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Reprioritising and Updating Transport Policy and Investment

Recently, there have been a few publications which focus on the need to reprioritise policy and investment across various aspects of Irish transport infrastructure and services.

The Irish Exporters Association (IEA) has published a paper entitled Building a Transport infrastructure that fosters Irish exports to the world, see here. The IEA, whose focus is on supporting Irish exporters and ensuring efficient international transport access, sets out policies and recommendations which they believe are necessary to more effectively support exporters across Ireland. From a Western Region context, a few of these are particularly relevant.

Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC)

The IEA believes that the Atlantic Economic Corridor needs to be supported through improved connectivity from the North West to the South West of Ireland. The IEA sees the AEC and Ireland’s regions as an important counterbalance to Dublin and the transport infrastructure needs to more effectively support Ireland’s agri-food and Life Sciences industries along with all other industrial clusters located there.

Rail Freight development

The IEA are asking for policy supports to move more freight by rail, noting the relatively tiny share of traffic carried by rail in Ireland (0.9%) compared to an EU average of 17% in 2016. The Western Region is the source of most rail freight in Ireland. The IEA is asking for supports such as reduced track access charges for rail freight, which is a practice common across Europe. This is discussed further in a report commissioned by the WDC and available here. Apart from the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (rail freight can reduce the carbon footprint by 70%), the other significant driver is the huge degree of congestion which generates significant costs, highlighted in a report discussed further below.

Ports

The IEA believe that with Dublin Port operating at or near capacity, further upgrading and diversifying Ireland’s export gateways must be a strategic Government priority. This need is compounded by Brexit. The IEA believe the Government should further develop Ireland’s regional seaports to provide exporters across Ireland with viable, cost efficient and accessible alternatives to Dublin port. They welcome the proposed redevelopment of both Rosslare and Galway Ports.

Airports and air cargo

Similar to the concentration of traffic through Dublin Port, the IEA recognises the concentration of air cargo through Dublin airport. It believes that cost-efficient, viable and well-connected alternatives should be promoted in the West and South to facilitate high-frequency aviation connections to key European and global cargo and business hubs and ensure sustainable economic growth nationally.

This echoes the views expressed by the WDC in its submission to the recent consultation on the Regional Airports Programme, arguing for the need to update transport policy generally and aviation policy specifically to reflect the overarching objectives of Project Ireland 2040, see the WDC Submission here.

The CSO Aviation statistics, see here, highlight the trend of the increasing concentration of air passengers travelling through Dublin airport compared to other airports. For example, in 2014, Dublin accounted for 81.9% of all passengers (total = 26.5 million), compared to 85.6% in 2018 (Total = 36.6 million). This represents an increase of 9.6 million passengers in 4 years with Dublin Airport accounting for 95.2% of total passenger growth in that period. So along with a significant increase in total air passenger numbers, there is an ever-increasing share travelling through Dublin airport. The WDC considers that with Dublin Airport now operating at or near capacity, and capacity available at other airports such as Ireland West Airport Knock and Shannon, cost-efficient and accessible alternatives to Dublin should be utilised and promoted.

Level of concentration unusual in a European context

Just last week a report by Copenhagen Economics entitled Assessment of aviation policy as a driver of economic development in the West and Mid West of Ireland, see here noted the particularly high concentration of passenger traffic in Dublin relative to the other airports in Ireland which is especially high when compared to other small, open economies in Northern Europe. According to this report, the concentration of Dublin’s share of passenger traffic in Ireland represents the second highest, behind only Schiphol in the Netherlands. However, while Dublin’s share continues to increase that of Schiphol has been decreasing over time. This is partly due to Dutch aviation policy, which sets maximum aircraft movements through Schiphol, and actively encourages flights via other national airports in the Netherlands. Dutch aviation policy recognises that airport development is viewed as being part of regional development outlined in the Randstad 2040 Strategic Agenda. The report calls for initiatives to improve Shannon Airport’s global connectivity. A better capacity utilisation at Shannon Airport (in addition to other airports outside of the Capital) will enhance the growth capacity of the West and Mid West regions, and at the same time alleviate pressure on Dublin without requiring costly infrastructure investments.

Budget 2020

It seems Government maybe listening and in Budget 2020, a marketing support fund was announced, comprising approximately €10 million over three years to Tourism Ireland which is to be made available to support the regional airports outside Dublin, including Shannon Airport see here. This is a small but welcome development but more policy supports will be needed to ensure that other airports can grow their numbers and their share of national traffic which in turn will help them to become self-sustaining.

The Costs of Congestion

Finally, recent reports by the Department of Transport indicate that rebalancing traffic away from an increasingly congested Greater Dublin Area (GDA), will not only support the goals and objectives of Project Ireland 2040 but will also make financial and economic sense! The research measured the costs of congestion, specifically around the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) see here. Some of the congestion in the GDA and the M50 are contributed to by passengers and freight originating in the catchments of ports and airports in the West and South such as Shannon and Knock but who currently travel through the GDA to access services at Dublin Port and airport.

The reports estimate the annual value of time lost to road users due to aggravated congestion in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), as compared to where the road network is performing well. The cost of time lost due to aggravated congestion is measured at €358 million in 2012 and is forecasted to rise to €2.08 billion per year in 2033.

These estimated costs do not include other costs, for example, increased fuel consumption and other vehicle operating costs, or increases in vehicle emissions or the impacts of congestion on journey quality. Additionally, congestion also has an impact on the wider economy, and Ireland’s competitiveness. All else equal, high levels of congestion will reduce the attractiveness of a location to work and live in, as well as directly affecting the cost of transporting goods and services. These costs are not captured by this study, and as such, the total costs of aggravated congestion are likely to be higher than those estimated in this report.

Conclusions

It is clear that the benefits of supporting better transport infrastructure and services across ports, airports, the rail and road network outside of the GDA and specifically along the Western Region and Atlantic Economic Corridor makes sense from an economic, social and financial perspective. Implementation of Government policy already set out in Project Ireland 2040 through the NDP and the updating of various sectoral policies needs to take place to give effect to these policies and to a better Ireland for all its regions.

 

Deirdre Frost

Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies- the final steps

The long process of developing a National Planning Framework under Project Ireland 2040 is nearing its end, with the publication of the three regional Spatial and Economic Strategies anticipated shortly.  Each of the three regional assemblies (Eastern and Midland, Southern, and Northern and Western (see the map below) is at a slightly different stage in the process but have either completed (EMRA) or are currently consulting on material amendments to draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (SRA and NWRA).  These will feed into the spatial planning process as depicted in the graphic below which shows the relationship between the different planning levels.

Source: Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly https://emra.ie/regional-spatial-and-economic-strategies-2/

The Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly published its Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy and accompanying documents in June 2019 (see here for more information).

The Southern Regional Assembly has recently published its Proposed Material Amendments (PDF 3.5MB) and associated Environmental Reports for public consultation. The consultation period is from 12th September 2019 until 11th October 2019, (dates inclusive).  The WDC will review the material amendments relevant to the Western Region (largely as they relate to Clare).  Our previous submission is discussed here.

Finally, and of most interest to the WDC, because of its coverage of the Western Region (aside from Clare which is part of the Southern Region), the Northern and Western Regional Assembly is currently consulting on the Material Amendments (5.6MB) to the draft RSES.  The closing date for comments on these Material Amendments is 11 October.  More information about how to input to this process is here.

The three Regional assemblies cover the areas shown in the map below.

The WDC has made submissions and attended consultation meetings throughout the development of the National Planning Framework and the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies  (see WDC Insights posts here, here and here).

The WDC is finalising its inputs to the consultation on the Material Amendments in the Northern and Western Region, mindful that considerable consultation has already taken place and that the proposedamendments have been included by the elected members of Regional Assembly.  Therefore, the WDC comments will be confined to specific details of the amended text.

Proposed amendments

The material amendments largely relate to the RGCSPs but there are a number of other new Regional Policy Objectives and amendments to the previous RPOs (see this document for the full detail of all the material amendments under consultation).  A small selection of the new RPOS (relating to the region as a whole) are outlined here.

There is a proposed overarching environmental regional policy objective:

The Assembly supports the integration of biodiversity considerations in a positive, proactive and precautionary way and promotes the protections of the environment and bio-diversity conservation as key principles of the strategy.

There is increased emphasis on collaboration among Local Authorities and the Regional Assemblies:

It is an objective to establish a collaborative approach between the Regional Assemblies (NWRA, SRA), the Local Authorities and other stakeholders to enable all their metropolitan areas to collaborate with each other to harness their combined potential as an alternative to development of Dublin.

A number of RPOs relating to Tourism assets have been amended (e.g. 24-26, 31) :

24.To support working with relevant landholders and recreational / tourism agencies to increase access to the Countryside and to our Coastal area’s, and to ensure maintenance and access to the existing network of trails, paths, ways etc.

25.To support the maintenance of, and enhanced access to state lands, such as National Parks, Forest Parks, Waterways together with Monuments and Historic Properties, for recreation and tourism purposes.

26.To support the preparation and implementation of Visitor Experience Development Plans (VEDPs) within the Northern & Western Region, to underpin the overarching regional tourism benefits and to promote the natural and cultural assets of the Regions.

