Sizeable response is needed to address rising regional inequalities
- Regional inequalities in Ireland continue to rise according to new CSO regional and county disposable income figures
- Lack of investment in infrastructure assets and a weak urban structure in the Northern and Western Region is contributing to rising regional disparities
- The Northern and Western Region needs a sizeable stimulus package and a policy of “Positive Discrimination”.
Key findings of the CSO’s publication “County Incomes and Regional GDP” were reviewed at the NWRA’s February meeting. According to the report, the Northern and Western Region is experiencing the lowest disposable income per person in the country.
This worrying trend has been attributed to a lack of investment in infrastructure assets and a weak urban structure in the region, which is further exacerbating regional disparities.
According to the CSO, disposable income per person in the Northern and Western Region was estimated to be €20,882 in 2021, which is significantly lower than the state average of €24,855. Additionally, each of the counties in the Northern and Western Region recorded disposable income levels below the state average, with Donegal registering the lowest disposable income per person in the region and in the entire country at €18,579 per person in 2021.
The gap between the Northern and Western Region and the state average has progressively widened over the past decade, with the difference in disposable income per person increasing from just over €1,400 in 2011 to nearly €4,000 in 2021. The Border and West Regions have also shown similar trends.
*2021 is an estimate from the CSO
The elected members were also informed of the various factors that are likely to be contributing to this rise in regional inequality in Ireland and what is needed to overcome these challenges.
“The main factor that explains why regional inequalities in Ireland are rising is because the Northern and Western Region of Ireland is underperforming across a variety of areas considered key to supporting economic development,” said John Daly, Economist of the Northern & Western Regional Assembly.
Daly added, “The European Commission found that the Northern and Western Region was notably underserved in terms of high-quality infrastructure, with our region lacking in terms of motorway, rail, gas, and digital infrastructure.
The Northern and Western Region is also the only region on the island of Ireland to be classified as a ‘Moderate Innovator’, which is a region with a below-average level of innovation capabilities. Addressing these challenges will be central to enhancing the economic performance of the Northern and Western Region’s economy and reducing regional inequalities in Ireland.”
Councillor David Collins, Cathaoirleach of the Northern & Western Regional Assembly, said:
“Based on these figures, it is clear that the Government needs to positively discriminate in favour of the Northern and Western Region, by providing a higher rate of capital investment – per head of population – in our region and by supporting the strategic priorities of our Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.”
Collins continued, “Furthermore, a sizeable stimulus package is needed for the Northern and Western Region’s economy to counter the economic impact of Brexit and COVID-19 and to provide a platform for the region to improve its performance as a ‘Transition Region’, ‘Lagging Region’, and a ‘Moderate Innovator’. Without this, regional inequalities in Ireland could continue to rise, which would weaken our regional economies, affect social cohesion and undermine the delivery of key national policies such as the Programme for Government, Project Ireland 2040, Housing for All, and the Climate Action Plan.”
The Northern and Western Regional Assembly is calling for immediate attention to be paid to this issue to ensure that the people and businesses of the region are not left behind in Ireland’s economic recovery.