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

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

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

Agency assisted jobs in Industry in the Western Region

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

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

Industry’s share of total assisted jobs

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

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

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

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

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

Assisted jobs in Industry sub-sectors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assisted Industry jobs by ownership

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Pauline White

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

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A Tale of Three Regions: GDP in the new NUTS2 Regions

Regional GDP for 2017 has recently been published by Eurostat for 281 NUTS2 regions in the EU28.  This data shows how the different EU regions compare in terms of GDP and how they rank in relation to each other and to the EU average.  This data is of particular interest in Ireland as it is the first data on regional GDP available for the new Irish NUTS 2 regions.  As discussed here and here, instead of two NUTS2 regions in Ireland (the Border, Midland and West (BMW) Region and the Southern and Eastern (S&E) Region) there are now three regions: Northern and Western, Southern, and Eastern and Midland.  The Northern and Western region is very similar to the Western Region under the remit of the WDC[1].  While this is the first GDP data available for the three regions it is expected that the CSO will shortly publish regional GDP data in Ireland for the same years, at both NUTS2 and NUTS3 level, though there may be some issues relating to confidentiality at NUTS3 level which could delay the publication.

Regional GDP over the last decade

Eurostat has published the data for 2006 to 2017 (although for Ireland the 2017 data is an estimate) allowing for a good examination of the changing output of the three regions, as measured by GDP.  Figure 1 below shows regional GDP (€million) in three NUTS2 regions for that period, highlighting the very different growth trends in the regions in the last decade.

Figure 1: Regional GDP (€m) for Ireland’s NUTS2 regions, 2006-2017.

In 2006 the Northern and Western region accounted for 12% of the national economy, but by 2017 it was estimated to account for only 8%.  GDP in the region had grown by only 5% in that period.  In contrast the Eastern and Midland region economy grew by 47% between 2006 and 2017, while the Southern region’s economy had more than doubled in size (101% growth).  The Irish economy as a whole, as measured here, grew by 59% over that time. The Eastern and Midland has the largest regional economy, accounting for 56% of the national economy in 2006.  This fell to 51% in 2017.  The Southern region accounted for 32% of the economy in 2006 and 41% by 2017.

The level shift in the size of the economy Ireland in 2015 discussed in detail here, is shown clearly in the chart.  The relocation to Ireland by significant Multi National Enterprises (MNEs) of some or all of their business activities and assets (in particular valuable Intellectual Property) alongside increased contract manufacturing conducted abroad (which is included in Irish accounts), all contributed to this shift in GDP.  It is evident that the most significant shift was experienced in the Southern region, previously with the Southern and Eastern regional data combined this was less obvious.  Nonetheless growth in the Eastern and Midland region from 2013 onward was also very significant while the Northern and Western region GDP does not appear to have been affected by the factors which gave rise to the level shift, or to have achieved steady economic growth.

While Figure 1 shows the actual GDP, Figure 2 below shows GDP per person in each of the regions, a format which is more comparable across regions within Ireland and Europe and highlights the very significant widening of disparity among Ireland’s regions.

Figure 2: Regional GDP per inhabitant in PPS for Ireland’s NUTS2 regions, 2006-2017

It should be noted that Figure 2 shows the data from 2006 to 2017 in terms of in terms of purchasing power standards (PPS)[2] rather than euro.  The disparity in GDP per person has grown significantly since 2006.  In 2006 GDP (PPS per inhabitant) in the Northern and Western region was 69% of the national average, by 2017 it was only 46%.  Meanwhile, in 2006 in the Eastern and Midland region GDP per person was 115% of the national average and 104% in 2017.  The most rapid change has been in the Southern region where GDP per person was 95% of the state average in 2006 and 122% in 2017.

Data for 2017 was also provided in euros.  The GDP per person in 2017 for the Northern and Western region was €28,400, for the Southern region it was €74,700 (163% higher), for the Eastern and Midland it was €64,000 per person, 125% higher than the Northern and Western region.  Nationally GDP was €61,200 per person.

Comparison with EU28 Regions

The GDP per person in the Southern region is 3rd highest (63,000 PPS) of the 323 regions for which there is NUTS2 regional GDP 2016 data, after Inner London West (185,100 PPS) and Luxembourg (76,200 PPS).  The Eastern and Midland region is 8th (54,000 PPS) while the Northern and Western Region lags considerably, in 181st place (23,900 PPS).