31.To ensure provision is made for the expansion in accommodation, and facilities within key destination towns, such as Carrick on Shannon, Cavan, Roscommon Town & Athlone, together with necessary supporting infrastructural investments, including improvements in the public realm, Transport links, accommodation, the night time economy, and sustainable development of our natural & built economy

The WDC welcomes a new RPO on the Bioeconomy:

The Assembly supports the future proofing of Infrastructure Planning to allow for the potential upgrading of existing industrial sites to bio-refining plants while also supporting the use of bio-renewable energy for production of bio-based products.

In relation to Ports the proposed RPO now includes Killybegs:

The Assembly supports the designation of Galway and Killybegs as Tier 1 Ports, subject to environmental and visual considerations as well as transport and economic viability requirements.

New RPOs are included on Climate Action and for the designation of National Parks:

The Assembly will support the preparation of local climate strategies by CAROs and Local Authorities to address vulnerability to climate risks and prioritise actions in accordance with the principles within the National Adaptation Framework and the National Mitigation Plan.

The Assembly supports the advancement of the zone of North Sligo/North Leitrim (Ben Bulben and its hinterlands) and the area surrounding Lough Arrow/Lough Key as potential National Parks/National Recreation Areas. It also supports collaboration in this regard with stakeholders including NPWS, Local Authorities, Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

In relation to roads, the following amendment is proposed (listing more roads than the original draft RSES):

The delivery of the following projects shall be pursued, in consultation with and subject to the agreement of TII, through pre-appraisal, early planning and to construction as priority projects to be delivered to an appropriate level of service in the medium term.

    • N15 Sligo to BundoranN16 Sligo to Blacklion
    • N13 Manorcunningham to Bridgend/Derry
    • N59 enhancement
    • N61 Athlone to Boyle improvement
    • N63 Galway to Longford improvement
    • N56 lnver to Killybegs
    • N15 Stranorlar to Lifford
    • N13 Stranorlar to Letterkenny
    • N3 North of Kells to Enniskillen, via Cavan and the A509 in Fermanagh;
    • N54 (NS) Cavan to Monaghan Town;
    • N55 (NS) Cavan to Athlone;
    • N26 and N58 (NS) linking Ballina to N5.

 

Finally, a RSES Oversight Committee is proposed, which will be established to ensure oversight of the implementation, monitoring and reporting of progress in implementation of the RSES, as well as identifying opportunities to drive Regional Development, and suggest sources of funding, fostering partnerships / new collaborations.

This is only a small selection of the proposed amendments. It is worth taking the time to consider all of the proposed amendments and provide feedback to the Northern and Western Regional Assembly by 11 October 2019.  The WDC will make its submission shortly and it will be available on our website.

Conclusion

The completion of all of the Regional Spatial and Economic strategies will be a very significant achievement, the culmination of years of work since they were first announced  and extensive consultation and stakeholder engagement.  Of course, this means the work of implementation becomes a priority.  The incorporation of the strategy goals and targets into Local Area Plans and City and County Development Plans is to follow, and wider implementation of the strategies to ensure that the growth and employment targets set out the in the NPF are achieved, along with ten National Strategic Outcomes (NSOs listed below) is essential:

  1. Compact Growth
  2. Enhanced Regional Accessibility
  3. Strengthened Rural Economies and Communities
  4. Sustainable Mobility
  5. A Strong Economy Supported by Enterprise, Innovation and Skills
  6. High Quality International Connectivity
  7. Enhanced Amenity and Heritage
  8. Transition to a Low-Carbon and Climate-Resilient Society
  9. Sustainable Management of Water Waste and other Environmental Resources
  10. Access to Quality Childcare, Education and Health Services

 

Achieving these will involve co-ordinated spending and investment and alignment of policy across all sectors (eg transport, education, enterprise and initiatives such as the Atlantic Economic Corridor) as well as through the planning process.  It will require the iterative incorporation of new policies (such as the Climate Action Plan and the local Climate Adaptation Strategies (see here for example)  as well as incorporating responses to economic, social and policy responses to know and unknown factors (e.g. Brexit, changes in global economic activity and any unexpected events).

 

We look forward to a strong, driven, implementation process responsive to the changing world and to changing priorities.  With this we can be optimistic about living, working and doing business in a thriving, active and sustainable region twenty years from now.

 

Helen McHenry

Transport, Aviation, Ten-T and Project Ireland 2040

Submission to Review of TEN-T

The Department of Transport has recently published its submission to the European Commission on proposed revisions of the TEN-T network see here.

The Department advocate for the inclusion of the Atlantic seaboard region of Ireland on the TEN-T Core Network, which the WDC welcomes. In his submission, Minister Ross provides the national policy context, in particular noting the overarching objectives of Project Ireland 2040.

We need to manage more balanced growth … because at the moment Dublin, and to a lesser extent the wider Eastern and Midland area, has witnessed an over concentration of population, homes and jobs. We cannot let this continue unchecked and so our aim is to see a roughly 50:50 distribution of growth between the Eastern and Midland region, and the Southern and Northern and Western regions, with 75% of the growth to be outside of Dublin and its suburbs[1].

One of the key objectives of the NPF is to move away from ‘business as usual’ and to redirect growth to other areas. In making the case for inclusion of the Atlantic seaboard region of Ireland in the Ten-T Core Network, Minister Ross also notes the adverse impacts of Brexit noting that,

Continued EU support for transport investment projects in Ireland will become even more important in the context of Brexit, after which our peripheral location on the western point of Europe will leave us even more isolated from other EU Member States. While Project Ireland 2040 aims to highlight the actions, including capital investment, required to strengthen the Northern and Western Regions and mitigate the adverse effects of the UKs exit from the EU which are expected to impact disproportionately on this area, its inclusion on the Ten-T Core Network would result in further Irish projects being eligible to apply for Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding, thereby contributing to the balanced development of our regions….

Policy and funding alignment

While the WDC welcomes the views expressed by the Department of Transport in relation to inclusion of the Atlantic seaboard region in the Ten-T Core network, in reality, for funding to follow from Europe, the Department of Transport needs to prioritise funding for Atlantic Economic Corridor Transport projects. So, for example the Capital Investment Plan allied to the NPF identifies transport projects for investment in the AEC region but many of these are not planned to occur until towards the end of the 10-year period, unlike other projects which are prioritised in the next few years.

The WDC have argued following publication of the NPF 2040, that if sectoral policies are not aligned to support the objectives of Ireland 2040 then Ireland 2040 is likely to fail. The National Aviation Policy (2015) predates the publication and consideration of Ireland 2040. The National Aviation Policy can be seen to unduly reinforce the dominance of the larger airports (Dublin in particular).  Now that the NPF is Government Policy, the National Aviation Policy should be reviewed and reassessed in light of the overarching objectives of the NPF and the need to ensure sectoral alignment. In the absence of such reviews it is difficult to see how development can move away from a ‘business as usual’ approach and how the NPF can achieve its targets. It is sectoral planning and policy that is the real driver of spatial and regional development.

 Aviation trends

As the WDC pointed out in its Submission on Future Airports Capacity Needs at Ireland’s State Airports see here, the West and North West region in particular has relatively poor accessibility by air, which is the preferred transport mode for international access.

The CSO Aviation statistics, Quarter 4 and year 2018, see here, highlight the trend of the increasing concentration of air passengers travelling through Dublin airport compared to other airports. For example, in 2014, Dublin accounted for 81.9% of all passengers (Total = 26.5 million), compared to 85.6% in 2018 (Total = 36.6 million). This represents an increase of 9.6 million passengers in 4 years, a 44.2% increase. So along with a significant increase in total air passenger numbers, there is an ever-increasing share travelling through Dublin airport.

This ever-increasing concentration is of concern to those supporting exporters. For example, the

IEA submission to the Draft National Planning Framework noted that of those IEA members surveyed who use airports to export, 81% use Dublin airport predominantly as their primary route to ship goods out of Ireland. 15% said that this was not the closest airport geographically. Members surveyed said that they would use a different Irish airport as their primary route to ship goods from Ireland if:

  • There were more frequent flights from another airport – 36%
  • Road networks between primary distribution centre and another airport were improved – 23%
  • Another airport was upgraded – 14%

The implementation of hub connectivity from the west of Ireland directly into Heathrow or another European hub airport (example Schiphol or Frankfurt) would significantly enhance business connectivity and attractiveness to locate in the west of Ireland[2].

The WDC considers that with Dublin Airport, operating at or near capacity, cost-efficient and accessible alternatives to Dublin are required. Shannon and Ireland West Airport Knock are important transport centres enabling the international success of businesses in Ireland’s West and North West.

The WDC believes that there needs to be consideration of how the other State airports, in particular Shannon (given the remit of the WDC) can be more effectively supported through policy changes to deliver on the regional growth targets of the NPF.

 Role of ‘Regional Airports’

Similarly, the WDC believe that the role of regional airports has to be reviewed in light of the NPF and its regional population and employment targets. The Department of Transport is currently conducting a consultation on the Preparation of new Regional Airports Programme 2020 to 2024.

The Regional Airports Programme provides for funding to regional airports to help them deliver on their goal as outlined in the National Aviation Policy. Recognising the relative difficulty which smaller airports have in both meeting operating costs and attracting and retaining air services, the Department provides support under different funding mechanisms. These funding schemes are governed by EU guidelines on State aid some of which apply to airports handling up to 3 million passengers per year.

