Thursday, July 06, 2017

CARLOW has got only one-third of the IDA jobs that it should have received based on its population. That’s the shock finding in a new report from the Waterford Institute of Technology’s School of Business, which proves that the county is still suffering the lingering effects of the economic crash.

The report states that the key economic indicators show that Carlow and the southeast are growing but at a much slower rate than anywhere else in Ireland. Despite a 17% reduction year-on-year in the Carlow live register, the county had the third highest rate of unemployment in the country based on the Census 2016 figures.

Since 2003, Carlow has received less than 0.3% of IDA visits and this resulted in the county falling well short of its fair share of IDA jobs. From 2011-2016 the IDA created 51,793 net jobs. Carlow accounted for 0.9% of these jobs, despite being home to 1.2% of the Irish population. Carlow currently has one-third of the IDA jobs that it should have based its population, the report says.

Researchers say there is also evidence of low job quality as the returns for work-related taxes in Carlow are 54% of what one would expect based on population share. This would mean that incomes, disposable income and consumption in Carlow and the southeast are lower than the rest of the country.

Lecturer in strategy at WIT Business School, Dr Ray Griffin, said that the improvement in employment masked significant relative economic decline. “Co Carlow is part of the only region not meeting the government’s Action plan for jobs target (to have regional unemployment less than 1% of national rate). There is very little variation between the counties in the region.”

John Casey, lecturer in the Department of Accounting and Economics at WIT, said it was clear that the agencies charged with economic development – the IDA and Enterprise Ireland – were underperforming in the southeast. “They now have specific objectives to promote a more regional distribution to their activities; however, we do not see any evidence of this in the southeast.”

While the IDA declined to comment on the report, other agencies, Enterprise Ireland and Carlow County Council came out fighting to paint a more positive picture for the county and region.

Regional director Martin Corkery outlined Enterprise Ireland supported companies in Carlow created 373 jobs last year, bringing total employment to 2,973 and detailed a number of initiatives the organisation was spearheading in the southeast. The numbers of staff in Enterprise Ireland supported companies in the southeast was in line with national figures, he stated.

Director of services in Carlow Co Council, Bernie O’Brien, said the local authority was working with County Carlow Chamber, the business community, IT Carlow, Carlow College, IDA, Enterprise Ireland and other stakeholders to attract new investment and to also sustain current employment. She pointed to positive news of expansions to IDA-supported companies such as MSD and Unum.

Ms O’Brien said Carlow’s indigenous companies had shown impressive growth in the last year, although she accepted the retail sector faced challenges. “In endeavouring to attract new investment into the county, it is important to highlight the positives and in the last 12 months a number of companies have announced expansion proposals and new job opportunities. Companies such as Netwatch, O’Hara’s Brewing Company and Walsh Whiskey, to name but a few,” she said.

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By Michael Tracey
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