Kerry's uniquely vulnerable economy ravaged by Covid

A new study by Central Bank economists for INM shows that Kerry has been the county hardest hit economically by the COVID-19 crisis as the county’s reliance on tourism and its lack of manufacturing industry left it uniquely vulnerable to the virus’ and lockdowns’ devastating impact on business. Stock image

Simon BrouderKerryman

A new study carried out by Central Bank economists for Independent New s and Media (INM) and The Kerryman shows that Kerry was the county that suffered the greatest economic hit from the COVID-19 crisis and the series of lock-downs that have seen the national economy grind to a halt.

The INM/Central Bank study - which examined the impact of the second major lock-down in October and November - found that more workers in Kerry lost their jobs than in any other county.

According to the study in late November, almost half - 45 per cent - of Kerry's workforce were receiving some form of state benefit including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment; the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme or more traditional welfare payments.

During the November lockdown, Kerry had a significantly higher proportion of workers on benefits than Dublin and had an overall unemployment rate of 24.9 per cent.

In September 2019, pre-COVID and a little over a year earlier, the unemployment rate in Kerry was just six per cent.

The Central Bank experts involved in the study found that Kerry's economic foundations had left it in a uniquely vulnerable position when the Covid-19 crisis hit.

Kerry's reliance on the tourism industry was, obviously, a major issue but this was compounded by the county's lack of any significant industrial and manufacturing industry to cushion the impact of the successive lock-down's.

For example while both Dublin and Cork have thriving tourist economies both also have major industrial bases which were able to remain open and weather the worst of the crisis.

To illustrate this point further the Central Bank study points out that while nationally around one in 20 people are employed in the tourism and hospitality industries in Kerry it's one in 11.

While the data the study is based on date back to November the most recent figures show that in the current lock-down the situation has not improved.

According to the latest statistics from the Department of Social Protection as of January 26 there were 18,297 Kerry workers in receipt of the PUP.

Currently the number of PUP claimants in Kerry is the third highest in the county outside the major cities and Dublin commuter belt.

A further 2,861 people in Kerry are now receiving the Covid Enhanced Benefit Payment which is provided to people forced to stop work because they had Covid-19 or were forced to self isolate as they were a close contact of a known case.

Meanwhile Revenue figures indicate that the wages of around 15,000 further Kerry workers - about 44 per cent of the employees who are still working in the county - are being directly supported by the State through the Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Currently 1,230 Kerry businesses are also availing of the Covid Support Scheme - which provides eligible business with up to €5,000 a week in support payments - up from just 525 in late November.