As the consultation document highlights, all regional airports are not equal! While passenger numbers at all four regional airports are less than 1 million annually, three of four have less than 400,000. The exception is Ireland West Airport Knock which has had annual passenger numbers in excess of 700,000 for the last three years. This is because Ireland West Airport Knock essentially serves the same purpose for its region (the North West) as the State airports perform in the Mid-West, South-West and East respectively. National aviation policy needs to fully recognise the international transport function Ireland West Airport Knock provides, ensuring direct international air services to a region much of which is not in the catchment of the other international airports, Dublin, Cork and Shannon.

The WDC believes that the road improvements planned for the North West will help support greater traffic through Ireland West Airport, which in turn will allow Ireland West Airport Knock perform a key role in supporting the Government’s wider/broader policy objectives of delivering the population and employment targets for the Northern & Western Region under Project Ireland 2040. The road improvements must be prioritised.

Similarly, Shannon Airport with passenger numbers under 3 million (and therefore eligible for capital support without prior EU State approval) can help deliver the objectives of Project Ireland 2040, to enable the cities of Limerick and Galway on the Western seaboard, to each grow by at least 50% to 2040 and to enhance their significant potential to also become cities of scale[3].

All sectoral policy areas, in this case – EU TEN-T, National Aviation Policy and the Regional Airports Programme – highlight the importance of an overarching policy framework, to which all other policies should be aligned in so far as possible. Without alignment, delivery on the overarching policy objective of Project Ireland 2040, is unlikely.

 

Deirdre Frost

 

[1] Project Ireland 2040, NPF, 2018, p.11

[2] http://npf.ie/wp-content/uploads/0725-Irish-Exporters-Association.compressed.pdf

[3] https://www.gov.ie/pdf/?file=https://assets.gov.ie/166/310818095340-Project-Ireland-2040-NPF.pdf#page=1 p.22.

Regional Sectoral Profiles: The Complete Collection

A year ago we began publishing a series of ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ of economic sectors in the Western Region.  Now, 12 months and 12 reports later, the series is complete!  As publication has been spread over a year, I thought it would be useful to provide a synopsis and links to the full series.

So it all began in October 2018 with …

Wholesale & Retail (Oct 2018)

42,510 people were employed in the Wholesale & Retail sector in the Western Region in 2016 making it the region’s second largest employer.  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) meaning it is characterised by more, but smaller, businesses. Download WDC Insights-Wholesale & Retail in Western Region-Oct 2018 and Wholesale & Retail in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Analysis-Oct 2018

Health & Care (Nov 2018)

42,027 people were employed in the Health & Care sector in the Western Region in 2016. At 15.5% of all employment, Sligo has the highest share working in this sector in the country, while Leitrim (13.5%) has the 2nd highest share nationally with Galway City and Galway County (both 13%) jointly 4th.  This sector is a hugely important and growing employer in the region.  Download WDC Insights-The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region-Nov 2018 and Health & Care Sector in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Analysis-Nov 2018 

Education (Jan 2019)

32,349 people were employed in the Education sector in the Western Region in 2016.  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 (Co Galway) has the highest share of residents working in Education across Ireland’s 200 towns and cities. Within the sector, Pre-Primary education had the strongest recent jobs growth.  Download WDC Insights-Education Sector in the Western Region-Jan 2019 and Education Sector in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-Jan 2019-rev 12.03.19

Industry (Feb 2019)

With 45,754 working in Industry in 2016, it is the region’s largest employment sector.  It is considerably more important as an employer in the region than nationally (13.7% v 11.4%).  Among western counties, Industry is most important in Galway County, Clare and Galway City, while Ballyhaunis (Co Mayo) has the highest share of jobs in Industry among Ireland’s 200 towns and cities, where it accounts for 41.9% of total jobs.

Medical Devices is the largest activity accounting for 28% of all Industry employment in the region. The region’s industrial sector relies more on foreign owned companies than nationally (55.1% of assisted Industry jobs are in foreign owned companies v 45.3%).  Download WDC Insights-Industry Employment in Western Region-Feb 2019; WDC Insights-Industry Employment in Western Counties-Feb 2019 and Industry in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-Feb 2019-11.04.19

Accommodation & Food Service (Mar 2019)

23,038 people worked in Accommodation & Food Service in the Western Region in 2016.  Among western counties, it is most important in Galway City, Donegal and Mayo which are among the top 5 in Ireland in terms of the share of their workforce engaged in hospitality.  At 27.6% of total employment, Clifden has the highest share working in the sector in Ireland with Bundoran, Westport, Donegal town and Carrick-on-Shannon also among the top 10 towns.  The region is home to 23.7% of all Accommodation & Food Service enterprises in the state and it’s the sector where the region accounts for its highest share of national enterprises.  Download WDC Insights-Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region-Mar 2019 and Accommodation & Food Service Sector in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-Mar 2019

Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing (Apr 2019)

22,733 people were employed in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing in the Western Region in 2016.  This only includes people whose main economic activity is working in the sector and does not include part-time farmers.  Of everyone working in the sector in Ireland, 1 in 4 of them live in the Western Region making Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing the sector where the Western Region accounts for its highest share of total national employment. Download WDC Insights-Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing Employment in the Western Region-April 2019 and Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-Apr 2019

Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services (May 2019)

21,789 people worked in Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services in the Western Region in 2016. This sector provides ‘outsourced’ services to businesses, as well as personal and recreation services to individuals.  Bundoran has the highest share working in the sector of all Irish towns.  This sector is characterised by high self-employment, both compared with elsewhere (27.6% in region v 21.5% in state) and with other sectors. The number of self-employed grew by 19.4% (2011-2016) in the region, the highest growth of all sectors. Download WDC Insights: Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services in the Western Region and Administrative, Entertainment & Other Services in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

Financial & ICT Services (Jun 2019)

17,884 people worked in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region in 2016. Financial & ICT Services plays a significantly smaller role in the region’s labour market than nationally (5.4% v 9%).  In the region the sector is most important in Galway City, Donegal and Clare.  At 14.3% of total jobs Letterkenny has by far the highest share of residents working in the sector in the region and is 11th highest in Ireland.  Download WDC Insights-Financial & ICT Services in Western Region-June 2019 and Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-June 2019

Public Administration & Defence (Jul 2019)

18,858 people worked in Public Administration & Defence in the Western Region in 2016.  At 8.4% of total employment, Roscommon has the highest share working in the sector in Ireland with Leitrim and Sligo 2nd and 4th highest respectively.  North Connacht and the North West have high reliance on the public sector to sustain employment.  Lifford (Co Donegal), Strandhill (Co Sligo) and Roscommon town have the 2nd, 3rd and 4th highest shares working in the sector of Irish towns.  Download WDC Insights-Public Administration & Defence in Western Region-July 2019 and Public Admin & Defence Sector in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-July 2019

Professional Services (Jul 2019)

14,499 people worked in Professional Services in the Western Region in 2016.  It accounted for 4.3% of total employment in the region, far lower that its 6.1% share nationally.  Galway City is where it is most important in the region but it is still well below the state average.  This sector has among the highest rates of self-employment across all economic sectors and is considerably higher in the region than nationally (30.3% v 25.7%).  Download WDC Insights-Professional Services in Western Region-July 2019 and Professional Services in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-July 2019

Construction (Aug 2019)

18,166 people worked in Construction in the Western Region in 2016. In 2006 Construction accounted for 12.6% of all jobs in the region, by 2016 it was down to 5.4%.  Ballaghaderreen (Co Roscommon) has the highest share of residents working in Construction in the region and 2nd highest nationally.  Despite significant decline during the recession and slower recovery than elsewhere, Construction continues to employ a greater share of the workforce in the Western Region and particularly in more rural counties and towns.  Download WDC Insights-The Construction Sector in the Western Region-Aug 2019 and Construction in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-Aug 2019

And finally …

Transportation & Storage (Sep 2019)

10,758 people worked in Transport & Storage in the Western Region in 2016.  Clare has by far the highest share working in the sector in the region at 5.2% of employment and is 4th highest nationally due to aviation activity around Shannon. Shannon town (10.8%) has the 4th highest share working in the sector in Ireland with Newmarket-on-Fergus also in the top 10 towns.  There was a 6.3% fall in the number of Transport & Storage enterprises in the region between 2012 and 2017 mainly due to a sharp decline in taxi numbers.  Download WDC Insights-Transportation & Storage Sector in the Western Region-Sept 2019 and Transportation & Storage Sector in the Western Region-Regional Sectoral Profile-Sept 2019

So that’s the complete series of Regional Sectoral Profiles. In some ways it’s fitting that the series is now complete as this will be my final WDC Insights Policy Blog post.

After 16 great years with the WDC I am moving on to take up a new challenge.  I want to thank all my colleagues, past and present, and particularly my Policy Analysis team mates Deirdre Frost and Helen McHenry for all their help, support, encouragement and heated debated! over the years.

Wishing you all the best

Pauline White

Transportation & Storage Sector in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published the last in its ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ series which analysed the most recent employment and enterprise data for the Western Region on specific economic sectors and identified key policy issues.[1]

The final report examines the Transportation & Storage sector.  This includes activities such as taxis, bus companies, airlines and airports, haulage firms, couriers and services for the transportation sector.  Although it is among the smallest direct employers in the region, it’s significance to the regional economy and society is considerably greater, given its vital role in facilitating business activity, as well as providing services to individuals and communities.  Two publications are available:

Employment in Transport & Storage

According to Census 2016, 10,758 people worked in Transport & Storage in the Western Region.  Transport & Storage plays a smaller role in the region’s labour market than nationally (Fig. 1), accounting for 3.2% of total employment in the region compared with 4.0%. One of the reasons is the high concentration of this sector in Dublin due to the presence of Dublin Airport, Dublin Port, Dublin Bus and the headquarters of airlines and national transport companies

Among western counties, Clare has by far the highest share working in Transport & Storage (5.2%).  This is clearly due to the presence of Shannon Airport and Clare has the fourth highest share of its employment in this sector in Ireland.[2]  Roscommon has the next highest share in the Western Region, likely due to its very central location and the activities of logistics operations. At just 2.2% of total employment, Galway City has the lowest share working in the sector in the region and also in the state.

