Business people

Ireland’s economic balancing act

There is plenty of life outside the capital, if you bother to look
Image: Stockfresh

25 October 2018

Billy MacInnesI was heartened to read the results of the Galway-Mayo Relocation Survey from recruitment specialist Collins McNicholas which found a high degree of satisfaction among professionals who had made the move to the west.

The survey received responses from people who had relocated not just from other parts of Ireland but from 21 different countries, including Australia, Canada, United States, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain. Of those surveyed, 49% came from outside Ireland.

According to the survey, 91% of professionals who had migrated to Galway or Mayo were happy with their move and 78% would recommend it to others. I’m not sure what that says about the other 13% of happy people who wouldn’t recommend it, are they trying to keep a good thing to themselves perhaps? The survey also revealed that 76% had attained a much better work-life balance since moving to Galway or Mayo.

When they were asked what had motivated them to move west, 91% cited a better quality of life and 60% wanted to be closer to family and friends. Unsurprisingly, other factors included career opportunities, lower property prices, a safer environment, reduced cost of living and less traffic. On that last point, 43% claimed their commute time was less than 20 minutes and 40% had seen their disposable income rise by a fifth.

Commenting on the survey, director of Collins McNicholas, Michelle Murphy, said the fact 78% would recommend relocating to Galway or Mayo “speaks volumes for the attractions of the region, including shorter commute times, more disposable income and a wide variety of opportunities that allow candidates to enhance their careers while improving their work-life balance”.

But while this is very encouraging, it isn’t going to stop the drift towards Dublin of jobs and people which is causing so many problems in the capital at present.

Will they/won’t they?
The political will to try and arrest this trend by pushing some jobs and prosperity back to the regions still seems close to negligible. Look back at Ireland 2040 – Our Plan, The National Planning Framework to see just how poor the planning actually is. While it mentions Galway there is scant focus on the Ireland that exists above the Dublin to Galway line.

That report, published in February last year, pointed out that Dublin accounted for 40% of the country’s population and 49% of economic output. It claimed that Dublin’s success had enabled Ireland “to compete in an International context” but warned it had also “given rise to pressures in areas such as housing, transport and infrastructural requirements, which affect competitiveness”. Worse still was the acknowledgement that “if Dublin is underperforming, Ireland is underperforming”.

Someone, somewhere, needs to change that state of affairs and fast. Given the situation that people in Dublin find themselves in and the strain being put on vital resources such as housing, transportation and infrastructure, it’s extraordinary that nothing substantial has happened yet. The other factor is that the pressures on Dublin are already having a negative effect on its attractiveness as a destination for international companies and their employees.

I know this seems counter-intuitive, but it might make sense if some Dublin politicians started campaigning for government to encourage companies coming into the country to create jobs in other regions, if only to ease the intolerable burdens mounting up on their own doorsteps.

At the moment, too much of the country’s prosperity and economic wellbeing is vested in Dublin. We need to move to a situation where Dublin might not be growing as fast because some of the growth has been shifted to other parts of Ireland.

If things keep going the way they are and Dublin keeps sucking up jobs, people and resources from the rest of the country, we might have to change the meaning of ROI. Instead of standing for the Republic of Ireland, we might need to adopt a new abbreviation, D&ROI, to reflect the true state of affairs: Dublin and the Rest of Ireland.

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