for people to choose to establish their own business?  It was suggested the idea should be encouraged at primary school level, before children enter the ‘points race’, by adding entrepreneurship to the list of potential career choices.  It was also noted that some entrepreneurship, especially in rural areas, may ‘grow from the ashes’ as a result of the closure of a large business and limited alternative employment.  Reducing personal risk as a barrier to entrepreneurship was raised in terms of social insurance, as well as the issue of the rate of capital gains tax acting as a disincentive.

Varied forms of entrepreneurship: It was proposed that more varied forms of entrepreneurship and ownership models, including co-operatives and social enterprise, should be encouraged.  With a more socially conscious generation of young people, it was recognised there could be more demand to buy from socially and environmentally conscious local businesses.  It was suggested that this could support succession planning for family-run businesses with more options for buy-outs by worker co-operatives.

Attracting skills and management capacity:  As the labour market tightens, SMEs increasingly have to compete for employees with large multinationals. SMEs can lose trained staff to FDI companies paying higher salaries and this particularly restricts the development of management capacity as SMEs find it difficult to compete with FDI companies on salaries for high level management roles.  But a strong management team is central to SME success and can also help with succession through a management buy-out.  Incentives to retain staff, such as the Keep scheme, were seen as important to tackle this.  The diaspora was also highlighted as a potential source of key skills for SMEs and a number of initiatives to attract people back to rural, regional and Gaeltacht locations were outlined. For counties in the Greater Dublin Area, promoting ‘reverse commuting’ with SMEs encouraged to establish in commuter towns to take advantage of the pool of talent currently commuting into Dublin, was highlighted.

Education and training: To meet the skill requirements of SMEs there was a need for them to identify their current and future skills needs. EI are currently running ‘spotlight on skills’ workshops for companies which aim to help with this.  Close collaboration between SMEs in a region and local education providers (ETBs, IoTs, Universities) is critical to providing the pipeline of skills needed for future jobs as well as facilitating accredited lifelong learning to upskill current staff.  Increasing the range of sectors covered by apprenticeships and making the apprenticeship path more attractive were also raised.

Costs and regulatory burden:  The rising cost of utilities and insurance and the impact this is having on SMEs.  For example a number of key insurers have left the insurance market for retail businesses in Ireland and there is uncertainty how UK insurers providing cover in Ireland will be impacted by Brexit.  Initiatives to spread costs more evenly, such as the timing of Revenue payments, could help with SME cash flow.  The Government was urged to ‘think small first’ when developing new regulations and to take into consideration the cumulative impact of numerous regulations on small businesses, rather than looking at the impact of one regulation in isolation from others.

Procurement: The potential for public procurement as a market for SMEs.  The ‘bundling’ of contracts could put some public projects out of reach of SMEs and it was felt that, as far as possible within EU tendering guidelines, SMEs should be facilitated to access public procurement

Broadband and remote working: SMEs will not be able to connect with their markets in the absence of high-speed broadband across the country.  The lack of high-speed broadband in some rural and regional locations is a critical issue and has in fact led to the relocation of some companies.  It was noted that 4G /5G mobile technology was not sufficient the needs of SMEs and fibre broadband was the most future proofed technology.  Broadband could also facilitate remote working for employees and entrepreneurs.  The provision of digital hubs and innovation centres could facilitate networking and social interaction. It was noted that there needed to be a culture change in terms of remote working.

Scale and performance:  Recent Irish economic growth has mainly been driven by FDI and Irish SMEs are not performing as well in terms of exports or innovation.  It was felt that they were not living up to their potential, as research by the Enterprise Research Centre has shown that Irish micro-enterprises have greater growth ambition, digital adoption and use of innovation than their UK or US counterparts. Growing the scale of Irish SMEs and diversifying their markets, especially beyond the UK, were seen as priorities for improved performance.  It was also noted that some SMEs may be caught in the ‘middle’, too large for LEOs but not exporting so not within EI’s remit.  Brexit makes it difficult for any SME to plan and it was suggested that some companies may need more direct support to adapt to the Brexit impact.