Given that the eligibility for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) is calculated on the basis of regional GDP per inhabitant (in PPS and averaged over a three year period) this rank is important.  The NUTS 2 regions were ranked and split into three groups during the programming period 2014–20:

  • less developed regions (where GDP per inhabitant was less than 75% of the EU average);
  • transition regions (where GDP per inhabitant was between 75% and 90% of the EU average); and
  • more developed regions (where GDP per inhabitant was more than 90% of the EU average).

For the programming period 2021-2027, the Commission envisages the continued use of the NUTS classification for determining the regional eligibility for support from the ERDF and the ESF.

In the Southern region in 2017 GDP was 220% of the EU28 average (see Figure 3 below) and the Eastern and Midland region GDP was 189% of the EU average neither region would qualify for the ERDF or the ESP.

Figure 3: NUTS2 Regional GDP per person as percentage of the EU average (EU=100)

Source: Eurostat Table tgs0005 Regional Gross Domestic Product (PPS per inhabitant in % of the EU28 average) by NUTS 2 regions. 2017 estimated. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&plugin=1&language=en&pcode=tgs00006

The Northern and Western Region, however, had a GDP of 82% of the EU average in 2016.  It was more than 90% of the EU average in only two of the last ten years (2011 and 2012), although in 2006 it was greater than the EU average at 102%.  It is estimated at 84% of the EU average in 2017 and so it seems likely that the Northern and Western Region will qualify as a ‘transition’ region in the programming period 2021-2027.

Conclusion

There are of course difficulties with the use of GDP as a measure of regional disparities and regional well being (see here and here) but despite these concerns it remains the most important statistic for regional economic activity.  It is essential to our understanding of the changes taking place in Irish regions, although, in order to fully understand regional growth and change, it is important to use GDP in combination with other data such as that on employment, enterprise activity, income, wealth and consumption.

The rapid growth in GDP in the Southern Region and in the Eastern and Midland regions contrasts sharply with the very significantly slower growth in the Northern and Western Region.  The substantial differences in regional GDP per person in 2017 in the three regions, when compared to that in 2006, should be of great concern for Ireland as a whole and for the Northern and Western Region in particular.

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] The WDC remit covers Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.  The Northern and Western region is similar, but includes Cavan and Monaghan and excludes Clare (which is part of the Southern Region).

[2] PPS is the technical term used by Eurostat for the common currency in which national accounts aggregates are expressed when adjusted for price level differences using PPPs.  Basic figures are expressed in PPS, i.e. a common currency that eliminates the differences in price levels between countries allowing meaningful volume comparisons of GDP between countries.

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WDC Submission on Draft RSES for Southern Region

This week the WDC made a submission to the public consultation being held by the Southern Regional Assembly on their Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.  The submission is available here.

As we’ve provided substantial input previously (available here) to the preparation of the Draft RSES, in this submission we mainly comment on the specific text and content of the Draft RSES document.

County Clare is the only county within the Southern Assembly region that is also under the remit of the Western Development Commission, therefore this submission largely focuses on the questions as they pertain to County Clare.

Some of the general comments contained in our submission include:

Role of Ennis

Apart from Ennis being a key economic and residential centre, Ennis is the county capital and link to rural parts of County Clare. This role is clearly evident in the extent of the Ennis labour catchment which extends across much of the County, with the exception of the Kilrush labour catchment to the south west of the county and the Shannon labour catchment to the south, see Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region (WDC 2018) here. This role should be maintained and harnessed to support the growth and development of Rural County Clare.

Our Region’s Economic Engines

Discussion of ‘achieving convergence between where people live and work’ needs to recognise the opportunity of remote working, either for people to work from home or a hub located close to their home.  It also needs to be recognised that job creation in smaller towns, villages and rural areas is another route to such convergence and pursing such convergence should not solely focus on building more houses in cities and other large urban centres.

Galway-Ennis-Shannon-Limerick (GESL) Economic Network

The Galway-Ennis-Shannon-Limerick Economic Network is actually a segment of the Atlantic Economic Corridor. It may currently be the most cohesive segment, given the proximity and strong ties between the centres, especially Limerick-Shannon and Ennis centres, with increasing economic activity between Galway, Ennis and Limerick supported by recent investments in improved transport connectivity especially the M18. This network can help support regional growth in both the Southern and Northern and Western Regions. In addition this segment of the network can point to how to improve and develop the cohesiveness of the broader Atlantic Economic Corridor.

