“Poverty is more likely to occur in rural areas than urban areas,” said SJI director Sean Healy at the launch yesterday of Choices for Equity and Sustainability, the organisation’s socio-economic review for 2016.
“The poverty rate in rural Ireland is 4.5 percentage points higher than in urban Ireland. The border, midlands, and western region has the highest poverty rate and the lowest median income in the State.
“Worryingly, [this] region has also seen one of the greatest reductions in full-time employment since 2008 and has one of the lowest levels of IDA-supported employment.”
Mr Healy said there is a mismatch between a government policy aimed at attracting foreign direct investment and rural areas which are dominated by micro-businesses and small and medium enterprises.
“Government should design policies that will support investment in micro enterprise and small and medium businesses,” he said.
Michelle Murphy, SJI’s research and policy analyst, said: “Latest figures show the trend of falling agency-assisted employment in rural areas continuing, albeit at a slower pace in the south-west, mid-west, and west. Of considerable concern is the continued fall of full-time employment in the border, midlands, and western region, and the southern and eastern region between 2008 and 2015.”
Speaking at the launch, Ms Murphy said the figures point to the barriers that a lack of broadband and services such as childcare and public transport present in terms of generating sustainable employment in rural areas.
“Rural Ireland urgently needs investment in the provision of public services such as transport, training, and childcare,” she said.
“The provision of quality broadband to all rural households and businesses must be a priority. State intervention in this area must be prioritised in order to prevent the two tier digital divide growing any wider.”
Ms Murphy said this would require a substantial increase in the level of investment but would boost job creation, stimulate domestic consumption, and improve productivity of the economy.