Investment and finance:  There is a need for more investment in SMEs, who currently largely rely on short-term debt financing rather than longer term equity investment.  Investors need to be incentivised more to make equity investments in SMEs, while SME owners should be encouraged to be more open to equity investment.  While new, high-tech companies were very open to the idea, more established SMEs may be reluctant to seek such investment.  It was also noted there was a lack of private sector early stage and venture capital funding in the regions.  In relation to lending to SMEs, a Local Public Banking model, similar to that in Germany, was proposed.  Based on relationship banking, these local public banks could provide loans to SMEs and would operate on a non-profit basis.

The ultimate outcome of the consultation will be a strategy proposal document on SMEs in Ireland which the Seanad will publish early next week and propose to the relevant Government Minister.  It is hoped this will place a renewed focus on the role and importance of indigenous SMEs to the Irish economy and regional development.

Pauline White

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.

How important is Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region?

The WDC recently published the first in a series of ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing specific economic sectors in the Western Region and identifying key policy issues.  The first sector examined is Wholesale & Retail.  Two publications are available:

  • WDC Insights: Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region (2-page summary)
  • Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile (full report)

Download both here

Wholesale & Retail Employment in the Western Region

42,510 people were employed in the Wholesale & Retail sector in the Western Region in 2016. At 12.7% of total employment, it is the region’s second largest employment sector, after Industry.  It is somewhat less important in the region than nationally (Fig. 1).  At 13.3% of all employment, it is Ireland’s largest employer.

Among western counties, Wholesale & Retail is most significant in Mayo (14.4%) and least so in Clare (11.2%).  Two other largely rural counties (Roscommon and Donegal) had the next highest shares working in the sector in the region.  Wholesale & Retail accounted for a higher share of total employment in 2016 than a decade earlier in all western counties (except Donegal) and most notably in the most rural counties.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector in Western Region and state, 2006, 2011 and 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011; CSO, Census 2006: Volume 7 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table C0713

52.3% of people at work in the Wholesale & Retail sector in the Western Region are male, similar to the national average.  Males make up the majority in all western counties (at 55.2% Sligo has the greatest male majority) except Clare (50.8% female) and Galway city (50.9% female).

Wholesale & Retail Employment in western towns

Wholesale & Retail is the largest employment sector for 16 out of the region’s 40 urban centres.  There is no clearly discernible pattern in the relative importance (as a percentage of total employment) of the sector across the 40 towns, ranked by descending size (Fig. 2). Factors such as location, distance from larger urban centres, diversity of its economic profile and alternative job options combine with a town’s size to determine the role played by the sector.

Boyle (20.2%), Ballina (20%) and Castlebar (19.1%) have the highest shares working in Wholesale & Retail in the region. These, and other towns with a high share, are important rural service centres located quite some distance from larger centres and serving wide rural hinterlands.  The sector is least important for Strandhill, Newmarket-on-Fergus and Moycullen; all are towns located close to large urban centres which are likely their main retail centre.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector in towns in the Western Region, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Self-employment in Wholesale & Retail

The Western Region is characterised by greater self-employment in Wholesale & Retail than the national average (15.5% of total employment in the sector is self-employment compared with 12.7% in the state).  Every western county, except Galway City, also has an above average share of self-employment, meaning the sector in the region is characterised by more family or owner/ manager run businesses, likely smaller in scale.

The share of self-employment declined in all western counties (except Sligo) between 2011 and 2016. This indicates a changing composition of the sector with fewer family or owner/manager run Wholesale & Retail businesses and the expansion of multiples and chain stores with a growing share of those working in the sector being employees.

Employment in Wholesale & Retail sub-sectors

Census data on employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector is sub-divided into 17 separate activities.  For ease of presentation here these are grouped into five broad areas: Motor trades; Wholesale; Food/beverage retail; Clothing/footwear retail; and All other retail.[1]

In 2016, the largest sub-sector in the Western Region was ‘Food/beverage retail’ (Fig. 3) accounting for 27.7% of all employment in the Wholesale & Retail sector. The largest element of this is supermarkets.  The next largest sub-sector is ‘All other retail’ (e.g. furniture, computers, petrol stations etc.) followed by ‘Wholesale’.  The relative importance of the five sub-sectors differs across counties. Generally, ‘Food/beverage retail’ is the largest with close to 30% working in this sub-sector in Clare and Leitrim.  Two exceptions are Galway City and Roscommon where ‘All other retail’ is bigger.