Shannon Airport

The role of Shannon Airport needs to be further supported and enhanced. Though the National Aviation Policy (2015) does recognise the key role of Shannon Airport, the policy was developed well before the National Planning Framework which attempts to redirect growth away from ‘business as usual’.  However since then, there is ever greater concentration of international traffic at Dublin Airport. The RSES should advocate for a revised National Aviation Policy so as to fully support the regional population and employment targets. In the absence of a change in policy it is not clear how the Airports and Ports in the Southern Region can realise a stable or ideally a growing share of traffic.

 Limerick-Shannon MASP

The Limerick-Shannon MASP is different to others in that it is connecting two separate urban centres, albeit economically interdependent urban centres. As Limerick is the larger centre there is understandably much focus on it. The focus is also on connecting Limerick and Shannon Airport/Free Zone. The development and transport requirements of Shannon town itself should also be prioritised, to promote Shannon as an attractive place to live as well as work.

The full submission is available here.

Following the public consultation (which closed on 8 March) the SRA will prepare a report on issues raised in submissions/observations and recommend whether the RSES should be made with or without amendments. It may necessary to hold another phase of public consultation before the RSES can be finalised. You can check for updates on the process here.

 

Deirdre Frost

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How important is Industry as a regional employer?

We’ve just published the fourth of our ‘Regional Sectoral Profiles’ analysing employment and enterprise data on specific economic sectors. The latest report examines Industry which is the Western Region’s largest employment sector, with 45,754 working in it.  Industry includes mining, utilities and waste management but by far the largest element is manufacturing.  Three publications are available:

Trends in Industry employment in the Western Region and its counties

Industry’s share of total employment has changed considerably over the past two decades (Fig. 1).  Ireland’s move to a more service-based economy, with substantial losses of traditional, lower skilled Industry and a growing focus on high value, high-tech manufacturing, has substantially changed the significance and nature of industrial activity in Ireland and the region.

In 1996 21% of total employment in the Western Region was in Industry, the share declined in every Census to a low point of 13% in 2011, increasing somewhat to 13.7% by 2016.  The state showed a similar pattern declining from 20.4% in 1996 to 11.4% by 2016.  While both region and state followed similar patterns, the gap between them widened over the period so that in 2016 Industry was notably more important as an employer in the Western Region.

Fig. 1: Percentage of total employment in Industry in Western Region and state, 1996-2016

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

At a county level, the most dramatic change occurred in Donegal; from over 1 in 4 working in Industry in 1996 to less than 1 in 10 twenty years later.  Donegal’s economy has been dramatically restructured, with a strong shift from manufacturing to services.  At just 9.2% of all employment, Donegal has the smallest share working in Industry in Ireland, outside of Dublin.

In 1996, Clare had the second highest share in the region working in Industry, largely due to the Shannon Free Zone. With the dramatic decline in Donegal, Clare had the region’s highest share for much of the period but was overtaken by Galway County in 2016.  From having the region’s second lowest share in 1996, Galway County now has the highest share working in Industry in the region at 16.3%.  Industry is the single largest employment sector for Galway County, Galway City and Clare.

At town level, Ballyhaunis in Co Mayo has the highest share of its employment in Industry among Ireland’s 200 towns and cities, where it accounts for 41.9% of total employment.  Shannon in Co Clare is fourth highest nationally at 31.9% with Tuam also in the top 10 towns at 25%.  The region is also home to the two towns in Ireland with the lowest shares working in Industry in Bundoran (3.5%) and Carndonagh (4.9%), both in Co Donegal.  It must be noted that this refers to the town where a person lives though they may work elsewhere.

Employment in Industry sub-sectors in the Western Region

The Medical & Dental Instruments (MedTech) sector is by far the largest industrial activity in the Western Region accounting for 27.7% of the region’s total Industry employment (Fig. 2), more than twice the national average (12.1%).

The region’s second largest (14.1%) is Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Rubber & Plastics (Chemicals & Pharma) which is the largest in the country (18.4%).  The manufacture of pharmaceuticals is the main activity.

Food, Drink & Tobacco (Agri-food) is the region’s third largest sub-sector with meat processing, bakery/confectionary, seafood and beverages the main activities. Agri-food’s share of industrial employment in the region (11.2%) is considerably smaller than nationally (17.1%). This is partly due to the strong concentration of such activity in the other regions and the nature of the Western Region’s farming.

