Urban centres – most important workplace for Rural Dwellers

43.5% of rural dwellers work in urban areas while 37% work in rural areas. For the rural population, commuting to jobs in urban centres is the most important source of employment. That is according to a new Western Development Commission (WDC) Policy Briefing published today, ‘Commuting to Work: Rural Dwellers, Urban Jobs’.

In 2011, 35.5% of workers in Ireland lived in rural areas, but just 21.3% of all jobs were located there.  The WDC Policy Briefing notes that

  • nearly one in five (19%) of all rural dwellers commute to work in one of the nine NSS gateways; and
  • one in four (24.4%) commute to work in towns

Mr. Paddy McGuinness, Chair of WDC said, “This report shows that without alternatives closer to home, many rural dwellers commute to work over long distances. This highlights the need for job creation strategies to focus on where people live, in rural areas and towns across the country, and not just on the larger cities’. Without greater efforts to disperse employment growth there is likely to be more pressure on rural dwellers to commute or move to take up jobs in the larger gateways”.

Deirdre Frost, WDC Policy Analyst noted “A skilled workforce is a key condition for regional development. This briefing shows that this exists in many rural areas. Towns should be recognised as having access to this well-educated labour supply and the capacity to host new enterprises”.

This WDC Policy Briefing also shows the importance of employment in multinationals, for example

  • over a quarter of rural dwellers commuting to work in the Galway (25.6%) and Waterford (24.9%) gateways, work in IDA business parks
  • over 18% of rural dwellers commuting to work in Sligo work in IDA business parks


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


For further information please contact:

Deirdre Frost, Western Development Commission, 094 986 1441 or 086 605 3317

The full report may be accessed on https://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC_Policy-Briefing-no-6-Commuting-Final.pdf

Note on WDC Policy Briefings:

This Policy Briefing ‘Commuting to Work: Rural Dwellers, Urban Jobs’ is the sixth in a series of WDC Policy Briefings to highlight and provide discussion and analysis of key regional policy issues. It is an objective statistical resource for people and organisations who are interested in the Western Region’s future.

The WDC will be publishing further Policy Briefings throughout 2014 on a range of policy issues.

Notes to editors on the Western Development Commission (WDC)

The WDC is the statutory body promoting economic and social development in counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.

The WDC’s strategic goals are:

  1. Contribute to balanced regional development by ensuring that the Western Region maximises its full potential for economic and social development.
  2. Promote the benefits of living, working and doing business in the Western Region.
  3. Support the sustainable economic and social development of the rural economy.
  4. Provide risk capital to SMEs and social enterprises.

www.wdc.ie and www.lookwest.ie