Fig. 3: Percentage of total Wholesale & Retail employment in each sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2016. Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011

The sub-sectors have performed differently over time. For the Western Region, ‘Motor trades’ saw the most significant jobs growth between 2011 and 2016 reflecting strong recent growth in car sales and recovery from substantial job losses during the recession. ‘Clothing/footwear retail’ was the only other area to show some growth with the other three sub-sectors declining in the region.  This is in contrast to the national picture where all sub-sectors grew except ‘Food/beverage retail’.

Key Policy Issues

Wholesale & Retail plays a critical role in the regional and rural economy as it is more widely dispersed than many other sectors. It is a highly visible sector and its performance has a major impact on the viability and vibrancy of towns.  It also provides important job options for people with lower skill levels and younger people.  There has been growing policy interest in this sector in the past number of years. Some of the key policy issues include:

  • Increased consumer mobility & rural areas: The trend of travelling to large urban centres to avail of wider retail choice presents opportunities for the region’s largest centres but may have negative consequences for small and medium-sized rural towns.
  • Town centre renewal: Towns are trying to adapt to their changing role. Retail is just one of the services they provide and for many it is declining in relative importance.  Taking a broad approach to town centre renewal is critical to making towns more attractive retail and service destinations.
  • Growth of online sales: Online sales continue to grow but the majority of spending leaks out of Ireland. While online can be seen as a threat to traditional retail, it also presents an opportunity to expand beyond local markets.
  • Declining self-employment: While self-employment remains higher in the region than elsewhere, it is declining. Fewer family or owner/manager run enterprises impacts on the local distinctiveness of the retail offering of individual towns.
  • Quality of employment and skills development: While Wholesale & Retail offers many high quality jobs, it also employs a lot of younger and lower skilled workers. Improving the quality and security of jobs in this sector is important for worker rights and also for the sector’s ability to adapt to emerging trends.

Opportunities exist to grow online activity and to restructure the retail and service offering of towns to meet changing consumer needs.  However, grasping these opportunities will depend on proactive policy to support the sector, a willingness to adapt among retailers, increased capacity for businesses to compete with larger national or global retailers and a collaborative approach to help towns adapt to their changing function.

More detailed analysis and discussion of these policy issues are available in ‘Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

Pauline White

[1] Appendix 1 of the report provides data for all 17 activities.

Is e-Working on the Increase?

There has been much talk recently of an increase in e-working but does the evidence support the idea that it is more prevalent?

Technology development and in particular high speed broadband enables much office based work to be conducted remotely or away from the office. This, coupled with increased journey times to work has led to a greater demand for the opportunity for staff to work remote from the office and closer to home on a one or 2 days a week basis. Companies are reportedly increasing the availability of e-working in part as a means to retain key personnel[1].

The growth in employment opportunities in the shared or gig economy is another factor driving broadband demand to support employment growth and there is evidence that work and income generation in this sector is an important feature in rural areas such as the Western Region, see here.

Regional employers also value the ability to provide remote working opportunities, for example, Shopify recently announced the addition of 100 remote working jobs in the west of Ireland due to the presence of high-speed broadband, while Pramerica, a US multinational in Letterkenny, employ at least 20 e-workers who work from a well-established hub in Gweedore, Co. Donegal. Wayfair has also recently announced their intention to add over 200 jobs to their “Virtual” workforce in the west of Ireland (https://www.idaireland.com/newsroom/wayfair).

Benefits from e-working

Analysis for the Department of Communications measured benefits arising from delivery of high speed broadband planned under the forthcoming National Broadband Plan[2];

  • found that each house 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 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 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[3].

Demand for e-working/co-working spaces/ Hubs

The success of initiatives variously called e-working spaces/ co-working spaces/ hubs also suggests e-working is on the increase. However the various terms are used to describe a variety of uses, only some of which may actually support the individual e-worker.