There are differences across counties in the relative importance of the sub-sectors. For Galway City, Galway County and Leitrim, the MedTech sector is the largest industrial employer.  For Sligo and Mayo, it is Chemicals & Pharma, while for Donegal and Roscommon Agri-food is largest.  Computer & Electronic Equipment is Clare’s main industrial employer. Further detail on the industrial profile of the western counties can be found here.

Fig. 2: Percentage of total Industry employment in each sub-sector in Western Region and state, 2016

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

Transport Equipment experienced the largest percentage growth in employment in the Western Region between 2011 and 2016, increasing by 52.7% (+451 people).  The region had far greater growth than nationally (15.5%). This sector includes companies such as Valeo Vision Systems in Tuam, Mirror Controls International in Leitrim, McHale Engineering in Mayo and Lufthansa Technik Turbine in Clare.

The next highest growth was in the region’s largest sub-sector, MedTech where employment grew by 30.2% (+2,935 people), followed by Computer & Electronic (21.2%, +633 people).  Very strong growth in these three high-tech manufacturing sectors contributed substantially to the region’s stronger than average performance, with total Industry employment growing by 13.7% compared with 9.4% in the country as a whole.

Key Policy Issues

Industry plays a considerably greater role in the region’s economy and labour market than nationally.  Its performance, and future trends in manufacturing, will have a greater impact in the region.  Given the growing role of services nationally, and increasing policy focus on attracting and growing international services, it is vital that manufacturing’s central role in the Western Region’s economy is fully recognised and supported in policy decisions.  There also needs to be a strong focus on developing new growth areas to increase industrial diversification.

The region has a higher reliance on foreign owned firms.  Global developments which impact on the extent and nature of foreign owned investment in Ireland would have very significant knock-on impacts on the regional economy, not only for direct jobs in foreign owned manufacturing, but also Irish owned sub-suppliers.

Digital transformation poses a threat to certain jobs but also creates new occupations and activities.  Manufacturing has already evolved substantially and adopted many digital technologies.  Processing and operations jobs, especially manual work e.g. packing, are now most at risk from automation.  Upskilling of the current industrial workforce should be a key regional priority.

The nature of work and skills needs are changing.  The share of jobs that are permanent full-time is declining and it is important that policy adapts to ensure that the rights and obligations of individuals and employers are clearly outlined and protected, for example in relation to training and upskilling. Industry’s skill needs are changing with areas of current demand including science and engineering, craft skills and operatives with digital skills.  As Ireland’s manufacturing sector continues to evolve there will be growing demand for STEM qualifications.

The Western Region is a global location for MedTech. The cluster includes multinationals and Irish start-ups supported by a strong skills base and research infrastructure. Life Sciences, including MedTech and Chemicals & Pharma, is present in all counties but strongest in Galway, Sligo and Mayo. It is a key regional asset but its dominant role presents some risk. Opportunities for convergence with other sectors and dissemination of its expertise should be supported to promote industrial diversification.

Activities which rely on domestic demand or the UK market face challenges. These sectors play a larger role in rural counties, have high levels of Irish SME activity and are important for male employment.  Manual tasks are vulnerable to automation and Brexit presents a threat, especially for Agri-food.  Improving the competitiveness, as well as market and product diversification, of such firms will be important to sustaining the regional and rural economy.

The region has an emerging strength in Transport Equipment. For Galway County, Mayo and Roscommon it was the strongest growing sector and Leitrim has the highest share in the country.  Many of the companies are located in medium-sized or small towns and opportunities to further embed and strengthen this emerging cluster should be supported.

For more detailed analysis see ‘Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile

Data on agency assisted jobs in Industry in also analysed in the report, and will be the topic of a future blog post.

Pauline White

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Energy and Climate Action- the WDC View of the Draft National Plan

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just made a submission to DCCAE on the Draft National Energy and Climate Plan 2012-2030 (NECP).  The development of clear energy and climate action to 2030 is essential to achieving the national goal of a low carbon economy in Ireland by 2050.  The WDC recognises that energy and climate action will bring important opportunities for our largely rural region, but at the same time it will bring challenges that we would wish to see addressed in the NECP.   The WDC made a detailed submission to the previous consultation on the draft NECP (November 2018), therefore in this submission we only addressed specific issues arising from this draft of relevance to our region and our remit.

