Two-speed economy emerging in rural Ireland, says ESRI professor

A TWO-SPEED economy is emerging in rural Ireland, according to the Economic and Social Research Institute’s Dr Edgar Morgenroth.

The ESRI associate research professor told those attending the National Rural Development Conference in Athlone that employment will continue to dwindle in areas with smaller family farms. The event was organised by National Rural Network and Teagasc.

Dr Morgenroth said: “Regions with strong commercial farming will continue to hold their own or even increase in vibrancy, while areas that are not suited to intensive, commercial farming will continue to decline.

“In these areas, other employment will be important. But the scope for generating employment is limited due to structural deficits such as high average age, low population, relative remoteness and poor urban structure.”

He noted that agricultural employment continues to fall and now accounts for just 80,000 jobs. He also cited the 2006 Census, showing that just 22% of the jobs in rural areas were in agriculture, forestry, fishing, food, beverages and tourism.

A further 18% of jobs were in building. Rural areas make up 50% of construction jobs, a sector whose overall jobs level has fallen by almost 60% since Census 2006.

Dr Morgenroth added: “In contrast, the highest value, highest wage jobs tend to be in urban centres. Even the foodindustry is mainly urban, with 53% of jobs located in urban areas.”

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