WHILE there was a notable increase in the number of people working in the labour catchments across Mayo between 2006 and 2016, there was a decline in those working in rural areas, a new study by the Western Development Commission has found.
Of the eight smaller labour catchments (LCs) in Co. Mayo, all LCs, apart from Belmullet and Charlestown-Knock Airport, recorded an increase in the number of resident workers between 2006 and '16.
These were: Westport (+31.4%), Ballinrobe (+16.7%), Claremorris (+12.5%), Swinford (+3%), Ballina (+2.4%); Belmullet (-9%) and Charlestown-Knock Airport -12.5% (-138).
A study of census data by analysts by the WDC shows Westport labour catchment recorded an increase of 31.4% in the number of resident labours over a 10-year period.
Other labour catchments such as Ballinrobe (16.7%), Claremorris (12.5%), Swinford (3%) and Ballina (2.4%) also saw resident labourer numbers increase. But in the coastal town labour catchment of Belmullet the number of workers employed locally declined by just under 10%.
The WDC studied census data from 2016, comparing some statistics with 2006. A town’s labour catchment is that area from which a town draws most of its workers/labour force/supply. Each town’s labour catchment has significantly more workers living there than the census measure of the town at its core (some by over three times as much). This highlights the significantly larger labour supply that is available. Therefore it is a better measure of labour supply.
The analysis revealed that in 2006 around 1,000 people were employed in Belmullet and the surrounding catchment area – this dipped to 806 a decade later, mirroring the trend in rural areas along the western seaboard.
Interestingly, it was also discovered that more people from Belmullet labour catchment travel to work in Dublin city than to the closer urban hubs of Westport and Galway City.
That pattern is also recorded in the Ballina labour catchment. While 59 workers commuted from Ballina labour catchment to Dublin City in 2006 this figure had jumped to 136 by 2016.
The Westport labour catchment has continued to grow as an employment hub in Mayo. And in 2006, neither Newport, Mulranny nor Louisburgh featured as places of employment but they are now important labour centres for residents in the Westport labour catchment.
The most notable change to be revealed via the analysis was in terms of the rising educational levels of the resident workforce in Mayo.
In the census of 2006, for example, it was discovered that 41% of workers had third-level education – this figure jumped to 54% by 2016. Similarly in the Ballina labour catchment the figure increased from 32% to 45% over the decade.
The Charlestown-Knock Airport catchment combines both centres. The data show that many workers living there work close by - for example, over 70 residents work at Knock Airport. Castlebar and Sligo are also important places of work for people living in the Charlestown-Knock Airport catchment.
Commenting, Western Development Commission policy analyst Deirdre Frost said the figures showed that rural areas are becoming less important as places of work.
“This is related to the decline in agricultural employment which is evident everywhere. It also shows that new employment growth is largely in urban centres. In the 10 years between 2006 and 2016 there is also evidence of a growth in the extent of people travelling further to work.
“Some of this arose from the recession where people had to commute longer distances to find work. For some, they have not yet found similar quality of employment opportunities closer to home, highlighted by the increased numbers travelling to work in Dublin.
“While towns in Mayo are becoming more defined centres for employment less people are working in rural areas across the county.”
Other key findings reveal:
• The wholesale, retail and commerce sector is the most important sector across all Mayo labour catchments accounting for in excess of 28% of workers. This compares to the State average of 25% in this sector.
• The manufacturing industry is also significant with a higher proportional share engaged compared to the State average in the labour catchment areas of Claremorris, Westport and Ballyhaunis.
• The largely public sectors of education, human health and social work is generally the second or third most significant employment sector.