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

There was 4.5% jobs growth in the sector in the region between 2011 and 2016, higher than the 4.0% growth nationally.  Jobs growth in Transport & Storage was driven by a number of factors including increased demand from commercial clients as business activity recovered and evolving processes demanded more complex logistics and increased consumer and tourism spending. Growth in this sector was lower than overall jobs growth in the region (7.5%) however.

Transport & Storage sub-sectors

‘Postal, Courier, Warehousing & Cargo’ is the largest sub-sector in the Western Region (27% of total employment in Transport & Storage), and accounts for a higher share than nationally (23.8%).  The next largest is ‘Road Freight’ which is also more important in the region (21.2% v 18.4%). This illustrates the importance of the logistics sector in the region, which may not be surprising given its distance from the main international entry and exit points of Dublin Airport and Dublin Port.

In Clare, ‘Other Transport & Storage & Services’, which would include aviation services around Shannon, is the largest sub-sector while for Galway City ‘Taxi operation’ is largest with taxis being far more common in the city than elsewhere.  In Donegal ‘Road Freight’ is the biggest sub-sector and given the potential impact of Brexit on haulage, this is an issue of concern.  For all other western counties ‘Postal, Courier, Warehousing & Cargo’ is largest.

In the region, the strongest jobs growth (2011-2016) was in ‘Road Freight’ with employment increasing by 20% in the region, higher than the 15.9% growth nationally.  Only one sub-sector saw a decline with a 29.2% fall in the number working in ‘Taxi operation’ in the region.  Following growth in taxi numbers with de-regulation, over-supply of taxis in certain areas and increased alternative job opportunities with economic recovery, led to people leaving taxi driving.

Gender pattern and self-employment

Employment in this sector is highly male dominated with men accounting for 79.4% of the total Transport & Storage workforce in the Western Region.  Clare has the highest female share due to activity in aviation, while Donegal, where road freight is the largest activity, has the highest male share.

Of all those working in Transport & Storage, 20.1% are self-employed (employer or own account worker). This is higher than the region’s average rate of self-employment (18.3%).  Galway City (30.8%), Donegal (25.6%) and Sligo (23%) have the highest rates of self-employment and are also where ‘Taxi operation’ is most important.

There was an 18.3% decline in the number of self-employed working in Transport & Storage in the Western Region (2011-2016), the second largest decline of any economic sector.

Employment in western towns

When considering towns, commuting can be particularly important and it must be remembered that this data refers to residents of the towns, although some may travel to work elsewhere.

As may be expected from the previous sections, Shannon (10.8%) has by far the highest share working in the sector among towns in the Western Region (Fig. 2). Nationally, it has the fourth highest share working in the sector in Ireland with Newmarket-on-Fergus (9.5%) also in the top ten.[3] The towns with the next highest shares are also mainly in Clare.

Eight towns in the Western Region are among the bottom ten towns in Ireland in terms of the share working in Transport & Storage.  Six towns in the region have less than 2% of their employment in the sector.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Transport & Storage Enterprises

In 2017[4]  there were 3,291 Transport & Storage enterprises registered in the Western Region. This was 5.7% of total enterprises[5], well below the 7.6% share in the state.  The concentration of this sector around Dublin would be a factor in this pattern.

Galway[6], Sligo and Roscommon have the highest share of enterprises in the sector, though all well below the national average.  As noted above, ‘Taxi operation’ is most common in Galway and includes a large number of enterprises.  Differing from the pattern for employment however, Clare does not have a particularly high share of enterprises in the sector (5.5%) indicating it includes some large employers.

There was a 6.3% decrease in the number of Transport & Storage enterprises registered in the Western Region between 2012 and 2017 (Fig. 3).  This was a poorer performance than nationally where there was a 2.1% decline.  In both areas, the decline in the Transport & Storage sector contrasted with growth in overall enterprises.[7] Looking more closely at the data, there was the first sign of recovery in enterprise numbers between 2016 and 2017, so it could be expected that there has been some growth in the sector in more recent years.

All western counties had considerable falls in enterprise numbers in Transport & Storage, with Sligo and Mayo having the largest declines.  Roscommon and Clare, where the sector is most important as an employer, also had quite large falls in enterprise numbers.

Source: CSO, Business Demography 2017, Table BRA18.

Key Policy Issues

Smaller scale operations and high self-employment: Transport & Storage enterprises in the Western Region tend to be smaller in scale.  Self-employment in the sector declined as the economy recovered, largely due to a drop in the number of taxi drivers. Continuation of existing, and the development of new, initiatives and soft supports for sole traders and micro-enterprises is important to the future of the Transport & Storage sector in the region.

Responds to and facilitates economic growth: This sector depends on the level of activity in the domestic economy as this determines demand from commercial clients and private individuals.  As well as responding to economic growth, it also facilitates it e.g. by providing logistics services to business. Therefore, the presence of a strong Transport & Storage sector within the region, particularly given its peripheral location, is a key driver for regional economic growth.

Further development of the Western Region’s Airports: Shannon Airport plays a strategic national role in the transport sector.  In addition to transport services, there is considerable and growing activity in support services for the aviation industry.  At the same time, increasing international air access via Ireland West Airport Knock is important to improve accessibility for the West and North West.  The National Aviation Policy should be reviewed in order to further increase the role and capacity of these airports and reduce the dominance of Dublin Airport.

Brexit: The haulage and logistics sector will be among those most affected by Brexit.  The sector in Donegal potentially faces particular challenges.  It is important that the impact of Brexit be minimised and that haulage firms are supported in their efforts to adapt.  The Western Region’s peripheral location, and the role of the sector in facilitating wider economic activity, means this is of vital economic importance.

Opportunities in the logistics sector: Highly complex and integrated processes in manufacturing and retail increasingly rely on sophisticated logistics to minimise the time and cost of distribution and supply. In addition, the growth of online retail has greatly increased demand for postal and courier services. Given its central location, Roscommon has particular potential to further develop activity in this area.  Adaption to a low carbon economy is another area of opportunity for the freight sector.  

For more detailed analysis, download Transportation & Storage Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile and WDC Insights: Transportation & Storage Sector in the Western Region here

Pauline White

 

Photo The Shannon Group

[1] Previous Regional Sectoral Profiles are available here https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

[2] Fingal (8%), Meath (5.9%) and South Dublin (5.2%) have the highest shares, with Dublin Airport’s influence very clear.

[3] All other towns in the top ten are surrounding Dublin Airport.

[4] Data in this section is from CSO, Business Demography 2017

[5] Total enterprises includes all ‘business economy’ enterprises (NACE Rev 2 B to N(-642)) plus the sectors of Health & Social Work, Education, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Other Services.

[6] Business Demography data does not distinguish between Galway City and Galway County.

[7] As Business Demography data is not available for some sectors until 2015, changes over time are not based on ‘total enterprises’ but a sub-set of this called ‘business economy’ enterprises. This is sectors NACE Rev 2 B to N(-642) which is all economic sectors except Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Public Administration & Defence, Health & Social Work, Education, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Other Services.

Incomes in the Western Region: what do Geographical Income Profiles tell us?

At WDC Insights we are always on the lookout for data sources which can improve our understanding of the economy and society of the Western Region and give us greater insight into how the people living and working here are doing.  The CSO recently published Geographical Profiles of Income in Ireland 2016, a new, very comprehensive report on incomes in Ireland which provides data at both county and Electoral Division (ED) level.  This post provides a taster of the data available.

Background

Geographical Profiles of Income in Ireland 2016, examines income for both households and individuals by county and by ED. Income is also examined across the areas of housing, health, education, occupation and commuting.  The primary definition of income used throughout is Gross Income. This includes income from employment, self-employment, pensions, rental property, social welfare and further education grants.

The production of this data involved the integration of datasets held by Revenue and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection with CSO held datasets to produce aggregated analysis and outputs at a detailed geographical level not previously available. see Background and Methodology for further information[1].

 

Household Median Income for counties

There is significant variation in household income across the county as is shown in the map below with highest incomes tending to be in the East and around the cities.

The median household income in the state was €45,256 in 2016, but there was significant variation from the lowest (Donegal, €32,259) to the highest (Dun Laoghaire Rathdown €66,203) as shown in Figure 1 below.  All of the Western Region counties and Galway city had median incomes below the state average.

Figure 1: Household Median Income for counties, 2016

Source: CSO Geographical Income Profiles, Table 1.1: Household median gross income by county, 2016

Looking more closely at the Western Region (Figure 2), not unexpectedly the highest median income was in Galway City (€44,492), with Galway county (€44,352) close behind.  Clare also had a median household income of more than €40,000.   Surprisingly (especially given other data on county incomes) Roscommon had the next highest median household income (€39,006) , higher than Sligo (€38,695) and Mayo (€37,214).  As noted above Donegal had the lowest median income, with Leitrim significantly above it (although this was still the second lowest in the country).

