Saturday 19 October 2019

Rural towns are left behind as numbers at work below pre-crash levels

The figures suggest many areas are being left behind and highlight how the regions struggle to compete
The figures suggest many areas are being left behind and highlight how the regions struggle to compete

Paul Melia and Dr Mick Kerrigan

The number of people at work remains below pre-crash levels in more than 70 towns across the State.

New figures show how the economic recovery has left vast swathes of rural Ireland behind, with fewer people working in all towns in Offaly and Roscommon in 2016 compared with 2006 when the economy was thriving.

The figures highlight how overall some 76,599 more jobs are present in the cities, towns and villages examined, but there are wide disparities.

They show that of 168 settlements for which data is available, the number of people in employment rose in 96 and fell in 71.

There was no change in one, Listowel in Co Kerry.

This means more than 40pc of towns and villages have not managed to secure additional employment over the period, but worryingly, it also reveals that job losses have not been regained in some of our cities where a recovery might have been expected.

In Co Limerick, there were 2,791 fewer people employed in 2016 compared with a decade previously, a drop of more than 7pc. In Co Waterford, the numbers at work were 1,050 below 2006 levels, down almost 2.5pc.

Large towns including Sligo (down 1,537), Ennis in Co Clare (down 931) and Clonmel in Co Tipperary (down 751) have also failed to recover.

Other areas where employee numbers remain below 2006 levels include Naas in Co Kildare, Castlebar in Co Mayo, Bray in Co Wicklow, Co Wexford, Tullamore in Co Offaly and both Tralee and Killarney in Co Kerry.

While the figures do not capture the number of workers who may have emigrated or retired, nor do they take account of recent growth, they suggest that many areas are being left behind.

They also highlight how the regions struggle to compete with the capital, Cork and Galway when securing new employment. Almost 45pc of the employment growth was in Dublin city and suburbs, where the number at work rose by 34,209.

Some 53pc of all jobs growth was in Dublin, Cork and Galway cities.

Head of regional development at the IDA Anne-Marie Tierney-Le Roux said attracting investors to smaller locations was challenging.

"The IDA introduces a fact-filled programme for companies, but ultimately the investor company at corporate HQ decides on their location," she said.

The data is gleaned from a comparison of Census 2016 and Census 2006, broken down to settlement level or areas with 50 dwellings or more. It also reveals of 19 towns in Connacht for which data is available, employment numbers fell in nine.

They include all four towns in Roscommon - Boyle, Ballaghadereen, Castlerea and Roscommon - where the numbers at work fell. The biggest drop was in Boyle, down 195.

In Ulster, data for 17 towns is available. The numbers at work rose in 11, but fell in six.

In Munster, the number at work fell in 24 of 51 towns, including Limerick City.

Of 22 towns in Cork, there were job losses in eight.

In 10 Tipperary towns, there were job losses in eight. Three in four Waterford towns, including the city, also saw drops.

But the picture is somewhat different in Leinster.

Of 81 towns in the province, there were job losses in just 30, but that does not mean that all areas have seen sustained economic growth, with losses in all five Offaly towns of Birr (down 453), Tullamore (393), Clara, Edenderry and Banagher.

Half of all towns in counties Westmeath, Wexford and Laois also failed to regain numbers at work.

Irish Independent

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