The Government has set an ambition to have more people working in rural Ireland with access to quality employment opportunities and improved prospects.
Our Rural Future is Ireland’s Rural Development Policy for the period 2021 to 2025, which among other things aims to grow regional employment by supporting rural businesses to grow.
With one-third of the population living in rural Ireland, rural businesses support hundreds of thousands of jobs and contribute significantly to our national economy.
Agri food and tourism are two of Ireland’s strongest indigenous enterprise sectors.
Outside of agri food and tourism, rural Ireland is now home to businesses from a diverse range of sectors
They are built on the natural and human capital in rural areas and remain key drivers in this strategy.
Outside of agri food and tourism, rural Ireland is now home to businesses from a diverse range of sectors such as financial services, medical technology and creative industries, which service both domestic and international markets.
However, the report states that rural communities remain particularly vulnerable to economic downturns due to a less diversified economic base, strong reliance on micro and small businesses and lower income levels.
What is proposed?
According to the policy, almost two-thirds of jobs created by Enterprise Ireland client companies in 2020 were outside of the Dublin region.
In addition, over half of employment in IDA Ireland’s client companies is located in the regions outside of Dublin.
More and better jobs in rural Ireland provide more choices and, ultimately, better prospects, according to the report
IDA’s strategy is to win half of its total national target for these regions over the period 2021 to 2024 (400 investments) and the hope is that it will deliver 19 facilities in regional locations with the aim of attracting quality jobs for rural areas. It remains to be seen if changes to Ireland’s corporate tax rate will challenge our ability to attract inward investment by multinationals.
More and better jobs in rural Ireland provide more choices and, ultimately, better prospects, according to the report.
Small and medium enterprises are critical to the rural economy
Achieving this enables more people to live, work and relocate to rural areas. This all relies on good broadband connectivity and the ability for people and businesses to conduct business efficiently and effectively. Our Rural Future notes that digital connectivity will be key for remote working to grow.
Small and medium enterprises are critical to the rural economy. Enterprise Ireland, local enterprise offices, Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Western Development Commission all play a role in stimulating and supporting regional job development.
Expansion of the local enterprise offices is planned and the Government is considering direct grant support to businesses with more than 10 employees.
The Government projects greater jobs numbers in renewable energy, the bioeconomy and the circular economy as society and businesses transition to climate neutrality.
Remote working hubs are another key pillar, with an ambition to form a national network of 400 across the country.
Within this sector, sustainability is seen as key and the outdoor activity sector, which is a growth sector worldwide, is a particular focus
Remote working in properly purposed facilities has benefits for employers and employees, according to the report. The ambition is to attract multinational corporations to locate in rural and regional centres, by providing landing space locations in Ireland. Growing our tourism offering is highlighted as integral to our national recovery and in supporting job creation in rural areas. Within this sector, sustainability is seen as key and the outdoor activity sector, which is a growth sector worldwide, is a particular focus.
Opportunities for growth in rural areas identified include walking, cycling, canoeing and angling in addition to culture, heritage and history.
The Government has outlined a strong ambition for the development of rural Ireland, in particular the growth of jobs and the transition to a climate neutral economy.
The transition to a climate-neutral economy places a particular emphasis on the agri-food sector. A balanced approach to this journey is required to ensure that existing jobs and economic activity are not destabilised in the process.
Central to the success of this strategy will be access to affordable housing in rural locations, reliable broadband connectivity and efficient transport links to regional hubs and cities
The desire to relocate to rural Ireland has rarely been as strong as it is following the COVID-19 lockdowns and the sense is that this is a turning point in which rural Ireland could see enterprise and jobs growth.
Central to the success of this strategy will be access to affordable housing in rural locations, reliable broadband connectivity and efficient transport links to regional hubs and cities.
Realising the ambition outlined in this policy requires significant action by the Government on these issues. The prize for rural Ireland and the wider economy would be great. The time for action is now.