Figure 2: Household median Income in the Western Region

Source: CSO Geographical Income Profiles, Table 1.1: Household median gross income by county, 2016

Incomes in larger towns

The report also provides data on incomes in towns of more than 10,000 people, of which there are five in the Western Region (Figure 3).  Ennis  (€40,508) had the highest income in the Western Region for these towns (though, as noted above, income in Galway City is higher) while the lowest was in Ballina  (€32,779).  Nationally the lowest income in these towns is in Longford (€29,224)  while the highest is in Malahide (a very substantial €78,631).

Figure 3: Median income in Western Region towns, 2016

Source: CSO Geographical Income Profiles, Table 1.2: Population and household median gross income by town, 2016

 

Incomes at local level

Finally, as mentioned, this data is also available at ED level, providing more information on areas of high income and those which are doing less well (shown on the Map below).  Clearly incomes in many of the EDs in the Western Region and along the Atlantic coast are among the lowest in the country, though there are pockets of affluence in each county.  The detail of income at ED level will be discussed in a future post.

Source: CSO Geographical Income Profiles

 

Conclusion

In previous discussions of measuring regional success it has been noted that limitations in the GVA data need to be counterbalanced by better regional level data on the three key variables of Income, Wealth and Consumption.  This recent publication provides an excellent start in relation to the first of these.  It is really helpful to have such a comprehensive source of data available at both county and ED levels.  The CSO is to be complemented in their work on this.

This new data set has provided much food for thought, with data at county level not always as I would have anticipated (for example, Roscommon having a higher median income than Sligo is unexpected).  Over the coming months I hope to have the opportunity to look into the data in more detail to better understand components income and earnings in our region, counties and at a local level and to consider the patterns which are emerging.

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] Under the auspices of the Statistics Act 1993[1] and in compliance with all relevant data protection legislation, the CSO is in a unique position to gather and link administrative data sources held by Government Departments and Agencies and evaluate their potential for statistical use.

The Construction Sector in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has published the latest in its ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ series which analyses the most recent employment and enterprise data for the Western Region on specific economic sectors and identifies key policy issues.[1]

This report examines the Construction sector which includes the construction of buildings, electrical and plumbing installation, carpentry, painting, civil engineering (infrastructure projects), demolition etc.  It does not however include professional services related to the sector (e.g. architecture, real estate).[2]

Two publications are available:

Employment in Construction

According to Census 2016, 18,166 people worked in Construction in the Western Region. The past two decades have witnessed dramatic jobs volatility in this sector. The number working in Construction in the Western Region increased by 163.6% (from 16,674 to 43,956) in the decade from 1996 to 2006, followed by a 58.7% decline over the next 10 years (2006-2016).

These dramatic changes are clear from Construction’s share of total employment (Fig. 1).  In the Western Region, Construction accounted for 6.7% of total jobs in 1996 and by 2006 its share had almost doubled to 12.6%.  It sector was consistently more important in the region than nationally.

In the Western Region, the crash led to Construction’s share of employment more than halving to 5.4% by 2011; remaining unchanged in 2016. Nationally, the share also declined sharply to 4.8% in 2011 but its role grew somewhat in 2016 (5.1%) indicating that recovery in Construction in the region lagged that occurring elsewhere.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ011; CSO, Census of Population 2006, Volume 7 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table C0713; CSO, Census of Population 2002, Volume 5 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table B0513; CSO, Census of Population 1996, Volume 5 – Principal Economic Status and Industries, Table  A0513

 In 2006, Construction accounted for 15% of total employment for residents of county Leitrim, the highest share in the region, with the largely rural counties of Mayo, Galway County, Roscommon and Donegal also having extremely high reliance on Construction jobs at this time.  By 2011, Construction’s share had fallen substantially in all counties.  Despite this, all western counties except Galway City and Sligo were still above the national average in 2011.

Between 2011 and 2016 there was 7.8% jobs growth in Construction in the Western Region, less than half that occurring nationally (16.6%), again indicating how recovery in the building sector in the region lagged that elsewhere.  Within the region Roscommon (11.1%), Galway County (9.5%) and Donegal (9.3%) had the strongest growth, though all still well below the national average.  In contrast to the general trend, Sligo actually saw a decline in the number of residents working in Construction between 2011 and 2016

Employment in Construction in western towns

When considering towns, commuting can be particularly important and it must be remembered that this data refers to residents of the towns, although some may travel to work elsewhere.

Ballaghaderreen (9.8%, 57 people) in Co Roscommon has the highest share of residents working in the sector in the region (Fig. 2) and is second highest among Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population).  Within the region, Carndonagh (9%, 72 people), Ballinasloe (7.1%, 162 people) and Lifford (6.9%, 32 people) have the next highest shares working in the sector.  Small and medium-sized rural towns tend to rely most on Construction.

Six towns in the Western Region are among the bottom ten nationally in terms of the share working in Construction, including the large centres of Galway City, Letterkenny and Sligo.  Greater economic diversity and more alternative job options reduces reliance on Construction.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Self-employment in Construction

Of the 18,166 people working in Construction in the Western Region in 2016, 39.7% (7,206 people) were self-employed (employer or own account worker).  This is the second highest[3] rate of self-employment across all economic sectors due to the nature of Construction sector with many people working in construction trades e.g. electricians, plumbers, being self-employed.

Self-employment is more common in the Western Region (39.7%) than nationally (36.7%) (Fig. 3) with Construction in the region characterised by a higher share of sole traders or micro-enterprises.

The number of self-employed people working in Construction in the region fell by -1.1% between 2011 and 2016. In contrast, nationally, there was strong growth in Construction self-employment (6.2%).  In both areas however the share of total employment that was self-employment declined between 2011 and 2016 (Fig. 3), because employee numbers out-performed self-employment numbers, reducing self-employment’s share of the total.

At 44.2%, Sligo has the highest share of Construction self-employment in the region and had the smallest decline in its share 2011-2016. Clare and Roscommon also have 40+% self-employment with Galway City (33.6%) having the lowest share, the only area in the region below the national average.  This is influenced by the presence of some large Construction firms in the city.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB033. Special run from CSO.

Construction Enterprises and Persons Engaged

In 2017 there were 11,806 Construction enterprises registered in the Western Region with 23,059 persons engaged.[4]  Construction accounted for 20.4% of total enterprises[5] in the region compared with 16.9% in the state (Fig. 4) and was the largest sector in terms of enterprise numbers.  As Construction is characterised by many small scale operations however, it only accounted for 9% of all persons engaged in enterprises in the region (6.7% in state) and was the fifth largest sector.

The rural counties of Roscommon and Mayo is where Construction accounts for its highest share of total enterprises, followed by Donegal and Leitrim where Construction also accounts for over 1 in 5 of all enterprises. This reflects lower business diversity leading to greater reliance on Construction. Sligo and Clare, which had low shares of employment in the sector (see Fig. 1), also have the lowest shares of their enterprises in Construction.

In terms of all persons engaged in enterprises, over 11% were working in Construction in Leitrim, Roscommon and Mayo.  This reinforces the significant role of the Construction sector in both the enterprise and employment profile of these largely rural counties.  Again Sligo has the lowest share in the region (6.7%).

Source: CSO, Business Demography 2017, Table BRA18.

Key Policy Issues

Plays a larger role in the Western Region’s economy, especially in more rural areas: Despite significant decline during the recession and slower recovery than elsewhere, Construction continues to employ a greater share of the workforce and account for a higher share of enterprises in the Western Region.  It is particularly significant for the region’s more rural counties and for small and medium-sized rural towns, in terms of jobs, income and enterprises.  The experience of the last recession highlights the importance of promoting diversity in the rural and regional economy and, while Construction must play a key role, a return to over-reliance on the building industry poses a risk.

Smaller scale operations and high self-employment:  Construction enterprises in the Western Region tend to be smaller and the sector is characterised by high self-employment.  The quality of some Construction self-employment, and its ability to sustain a person’s livelihood, are issues to be considered as the sector grows.  Supports for Construction sole traders and micro-enterprises such as business skills and financial training, as well as information on emerging trends and opportunities must be a focus for policy.

Important employment role among men including young and lower skilled workers: At the height of the Celtic Tiger 22% of working men in the Western Region worked in Construction and the impact of the recession on Construction greatly increased male unemployment and out-migration.[6]  Construction continues to play an important role and in 2016 employed 1 in 10 working men in several of the region’s more rural counties. It also helps to sustain the viability of part-time farms.  In total, 94.2% of the total Construction workforce in the Western Region are men.

While Construction includes many highly skilled and well-paid occupations, it is also an important source of jobs for younger and lower skilled workers.  It is important that current growth in the sector includes opportunities for people of differing skill and experience levels, while not acting as a disincentive to the pursuit of further or higher education.

Opportunities of a low carbon economy: Adaptation to a low carbon economy, specifically improved energy efficiency and renewable energy, presents a growing opportunity for this sector.  Government targets[7] of 500,000 building retrofits and installation of 600,000 heat pumps by 2030 present particular opportunities in the region and its rural areas.

For more detailed analysis, download The Construction Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile and WDC Insights: The Construction Sector in the Western Region here

Pauline White

 

[1] Previous Regional Sectoral Profiles are available here https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

[2] See WDC (2019), Professional Services in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

[3] The highest is Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing at 76.5%.

[4] Data is from CSO, Business Demography 2017

Each enterprise and all persons engaged in that enterprise are assigned to the county where its head office is registered with Revenue.

