The South East Economic Monitor 2018 shows that, despite some signs of improvement, Waterford continues to be left behind and is not enjoying a fair share of the national recovery.
According to one of the report’s authors, Dr Ray Griffin, “a weak labour market, combined with lower levels of support from state agencies and the lack of a university in the region, all point to the end of the Waterford’s recovery”.money
The report, now in its third year of publication, highlights the labour market in Waterford and the wider South East as an area of great concern. Waterford is home to 2.4% of the population of the State but 3.5% of those on the Live Register. Although there was a significant decrease in the Live Register figures in Waterford (11% year-on-year decrease), the rate of decrease lagged that of the State (15% decrease). In the wider South East, the unemployment rate has plateaued and any modest short-term decreases over the last 12 months are largely attributable to a shrinking labour force.
We did have good news last week with the official opening of West Pharma off the old Kilmeaden Road with 100 jobs there and another expansion there likely as the factory moves to full capacity, most of these are high skilled jobs.Other pharma firms are also expanding and a good cluster has been established in the south east, but other jobs are needed too.
Waterford does suffer elsewhere from low job quality as the returns for taxes on work (PAYE, USC, and self-employed taxes) in Waterford are 58% of what one would expect based on population share which means that more people in the region are paid less.
Dublin salaries would be much higher, but then again the cost of living here with lower property prices and transport costs with less commuting, child care is also cheaper.
The South East is one of only two of the seven regions not to have reached the regional Action Plan for Jobs (APJ) target of bringing regional unemployment to within one percentage point of the State average.The SE APJ has the ambitious aim of creating an additional 25,000 jobs by 2020, but since the SE APJ was launched in 2015 Q3, only 5,400 net new jobs have been added.
Dr Griffin says that “what is driving the region’s poor economic performance is a structural issue related to the SE’s difficult relationship with the State with deficits in regional higher education capacity, acute hospital services and international tourism
The IDA had a bumper year and Waterford has fared well, having been the destination for almost 6.8% of net jobs added. The county, which accounts for 2.44% of the Irish population is now home to 3.26% of all IDA jobs. The South East is a very attractive tourist destination, attracting 17.5% of domestic holidaymakers, but just 7.2% of international visitors, weak marketing nationally, less international access with services suspended in Waterford Airport and ferry services being reduced in Rosslare in favour of Dublin.
On the other hand, Enterprise Ireland supports a fair share of jobs in the region, but companies in the region are not very successful at accessing Enterprise Ireland’s competitive grants, according to John Casey, one of the report’s authors.
“The lower educational attainment in the region makes it very hard for the national enterprise agencies to properly support the South East as their scheme focuses on graduates, with less of these in the South East.The South East has weaker human capital, driven by under-investment in higher education within the region.
Per capita spending of Waterford-South East is €327 against an average of €821 in the other city-regions.
The brain-drain is another worry . To stabilise the region’s population, 7,944 additional degree places are required in the region based on universal university type services.
The new Tech University of the South East is necessary to reverse such trends.