'Kilkenny is being left behind' - report

Survey: Economic Monitor shows a number of factors are holding county and region back

'Kilkenny is being left behind' - report

Kilkenny is in a state of ‘relative economic decline’ while the rest of the country shows continued signs of growth, according to a new report from the South East Economic Monitor.

Key economic indicators show that the south-east region is growing, but much more slowly than the State and the other eight regions of Ireland. The annual report, published on Saturday, was prepared by academic faculty in the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) School of Business: Dr Cormac O’ Keeffe, John Casey and Dr Ray Griffin.

The authors identify a number of factors contributing to the region’s woes. These include an absence of adequate numbers of IDA-supported jobs, low activity from Enterprise Ireland, and low Higher Education capacity.

In Kilkenny’s case, there are serious concerns relating to the lack of high-quality job creation. The county continues to receive a poor share of IDA jobs; from 2011-16 the IDA created 51,793 net jobs, but Kilkenny accounted for a mere 0.58% of these —despite being home to more than 2% of the Irish population.

While there were some increases in IDA visits in the last two years and some job announcements in 2016, Kilkenny currently has less than one-fifth of the IDA jobs that one would expect based on its population.

There is also evidence that the quality of jobs is low, as the returns for taxes on work (PAYE, USC, and self-employed taxes) in Kilkenny are 72% of what one would expect based on population share.

There was a significant decrease in the Live Register in Kilkenny (18% year-on-year decrease — more than neighbouring counties). However, lecturer in Strategy at WIT Business School, Dr Ray Griffin, says that this improvement masks significant relative economic decline.

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

A lack of higher education places is also holding the region back. The authors identify that the south-east is ‘missing’ 7,480 higher education places. There are currently 13,506 people from the south-east studying outside the region — representing a huge ‘brain drain’, and transfer of local money to elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in relation to property, Kilkenny now has an established recovery under way. The number of sales increased over the past four years, but now prices are progressing.

The South East Economic Monitor tracks key economic indicators, capturing data on the economy of the five counties, (Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford. Dr Cormac O’Keeffe, lecturer in Finance and Economics at WIT Business School, warns that the national policy approach is focused on the economic crisis being over, but there is still unfinished business in relation to 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 said.

Download the full report at www.wit.ie/ witsoutheastmonitor.