[5] Total enterprises includes all ‘business economy’ enterprises (NACE Rev 2 B to N(-642)) plus the sectors of Health & Social Work, Education, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Other Services.

[6] WDC (2009), Work in the West: The Western Region’s Employment & Unemployment Challenge

[7] Government of Ireland (2019), Climate Action Plan 2019: To Tackle Climate Breakdown

Professional Services in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published the latest in its ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ series which analyses the most recent employment and enterprise data for the Western Region on specific economic sectors and identifies key policy issues.[1]

This report examines the Professional Services sector which includes two sub-sectors: ‘Professional, Scientific & Technical Activities’ (legal, accountancy, architecture, veterinary, graphic design, translation services etc.) and ‘Real Estate’ (auctioneers, valuers, property letting and management). Both are knowledge intensive services sectors, relatively high value and are highly sensitive to the level of overall economic activity.

Two publications are available:

Employment in Professional Services

According to Census 2016, 14,499 people worked in Professional Services in the Western Region.  Professional Services play a far smaller role in the region’s labour market than nationally (Fig. 1).  In 2016 Professional Services accounted for 4.3% of total employment in the Western Region compared with 6.1% in the state.

As would be expected, Galway City is where this sector is most important in the region (5.2% of its residents work in Professional Services), but this is still well below the state average and is in fact only tenth highest of all counties in Ireland.  Donegal is where it is least important (3.8%) and it has the second lowest share in the state.

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

Between 2011 and 2016 there was 10.8% growth in employment in this sector in the region.  Although growth in the region was only half that occurring nationally (21.1%), the sector still grew considerably more strongly than total jobs over this period in the region (7.5%) as the sector responded to increased economic activity and growing demand.  At 18.2%, Leitrim had the highest growth in the region, followed by Donegal and Sligo showing a strengthening of this sector in the North West.

Professional Services sub-sectors

Within the Professional Services sector, ‘Accountancy & Management Consultancy’ is the largest activity (22% of Professional Services employment) though its share is notably lower in the region than nationally (26.2%) due to the concentration of the head offices of large accountancy firms in Dublin.  The next largest sub-sector is ‘Architectural & Engineering Services’ accounting for 20.1% of all Professional Services jobs in the region (similar to the national share), linked to the construction and manufacturing sectors.

The third largest sub-sector is ‘Advertising, Market Research & Other’[2] and it is considerably more important in the state (20.3%) than the region (17.2%).  As this includes many quite specialised activities mainly serving business/commercial clients there is high concentration in cities and particularly Dublin.

Two sub-sectors where the region has a notably higher share are ‘Testing, Research & Development’ (10.9% v 7.3%) and ‘Veterinary’ (5.4% v 3.3%).  The region’s strength in manufacturing[3] with companies providing testing or R&D services to these factories influences the first, while the region’s rural and agricultural nature influences the second.

Employment in western towns

When considering towns, commuting can be particularly important and it must be remembered that this data refers to residents of the towns, although some may travel to work elsewhere.

Bearna (8.1%, 72 people) has the highest share of residents working in the sector (Fig. 2) and ninth highest among Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population).  Within the region, Strandhill (7.1%, 57 people), Loughrea (6.9%, 159 people) and Buncrana (6.4%, 153 people) have the next highest shares.  In all cases, this is influenced by commuting, with other commuter towns such as Oranmore and Athenry also having quite high shares.

A number of more rural, medium-sized towns such as Castlerea, Boyle, Carndonagh and Ballymote also have relatively high shares and clearly act as service centres for their rural hinterland.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Self-employment in Professional Services

Of the 14,499 people working in Professional Services in the Western Region in 2016, 30.3% (4,399 people) were self-employed (employer or own account worker).  This is among the highest rates of self-employment across all economic sectors which is not surprising given the nature of the sector with many small and micro businesses e.g. solicitors, photographers, vets.

Self-employment is considerably more common in the Western Region (30.3%) than nationally (25.7%) (Fig. 3). More people in the region have chosen self-employment as a route to work in this sector, perhaps due to more limited job options and also the fact that the smaller size of the local market favours smaller operations.

At 32.5%, self-employment is most common in Sligo, followed by Leitrim (32.4%).  This implies these counties tend to have a large number of smaller businesses and fewer larger firms.  Roscommon (27.5%) and Galway City (28.9%) have the lowest shares. In the case of Galway City, the presence of larger firms contributes to a lower share of self-employment.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB033. Special run from CSO.

In the Western Region, the number of self-employed people working in Professional Services grew by 5.7% between 2011 and 2016. This compares with a 1% decline in total self-employment over the same period, indicating that this sector differed from the general trend of declining self-employment in the region.

At a county level, Leitrim had the strongest growth in self-employment in the sector, increasing 20.4% between 2011 and 2016.  This was clearly a very strong driver of the county’s total jobs growth in this sector.  Sligo (11.4%), Donegal (11.4%) and Clare (9.1%) had the next highest growth.  Roscommon had the lowest growth (2.8%) which contributed to its current low share of self-employment.

Professional Services Enterprises

In 2017[4]  there were 8,139 Professional Services enterprises registered in the Western Region. This was 14% of total enterprises[5] (Fig. 4), well below the 17.3% state average.  The sector’s share of total enterprises in the region (14%) is substantially greater than its share of all employment in the region (4.3%, see Fig. 1), though it should be noted that the employment data refers to 2016. Again this illustrates that this sector is characterised by a large number of quite small enterprises.

At 16.2%, Galway[6] has the highest share of its total enterprises in this sector, though still below the national average. Sligo, Mayo and Clare have the next highest shares influenced by the presence of quite large urban centres.  In common with employment, Donegal has the lowest share of its total enterprises in this sector which points to less activity in the sector.

Source: CSO, Business Demography 2017, Table BRA18.

During the period 2012 to 2017 there was 16.8% growth in the number of Professional Services enterprises in the Western Region, the highest increase across all economic sectors.  Growth in the region was higher than the 15.7% increase nationally.

Key Policy Issues

Lower level of activity in Professional Services in Western Region:  Given that this is a knowledge intensive services sector offering high quality employment, increasing the level of Professional Services activity in the region could make an important contribution to diversifying and strengthening the region’s labour market as well as increasing income levels.

Responds strongly to economic cycles and changing domestic demand: While several Professional Services activities can be traded internationally e.g. architectural services, most enterprises in this sector serve clients in the domestic market and often quite locally.  It therefore relies heavily on the level of domestic demand in the economy including from the construction sector.  The fact that economic recovery in the Western Region lagged that occurring elsewhere in the country[7] was an important factor in the region’s lower jobs growth in this sector.

As well as responding to the economic cycle, this sector also helps to facilitate it, as Professional Services play a key role in business growth by providing legal and accountancy services, market research, advertising and so on, to enterprises. The presence of a strong Professional Services sector within the region is therefore a key driver for wider regional economic growth.

Smaller scale operations and high self-employment: Professional Services enterprises in the Western Region tend to be smaller in scale than the national average and it is characterised by high self-employment.  As many Professional Services are outside the remit for direct financial supports from enterprise development agencies, continuation of existing, and the development of new, soft supports for self-employed and micro-enterprises in this sector is important, particularly in smaller urban centres and rural areas where self-employment can be a key pathway to work and this sector is an important source of professional career opportunities.

Large urban locations play a critical role but there are also opportunities for growth beyond these:  More specialised Professional Services tend to be quite concentrated in larger urban locations.  Nationally, there is strong concentration in Dublin and within the region Galway City is a key location. It is important that the locational advantages of Galway City and the region’s other larger centres (e.g. office space, networking opportunities, digital infrastructure) are enhanced to allow them to play a greater national role as centres for Professional Services activity.

There is also potential for further expansion, at a suitable scale, in smaller centres and more rural areas, including through remote work.  Access to high speed broadband is a critical factor in facilitating this sector to such areas.

For more detailed analysis, download Professional Services in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile and WDC Insights: Professional Services in the Western Region here

Pauline White

 

Feature image by Robert-Owen-Wahl from Pixabay

[1] Previous Regional Sectoral Profiles are available here https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

[2] The ‘Other’ includes graphic and fashion design, translation, agents/agencies etc.

[3] See WDC (2019) Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile 

[4] Data in this section is from CSO, Business Demography 2017

[5] Total enterprises includes all ‘business economy’ enterprises (NACE Rev 2 B to N(-642)) plus the sectors of Health & Social Work, Education, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Other Services.

[6] Business Demography data does not distinguish between Galway City and Galway County.

[7] WDC Insights Blog Post, ‘Recent Trends in Regional GDP’ 14 June 2019

The Public Administration & Defence Sector in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published the 9th in its Regional Sectoral Profile series which analyse employment in different economic sectors in the Western Region.

And this one is of particular interest to us, as it’s the sector we work in!  The report examines the Public Administration & Defence sector which includes all those working in the civil service, local authorities and state agencies, as well as Gardaí, prison officers and the defence forces.  It does not include those working in Education[1], Health & Care[2] or ‘semi-state’ companies e.g. Bus Eireann.

Two publications are available:

Employment in the Western Region

According to Census 2016, 18,858 people worked in Public Administration & Defence in the Western Region.  It plays a somewhat greater role in the region’s labour market than nationally (Fig. 1) accounting for 5.6% of total employment compared with 5.3%.