There are working spaces in the enterprise space some of which are funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Hubs variously classed as innovation, enterprise or community hubs, many are focussed on start ups and incubation spaces rather than providing e-working spaces for individual employees.

In the Western Region, the success of Digital hubs in County Clare, https://www.digiclare.ie/  where there are spaces in three sites across the county, Kilrush, Miltown Malbay and Feakle suggest an increased demand for e-working spaces.  Many of these types of hubs are providing high speed telecommunications access to communities that do not yet have access and are (still) awaiting the rollout of the National Broadband Plan. Initiatives such as Grow Remote suggest e-working  is an increasing phenomenon.

 The evidence on e-Working

However as the WDC pointed out in its e-working policy briefing, the evidence on e-Working in Ireland is limited and complicated by different definitions. The most comprehensive data is collected in the Census and the same question has been asked on previous Censuses. The question asked is ‘how you usually travel to work?’ with one of the answers being ‘work mainly at or from home’.

According to the Census, nationally, in 2011, 4.7% (83,326) of all those at work, stated they worked mainly at or from home. By 2016 there were 94,955 persons working ‘mainly at or from home’ in April 2016, an increase of 14%. There was a 11% increase in the numbers at work over the same period, indicating an increasing prevalence of working from home.

However, the Census definition is a very broad definition in that it includes all those that are self-employed and work from home (such as childminders, home-based GPs, farmers and sole traders across all sectors) and not just e-Workers. Moreover, the Census definition only captures those employees that work from home most of the working week and excludes those who e-Work even one or two days per week, which some studies suggest is the most common pattern of e-Working.

In 2016 an IBEC survey of their membership found that 30% (110) of companies had a practice of e-Working/ home-working, on one or two days per week. At a regional level, 21% of companies in the West/North-West report a practice of e-Working one or two days per week, lower than the national average. The likelihood of e-Working among companies increases with company size so that 40% of companies with 500+ employees cite a practice of e-Working nationally. The trend is for continued growth in the practice with 31% of companies’ surveyed planning to increase their use of e-Working, with a forecast that 60% of office based workers will work remotely regularly by 2020, see here.

Examining e-Working in rural Ireland, a report commissioned by Vodafone, found that nearly one in four broadband users in rural Ireland use the internet at home in relation to their work (about 430,000 people) and one third have remote access to their company network for work purposes. These e-Workers report that e-Working means they can avoid commuting to work, typically about two days a week. An estimated 150,000 workers avoid commuting some or all of the time because they can connect to work remotely.

However, the same report found that a quarter of those who work from home – or nearly 100,000 adults – say their current broadband service is not sufficient to meet their requirements for e-Working, and that it limits the work-related activities they can do from home. This share rises to nearly half of those living in detached houses in the countryside. 30% report that slow and unreliable speeds currently prevent them and/or family members from working from home.

Conclusions

It is clear therefore that the incidence of e-Working is greater than the measure of ‘those working mainly at or from home’, as captured by the Census. It is also likely that the trend is generally upward.

It is also clear that the rollout of the National Broadband Plan remains a vital infrastructure investment needed to support employment growth and retention, apart from the various and widespread social benefits it can yield.

Better data is needed to capture the actual extent of e-Working. The CSO should consider revising the Census question as it currently only captures those ‘who work mainly at or from home’. Data should measure the incidence of e-Working on a one day, two days and more frequent basis. This will also provide a useful baseline for measuring trends.

[1] https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC_Policy-Briefing-no-7.pdf, https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC-Insights-Home-Based-Working-July-2017.pdf  IBEC HR Update Survey 2016, Issue 2.

[2] Indecon International Economic Consultants, July 2012. Economic / Socio-Economic Analysis of Options for

Rollout of Next Generation Broadband. http://www.dccae.gov.ie/communications/SiteCollectionDocuments/Broadband/National%20Broadband%20Plan.pdf

[3] See footnote 3. There is also an increase in productivity at the enterprise level – measured at 0.67% increase in GVA per small non-farm enterprise in the Intervention Area. This is as a result of productivity gains through improved businesses processes, online sales and owner managers having the flexibility of ‘always-on’ connectivity.