The Draft National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP)

The NECP usefully brings together and summarises energy and climate policy.  However, much of the focus is on current policy and, while there is a recognition that it will be difficult to meet targets with the policy that is currently in place, there is little information about the additional policies or regulations which will be needed to ensure we achieve targets.

The Plan recognises that heating is a particular issue in rural areas (p4) but there is no specific commitment or policy to address the needs of rural areas either in relation heating or transport.  Nor is there a recognition that there are unique opportunities for rural areas from the low carbon economy.  We believe that specific rural focused policies could be introduced for this. This would have benefit both in terms of achievement of EU targets and in relation to the development of the rural and regional economies.

Similarly the NECP acknowledges that the dispersed population pattern results in particular challenges in terms of transportation options.  Again there is no specific commitment or policy to address the needs of rural areas.   The National Policy Framework on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland 2017-2030 notes that it is likely that in future electricity will fuel the majority of passenger cars, commuter rail and taxis while natural gas and biofuels will play an increasingly important role for larger vehicles like HGV and buses.  While we would agree with this, we believe that services such as EV charging points and CNG fueling points must be widely available in rural areas where population is dispersed.  Without these services being available and reliable, rural dwellers could be reluctant to adopt the new technologies and it could deter visitors who might be concerned about the availability of charging/fueling points.  In the case of HGVs and buses, lack of refueling options could increase costs of delivery or services in more rural and peripheral regions.

Electricity transmission network

In relation to the development of the electricity transmission network there is no mention of the issues noted by EirGrid in the recently published Systems Needs Assessment (Nov 2018) in the West (high need for grid development), North West (high need for grid development) and Midland (moderate need for grid development).  These need to be included. A study recently commissioned by the WDC, which we blogged about here reviewed the transmission network and current planned renewable generation to identify areas of the Western Region that have transmission capacity for new renewable generation. It found that North Mayo/West Sligo and Co. Donegal have no capacity for new generation without substantial transmission investment. Sligo/Leitrim, South Mayo and West Galway has limited capacity and will require transmission investment in the future. The WDC believes that significant investment is needed in these areas, so that the current and contracted renewable generation requirements are met and that there is potential for further future connections to ensure areas of best resource can produce most.

Gas transmission network

There is a need to review the natural gas network coverage to ensure that it is future proofed to meet the needs of all key urban centres (currently large settlements such as Sligo and Letterkenny are not connected).  There is important potential for decarbonisation in the gas network, through the future use of biogas, and through the transmission of gas for CNG refueling.  There are also economic benefits for urban centres which are connected to the natural gas network.  In the context of the NECP the broader government criteria for developing the transmission network should be reviewed.  This should include information from the study of wider benefits of connecting regions to the natural gas which has been undertaken for DCCAE but which has not been published.

Electric Vehicles

We welcomed the target of 500K EVs by 2030 but to help achieve this charging investment needs to be early and widespread. This will not just benefit those living in rural areas but will be important for those for those visiting for business or pleasure.  Lack of charging points could in future become a disincentive for visitors and could further concentrate tourism and other economic activities in areas near larger urban centres.

Built environment

We agree energy efficiency is important and welcome the ambition to increase the number of homes with a BER rating of B and above.  However, the most recent BER ratings data from the CSO shows that currently only 15% of homes assessed nationally have a rating of B or above.  In the Western Region only 10% achieve this and it is as low as 7% in Roscommon.  This highlights the need to specifically address energy efficiency and home heating issues in more rural and less well-off regions.  For dwellings in the in lowest rating categories and the costs and difficulties of achieving upgrade to a B rating are most significant.

Most homes in our region use oil for heating.  There needs to be a specific effort to encourage change in rural areas which are oil dependent.  While many of the incentives are for the installation of heat pumps it should be remembered that the use of wood biomass for heating brings very significant local economic benefits. 

Transport

Employment is only one factor generating trips and the National Travel Survey shows that majority of travel is associated with non-work trips.  The importance of these non-work trips and the potential for change in this demand needs to be more central to climate action planning.

Rural people are reliant on car based transport, they have little available public transport and tend to travel greater distances. Therefore clearly rural dwellers’ transport demand patterns need to be central to planning for climate action. There must be detailed consideration of transport issues for smaller settlements and rural areas.  The majority of the population will continue to live in the historical settlement pattern and spatial planning will not change that pattern significantly to 2030 or even in the longer term (to 2050). Thus the NCEP needs to focus on current spatial patterns.