There is considerable variation across western counties and at 8.4%, Roscommon has the highest share working in Public Administration & Defence in Ireland with Leitrim (7.9%) second highest and Sligo (7.5%) fourth. Donegal is also in the top ten nationally.  North Connacht and the North West have high reliance on the public sector to sustain employment, partly due to more limited job options in the private sector.  In addition to Public Administration & Defence, Sligo and Leitrim also have the highest shares in Ireland working in Health & Care while Donegal has the highest share working in Education.

In contrast, at just 3.6% Galway City has the lowest share of its residents working in Public Administration & Defence in Ireland, with Galway County (4.6%) also in the bottom ten nationally.  Greater economic and employment diversity around Galway reduces this sector’s relative importance.

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

During 2011-2016, the Western Region experienced a 7.4% decline in the number working in Public Administration & Defence, greater than the 6.3% decline nationally.  In both cases this decline contrasted with overall jobs growth.  This period was characterised by a moratorium on recruitment in the public sector.

Every western county, except Clare (+3.9%), saw a decline over this period.  Donegal (-14.2%), Galway City (-12.5%) and Mayo (-10.1%) saw particularly large losses.  One factor would have been reduced staffing in their respective local authorities which are significant employers, as well as declines in the defence forces.

Employment in western towns

In 2016 there were 40 urban centres with a population over 1,500 in the Western Region. The relative importance of Public Administration & Defence as an employer varies across these towns (Fig. 2).  It is important to note that commuting is a particular issue when considering towns and this data refers to residents of the town.

At 11.4% (53 people) Lifford (county town of Donegal) has the highest share working in Public Administration & Defence in the region and second highest of Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+).  Lifford shows the potential jobs impact of locating the administrative centre of an area away from that area’s main economic centre both to support development in smaller towns and also to ease congestion in larger centres.

Strandhill in Co Sligo (9.4%, 75 people) and Roscommon town (9.2%, 208 people) were next highest in the region and third and fourth highest nationally. Except for Galway City and Ballina, the region’s larger (10,000+) urban centres all have around 7% working in this sector. Many host local authority head offices as well as offices of Government Departments and state agencies.  The very low share in Galway City is due to the wider range of alternative job options as well as the role of surrounding commuter towns e.g. Athenry.

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Of the 38 towns in the region for which data is available for both 2011 and 2016,[3] 28 of them experienced a decline in the number working in Public Administration & Defence between 2011 and 2016, nine had an increase with one unchanged.  Bearna (18.5%, +5 people) and Gort (15.8%, +6 people), had the largest percentage growth possibly due to commuting to Galway City or Ennis as several of the other towns which grew are also commuter towns e.g. Strandhill, Sixmilebridge, Moycullen.  In absolute terms, Ennis (6%, +40 people) had the biggest increase in the number of residents working in the sector.

Many more towns experienced decline than growth however. Clifden had the largest decline (-49.1%, -26 people) and was also the town with the largest population decline of all western towns. Ballyhaunis, Ballybofey-Stranorlar, Castlerea and Loughrea also experienced large declines. These are all medium-sized rural towns, at some distance from larger urban centres.

Employment by gender

Overall, employment in Public Administration & Defence is quite gender balanced.  In the Western Region women account for a small majority (51.4% are women) in contrast to the state where there is a male majority (52.4% are men).  The female share has been higher in the region than nationally throughout the past two decades.

In terms of the sector’s relative importance to total male and female employment (Fig. 3), 6.2% of all working women and 5.1% of all working men in the Western Region work in Public Administration & Defence.  While the sector plays a notably more significant role in total female employment in the region than nationally (6.2% v 5.4%), its importance to male employment is the same.

In all areas the sector accounts for a greater share of all women’s jobs than men’s.  In Leitrim (9.4%), Roscommon (9.2%) and Sligo (8.9%) Public Administration & Defence plays a critical role in total female employment.  More limited options for alternative professional career opportunities, particularly in more rural areas, increases the role of Public Administration & Defence in women’s employment.

For male employment, Roscommon (7.6%) is where the sector is most important by quite some margin.  This may reflect the nature of some public sector employment in the county e.g. Castlerea prison.  Again, neighbouring Leitrim (6.6%) and Sligo (6.2%) is where it is next most important for men’s jobs, while it is least important in Galway.

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

The period 2011 to 2016 saw both male and female employment in Public Administration & Defence decline by 7.4% in the region.  For both, this was a greater decline than nationally with the difference greater among women (-7.4% in the Western Region v -5.8% in the state) than men (-7.4% v -6.7%).

Key Policy Issues

Higher reliance on public sector employment in the Western Region: Public Administration & Defence is a more significant employer in the Western Region than nationally (5.6% of total employment v 5.3%) and this is the case to an even greater degree for the two other predominantly public sectors of Health & Care and Education.  The three primarily public sectors of employment jointly account for 28% of all jobs in the Western Region (24% in the state).

This is also reflected in income earned.  Recent analysis by the CSO[4] found that 41.7% of earned income by employees living in Sligo came from Public Administration & Defence, Education and Health & Care combined, the highest share in Ireland, followed by Leitrim (37.8%) and Donegal (37.8%).  The spatial pattern is very vividly illustrated by Fig. 4.  This higher reliance means that developments, such as the moratorium on public sector recruitment, had a greater economic and employment impact in the region.

Fig. 4: Proportion of earned income from Public Administration & Defence, Education and Health & Care combined, 2016

Source: CSO, (2019), Geographical Profiles of Income in Ireland 2016, Map 6.8

 

Important role in female employment: Public Administration & Defence is a more important source of female employment in the region compared with nationally and the gap widened over the past two decades as women’s employment in the region became increasingly dependent on this sector. This is particularly true in more rural counties with 9+% of women in Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo working in public administration.  Such employment may help maintain the viability of household income, particularly during a recession when there are large private sector job losses e.g. in construction.  Future trends in public sector employment will have a greater impact on female than male employment levels.

Providing professional career opportunities in smaller towns and more rural areas: Public Administration & Defence plays a critical role in providing professional career opportunities, including in more rural areas and smaller towns where there may be fewer alternatives.  North Connacht and the North West, which is the more rural part of the Western Region, has particularly high reliance on the sector (see Fig. 4).  More limited private sector job options increases this sector’s impact on the local economy.  While the main focus for Public Administration & Defence policy must be on the provision of quality public services, it parallel role as a provider of jobs, particularly in smaller towns and rural areas, should also be a factor in policy decisions on the location of such jobs.

Contribution to achieving regional and rural development: As was highlighted in a previous WDC study ‘Moving West’[5] the location of Public Administration & Defence employment is a key policy tool at the disposal of Government. The relocation of public sector offices and jobs from Dublin to other locations has considerable potential to both stimulate development in these areas and to ease pressures on the capital.  The Government, national and local, can therefore play a very direct role in delivering the regional development objectives of the National Planning Framework (NPF) through its location decisions.  Lessons learned from previous relocations, as well as technological developments to facilitate more dispersed work locations, can contribute to implementing such moves.

For more detailed analysis see ‘The Public Administration & Defence Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’.

Pauline White

 

[1] See WDC (2019) The Education Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

[2] See WDC (2018) The Health & Care Sector in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

[3] Two towns with a population above 1,500 in 2011 (Portumna and Bunbeg-Derrybeg) dropped below in 2016. Two towns (Collooney and Convoy) rose above the 1,500 threshold in 2016.  There were also town boundary changes between 2011 and 2016 for 15 of the 40 towns in the Western Region which has an impact when considering change over time. For most towns the impact was relatively minor, however there was a quite substantial change for Ballina.

[4] CSO (2019), Geographical Profiles of Income in Ireland 2016

[5] WDC (2008), Moving West: An Exploratory Study of the Social and Economic Effects of the Relocation of Public Sector Offices to Towns in the Western Region

Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region

The WDC has just published the latest in its series of Regional Sectoral Profiles analysing employment and enterprise data for economic sectors in the Western Region.

It examines the Financial & ICT Services sector which covers two sub-sectors: ‘Financial & Insurance Activities’ (banks, mortgage brokers, insurance and pension funding) and ‘Information & Communication’ (publishing, film, video, TV and music, telecommunications, computer programming (software) and IT services/support). Both are knowledge intensive services sectors, relatively high value, high skill and highly paid and tend to be quite concentrated in larger urban centres.

Two publications are available:

Employment in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region

According to Census 2016, 17,884 people worked in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region. This was just 9.9% of everyone working in this sector in Ireland, compared with the region’s 16.6% share of overall employment.

Financial & ICT Services plays a significantly smaller role in the region’s labour market than nationally (Fig. 1); 5.4% of total employment compared with 9%.  The balance between ‘Financial & Insurance’ and ‘Information & Communication’ also varies in the region.  Nationally, each accounts for the same share of total jobs (4.5% each) however in the Western Region ‘Information & Communication’ is notably more important than ‘Financial & Insurance’ (3% of all jobs v 2.3% of all jobs). This reflects the concentration of financial services activity in Dublin and particularly around the IFSC.

In the region Financial & ICT Services is most important in Galway City (9.1%), followed by Donegal (6.2%), Clare (5.6%) and Galway County (5.5%) with large urban centres and the Shannon Free Zone influencing the pattern.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in Financial & ICT Services in Western Region and state, 2016

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

 

At a more detailed level, ‘Computer Programming & Consultancy’[1] is the largest employer among Financial & ICT Services activities (36.8% of all employment in the sector) and accounts for a higher share in the region than nationally (32.8%).  In contrast the region has a notably lower share in the next largest activity of ‘Financial Services’[2] (25.1% in the region v 31.3% in the state).  The two other ICT Services activities of ‘Audio-visual, Publishing & Broadcasting’[3] and ‘Telecoms’[4], also account for a greater share in the region, whereas the other financial activity of ‘Insurance, Pension & Fund Management’ accounts for a similar share in both.

