South East Economic Monitor shows a region being left behind, while the rest of the country recovers


SE Eco Monitor 2017 Email 1Absence of IDA support jobs, low Enterprise Ireland activity, low higher education capacity attributed to why the economy of the South East is in relative decline


The 2nd annual South East Economic Monitor which was released on 1 July has found that while the South East economy is growing; it is doing so much more slowly than the state and the other eight regions of Ireland. As a result, the region is in relative economic decline.


The South East Economic Monitor tracks key economic indicators, capturing data on the economy of the five counties of the South East (Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford); a region with 10.7% share of the national population.


It has been prepared by academic faculty in the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) School of Business, Dr Cormac O’Keeffe, John Casey and Dr Ray Griffin.


While there has been a drop in unemployment the south east is the only region not meeting the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs target.


The region has experienced a large drop in unemployment (from 12.5% in Q1 2016 to 9.3%) with 9,900 net new jobs - the first time unemployment is below 10% in eight years.


Dr Ray Griffin, lecturer in strategy, says that the improvement in unemployment masks significant relative economic decline. “The South East is the only region (of the eight) not meeting 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.”


Dr Griffin added that the government’s Action Plan for Jobs commitment to bring every region’s unemployment rate to within 1% of the national average has been achieved everywhere but the South East. "We cannot see any Government action aimed at closing that gap," he says.


Lecturer in finance and economics, Dr Cormac O’Keeffe says that the national policy approach is focused on the crisis being over; the economic crisis is still unfinished business in the South East. “The South East region is home to 10.7% of the national population, yet it is clear there is no plan to turn the regional economy around,” he says.


“Low income, low skills jobs are driving the employment growth; it is pretty simple, the good jobs lost in the recession are being replaced by poorer jobs,” Dr O’Keeffe continues.


The quality of jobs in the South East is dramatically lower than the national average, and there is no evidence of this improving. This means incomes, disposable income and consumption in the South East is lower than the rest of the country.


John Casey, lecturer in the Department of Accounting & Economics notes that nationally it is clear that the agencies charged with economic development, IDA and Enterprise Ireland, are underperforming with regards to the South East.


“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 South East. We can see what these highly effective organisation can do when they put their mind to it. They need to give more support to their regional offices and target this gap in their activities,” he says.


The publication also explores higher education capacity.


Casey adds that the South East’s economy will not get back into step with the rest of country while there continues to be a cap on higher education capacity. “Investment in higher education is key to closing the gap by raising job quality and supporting the IDA in bringing knowledge economy jobs into the region. It beggar’s belief that €1.7bn was spent on new university buildings over the past five years, and not one of these state supported investments was made in the South East. As currently proposed, the technological university will not add any educational capacity unless it is accompanied with significant investment to address the deficit caused by many years of under-investment.”


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