In conclusion, the WDC believes that it is essential that part of the NECP should have a specific focus on issues for rural areas, and on actions to ensure that rural areas are both in a position to benefit from a move to a low carbon economy and to meet the challenges of doing so.  This will enable them to make a fair contribution national goals in relation to renewable energy and to actions to mitigate climate change.

Read our full submission here

Helen McHenry

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WDC Submission on Draft RSES for Northern & Western Region 

Last week the WDC made a submission to the public consultation being held by the Northern & Western Regional Assembly on their Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.  The submission is available here.

As we’ve provided substantial input previously to the preparation of the Draft RSES, in this submission we mainly comment on the specific text and content of the Draft RSES document and pay particular focus to the 211 Regional Policy Objectives set out.

Some of the general comments contained in our submission include:

A Rural Region

  • Adapting the ‘city-led development’ approach of the National Planning Framework (NPF) to a highly rural region presents a considerable challenge. The RSES for the NWRA Region needs to have flexibility to take an approach more suited to the rural nature of its settlement pattern.
  • Rural areas provide much of the urban workforce and urban demand. Rural-urban interlinkages, including travel to work patterns, need to be given greater consideration.
  • Job creation in smaller towns, villages and rural areas, as well as remote working, can bring closer alignment of housing and jobs. Building more houses in large urban centres is not the only route to greater alignment.

Implementation

  • Many of the Regional Policy Objectives do not include detail of how they will be implemented, who will be involved in leading or implementing them or the timeframe for implementation.
  • A mechanism is needed to achieve the required alignment of a large array of national, regional, local, sectoral, public and private organisations, policies, priorities and strategies to ensure implementation of the RSES. It needs to be clear what will happen if the priorities of a Government Department or sectoral agency conflict with the RSES.

Growth Ambitions

The Draft RSES is based on a Growth Framework composed of 5 Growth Ambitions: 1) Vibrant Region; 2) Natural Region; 3) Connected Region; 4) Inclusive Region; 5) Enabling our Region.  Some of our key points on these included:

  • The Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC), as an agreed place-based platform for economic growth, should be designated as an Economic Zone in the RSES.
  • Adopting a ‘sector’ approach to economic and enterprise development misses out on many ‘cross-cutting’ themes e.g. digitalisation, AI, finance.
  • There is an urgent need to review national Ports and Aviation policy to move away from the ‘business as usual’ approach which reinforces the dominance of Dublin Port and Airport.
  • Delivering Atlantic Corridor road projects (on the N17/15) should be prioritised to take place earlier (no commitment in current NDP to begin construction before 2027).
  • Some care is needed in focusing on ‘infrastructure corridors’ – this approach will not work in all circumstances and areas distant from such ‘corridors’ risk further disadvantage.
  • RSES should contain a stronger commitment to the extension of the natural gas grid.
  • RSES needs to focus on improving living standards for residents of the Region as a key objective in its own right, rather than simply as a way to attract companies and support business.
  • More reference is needed to the potential impact of Brexit.

The full submission is available here

Following the public consultation (which closed on 8 February) the NWRA will prepare a report on issues raised in submissions/observations and recommend whether the RSES should be made with or without amendments. It may necessary to hold another phase of public consultation before the RSES can be finalised. You can check for updates on the process here.

The Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Regional Assembly  is still open for consultation, with a deadline of 8 March 2019, and a future post will discuss the WDC’s submission to that consultation.

Pauline White

 

Posted in Local Government, NWRA, Regional Development, Regional policy, RSES, Rural Development | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Measuring Rural Poverty – It’s Complicated!

The CSO released the latest data on Income and Living Conditions last December, see here. The headline figures indicate a rise in incomes – increasing by 4.7% between 2016 and 2017, which in turn was higher than the figures five years earlier, in 2012 (see earlier post on this here). This is in line with other national economic indicators such as continuing economic growth, employment growth and decreasing unemployment.

At Risk of Poverty

Within the same CSO release, the data show that the at risk of poverty rate decreased from 16.2% in 2016 to 15.7% in 2017. Examining the at risk of poverty rate spatially, the rate is higher in rural areas[1], compared to urban areas; the at risk of poverty rate in rural areas is 17.2% in 2017, compared to 15.1% in urban areas. Moreover the trend over the last two years shows a divergence, with the urban rate declining – from 15.9% to 15.1%, while the rural rate increased from 16.9% to 17.2%.