Employment in western towns

At 14.3% (1,111 people) of total employment Letterkenny has by far the highest share of residents working in the sector (Fig. 2) and is the eleventh highest of Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population).  Most of the towns with a higher share surround Dublin city. Within the region, Bearna (11%, 98 people) and Oranmore (10.6%, 275 people) have the next highest shares working in Financial & ICT Services, likely due to commuting to Galway City.

Four towns in the Western Region are among the bottom ten nationally (Ballyhaunis, Bundoran, Ballyshannon and Ballymote) at less than 2.6% working in Financial & ICT services. All are rural towns at some distance from larger urban centres.  It is clear there is limited activity in this sector in such towns or commuting to work in other centres.  Remote work offers the possibility for more people working in this sector to live in such locations.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total employment in Financial & ICT Services in towns in the Western Region, 2016

Source: CSO, Census 2016: Profile 11 – Employment, Occupations and Industry, Table EB030

Change in employment in the Western Region and its counties

There was 4.6% jobs growth in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region between 2011 and 2016 (Table 1). This was less than half the 12.1% increase that occurred nationally and significantly lower than overall jobs growth in the region (7.5%).  Galway City (14.5%) and Donegal (12.9%) experienced jobs growth higher than the national average and this sector exceeded overall jobs growth in both counties.

Mayo, where the sector is least important as an employer, had the largest job losses with a fall of 9.1% in the number working in Financial & ICT Services.  Leitrim (-6.8%) and Sligo (-6.6%) also saw large declines between 2011 and 2016 and in all cases this sector performed worse than jobs overall.  It is important to note that this data is from 2016 and there have been some significant job announcements in this sector since that time, particularly in Sligo.

The performance of the individual activities varied very significantly with a 49.3% increase (2,176 people) in employment in ‘Computer Programming & Consultancy’ in the region contrasting with a 22.8% decrease (1,330 people) in ‘Financial Services’.  Regardless of whether an activity grew or declined, its performance in the region was weaker than nationally, particularly for those activities which declined. The region was closer to the national average for the two growing activities

‘Computer Programming & Consultancy’ showed strong jobs growth across every western county, growing by 60+% in Roscommon, Donegal and Galway City. ‘Financial Services’ saw significant job losses across all western counties, declining by over a quarter in Galway City, Donegal, Sligo and Clare.  One of the main reasons for this was the closure of many bank and building society branches, particularly in smaller towns, growing online banking and increased automation reducing staffing levels.

Agency Assisted Jobs in Financial & ICT Services

In 2017, there were 12,844 agency assisted[5] jobs in Financial & ICT Services based in the Western Region.  Jobs in Financial & ICT Services account for 19.3% of all assisted jobs in the Western Region, but 32.4% of all assisted jobs in the state, consistent with the sector’s lower importance to total employment.

The relative importance of different activities varies (Fig. 3).  The share of total assisted jobs accounted for by ‘Computer Programming’ is essentially the same in both the region and state, indicating that this sector is well developed in the region.  For all other Financial & ICT Services activities, their share of total assisted jobs in the region is considerably lower than nationally. This is particularly the case for ‘Computer Consultancy’ which accounts for 8% of all assisted jobs in the state, making it the largest among these five activities, but less than half this share in the region.  Indeed, for all other activities, their share of assisted jobs in the region is roughly half that nationally.

Fig. 3: Percentage of total assisted jobs in each Financial & ICT Services activity in Western Region and state, 2017

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

Ownership of Agency Assisted Jobs

Financial & ICT Services has a very high level of foreign ownership with 79% of jobs in foreign owned agency assisted companies, among the highest shares of foreign ownership across all sectors.  The level of foreign ownership has risen, in 2008 71.6% of jobs in the sector were foreign owned.

The balance between Irish and foreign ownership varies across the different sub-sectors (Fig. 4).  All assisted jobs in ‘Computer Facilities Management’ in the region are in foreign owned firms.  The largest activity of ‘Computer Programming’ is strongly foreign dominated with 97.6% of all assisted jobs in this activity in foreign owned firms.  International ‘Financial Services’ is another area of high foreign involvement, with 91.3% of all jobs in the region in foreign owned firms.

‘Computer Consultancy’ has considerably greater Irish owned involvement with only 49% of jobs in foreign owned firms.  In this activity the region has a lower foreign owned share and therefore greater Irish owned involvement.  This activity saw large job losses in the early part of the recession, only recovering somewhat in more recent years. The greater level of Irish ownership within this activity contributed to greater losses of Irish owned Financial & ICT Services jobs during the recession than foreign owned.

Fig. 4: Percentage of total assisted jobs in Financial & ICT Services activities in foreign owned companies in Western Region and state, 2017

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

 

Key Policy Issues

Low current level of activity in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region and the gap is widening as the rate of growth in the region significantly lagged that nationally between 2011 and 2016.  Given that this is a high value, high skill and highly paid sector, increasing the level of activity in Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region could make an important contribution to regional economic development, productivity and income levels. However as this is not a highly labour intensive sector it plays a modest role in direct job creation.

Lower level of international activity in the region but internationally trading firms performed better than domestically trading sector, particularly in financial services.  Sustaining and accelerating this growth in internationally trading Financial & ICT Services firms is the main route to increasing the sector’s regional economic impact.  Access to talent, high quality telecommunications, research capacity and a supportive business ecosystem, as well as an attractive quality of life, are critical to this growth.

High level of foreign ownership means there is a need to stimulate the Irish owned sector.   Stimulating start-ups and the scaling of Irish owned technology and finance companies, to a stage where they have the capacity to trade internationally, is important to creating a more sustainable balance in the structure of this sector in the region.  This is particularly important in light of planned changes to international corporation tax rules, developments in the US and Brexit.  Current initiatives such as NUIG’s TechInnovate[6] are trying to address this by facilitating technology start-ups in the region.

There is a growing gender imbalance as the male share of all employment in Financial & ICT Services rose from 50.9% in 2011 to 54.9% by 2016 mainly because of stronger growth in male dominated ICT Services (67.9% male) compared with large job losses in the more female dominated Financial Services (62% female).  Ongoing initiatives to encourage greater participation by women in computer science, technology and finance courses, addressing the perceived male culture within the sector, raising awareness of female role models and female entrepreneurship programmes can all help to redress this imbalance.

Key urban locations play a critical role as centres for Financial & ICT Services activity with Galway City and Letterkenny two key locations particularly in ICT Services, Shannon/Ennis also having notable activity especially in Financial Services and a number of high profile recent announcements for Sligo. The availability of suitable office space, physical and digital infrastructure, links with education and training providers, access to talent and quality of life, as well as addressing issues such as traffic congestion and rising costs, will be important to ensuring these key urban locations can enhance their regional and national role as centres for Financial & ICT Services activity.

Opportunities for growth exist beyond large urban locations, including remote workDevelopments in technology, the world of work and the need to develop more sustainable approaches means that remote work (from home, a co-working hub or other location) holds considerable potential for smaller urban centres and rural areas to host increasing activity in this high skill, high value and highly paid sector. Initiatives such as Grow Remote[7] are currently highlighting the potential for increased remote working and also highlighting key policy changes needed to facilitate its expansion and wider acceptance among employers.  Access to high speed broadband is one of the most critical factors.

Limited self-employment activity in this sector, but higher incidence in the Western Region, particularly for ICT Services in Sligo, Leitrim and Mayo. This implies the structure of the sector in these counties differs from that elsewhere with many sole traders or freelancers engaged in AV production, IT services or software development and fewer large employers. An opportunity exists to target these ICT entrepreneurs, many of whom may be based in quite rural areas and smaller towns, by providing networking opportunities, business support, co-working space and opportunities to collaborate.

Access to talent is critical.  A co-ordinated approach between education and training providers in the region, in collaboration with employers, is needed to ensure an adequate supply of the necessary skills including a strong focus on upskilling and lifelong learning.[8]  Attracting talent to relocate to the region is the complementary approach.  Promoting the quality of life, lower cost of living and shorter commuting times in the region, as well as the job and entrepreneurship opportunities available, are important to attracting people to relocate.  [9]The demand for talent is also increasing the incidence of permanent full time jobs and wages in the sector.[10]

For more detailed analysis see ‘Financial & ICT Services in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

Pauline White

 

Image by Free Photos at Pixabay

 

[1] Software and app development, IT services, data analysis consultancy etc.

[2] Banks, building societies, credit companies, venture capital, mortgage advisors etc.

[3] Publishing, newspapers, film, photography, music recording, TV production, TV and radio broadcasting etc.

[4] Wired, wireless and satellite telecommunications (phone, broadband).

[5] Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (DBEI), Annual Employment Survey 2017. A survey of all firms in Ireland who have ever received support from IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland or Udarás na Gaeltachta.

[6] See http://techinnovate.org/

[7] See https://growremote.ie/

[8] See https://www.regionalskills.ie/

[9] See www.LookWest.ie

[10] ‘Information & Communication’ had the highest growth in average weekly earnings nationally over the past five years increasing 21.1% Q1 2014 to Q1 2019. CSO, Earnings, Hours and Employment Costs Survey Q1 2019, Table EHQ03