The CSO release also provides a breakdown by region. The data indicates that the at risk of poverty rate is higher in the more rural regions (Northern and Western) with 21.8% or over a fifth of the population there at risk of poverty. This is in contrast to the rate within the Southern region (16.8%) and it is lower again in the more urban Eastern and Midland region (12.8%).

Deprivation Rate

The CSO also measure the deprivation rate, which is a broader measure than poverty and is defined as follows: Households that are excluded and marginalised from consuming goods and services which are considered the norm for other people in society, due to an inability to afford them, are considered to be deprived. This measure of the marginalised or deprived is currently achieved on the basis of a set of eleven basic deprivation indicators as follows.

  1. Two pairs of strong shoes
  2. A warm waterproof overcoat
  3. Buy new (not second-hand) clothes
  4. Eat meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day
  5. Have a roast joint or its equivalent once a week
  6. Had to go without heating during the last year through lack of money
  7. Keep the home adequately warm
  8. Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year
  9. Replace any worn out furniture
  10. Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month
  11. Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight for entertainment

Individuals who experience two or more of the eleven listed items are considered to be experiencing enforced deprivation and this is the basis for calculating the deprivation rate.

The deprivation rate nationally has shown a decrease between 2016 and 2017, from 21% to 18.8%. At a spatial level it appears that there is a higher rate of deprivation in urban areas than in rural, in 2017 the urban deprivation rate was 20.2%, while in rural areas it was 15.9%. Similarly the more rural Northern and Western Region has a lower deprivation rate in 2017 (17.3%), compared to 18.7% for the Southern Region and 19.5% for the Eastern and Midland region.

Consistent Poverty

Finally, the other commonly used measure of poverty, is the consistent poverty rate. An individual is defined as being in ‘consistent poverty’ if they are

  • Identified as being at risk of poverty and
  • Living in a household deprived of two or more of the eleven basic deprivation items listed above

Nationally the rate went from 8.2% in 2016 to 6.7% in 2017. At a spatial level, like the deprivation rate, the consistent poverty rate is slightly higher in urban areas than in rural areas. In rural areas the rate was 5.3%, compared to 7.4% in urban areas.

Measuring Deprivation: Access to Services?

The measurement of poverty in its various ways has become a lot more sophisticated than a simple examination of income. The at risk of poverty rate and the deprivation measurement places poverty in the context of the society and environment in which it occurs and this is welcome.

It is often said that rural poverty, is more hidden or less visible than urban poverty. Overall the CSO recent data show that rural areas have a higher at risk of poverty rate, compared to their urban cousins, but have lower deprivation and consistent poverty rates.

However the definition of deprivation is based on enforced deprivation where there is an inability to afford goods and services. But what of the inability to access goods and services because they are not available in the locality. Is the inability to access broadband a deprivation? Many rural residents think so. It impacts on their ability to access goods and services on-line and often impacts on their ability to generate their incomes, for small businesses and the self-employed.

And, in the absence of broadband, what of access to services such as banks and post offices?  Is it enforced deprivation, when these services were once available within the community and are no longer there?  Is it enforced deprivation when access is not available online and there are limited if any transport services to travel to the next available centre to access the closest banking or post office facilities? Most would consider Yes, that this is enforced deprivation.

Those communities that are not being served by the commercial broadband providers now and are awaiting a decision to start the National Broadband Pan (following its original announcement seven years ago) are and will continue to remain deprived for years to come.

On 4th February this year, Social Justice Ireland, issued a press release entitled Time for Government to commit to eradicating poverty, see here. In it they point to the importance of being able to access high quality public services. On the same day, Social Justice Ireland published their Social Economic Review 2019, which highlights in detail the importance of access to broadband, financial services and other public services in helping to deliver a fairer Ireland. The publication has a specific chapter on the issues and challenges for all those living in for rural and regional Ireland see here.

Deirdre Frost

 

[1] Since 2014 areas are now classified as Urban or Rural based on the following population densities derived from Census of Population 2011: Urban – population density greater than 1,000,  and Rural: Population density <199 – 999 and Rural areas in counties.

 

Posted in Broadband, Disparity, Poverty, Regional Development, Regional Statistics, Rural Development | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment