Counties with ‘higher reliance on agriculture’ more vulnerable to Brexit

A higher reliance on agriculture in some counties suggests an increased Brexit-related vulnerability, according to a report by the Central Bank of Ireland.

The report, Regional Impact of COVID-19: Western Region and Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC), shows that while there are no individual sectors that are “heavily exposed to the dual shocks of Brexit and Covid-19”, there are some counties which are “dually exposed”.

A “long-term pattern” observed in the AEC is the concentration of employment towards the sectors of tourism, agriculture, traditional sectors and public services.

The report states that the combined share of the labour force employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing, wholesale and retail and accommodation and food is higher in all AEC counties than the national average, at 24%. Kerry’s figure is 32% and Mayo’s is 30% and these are noted as “stand out” examples. 

The AEC counties have a “much lower share of employment in knowledge intensive services sectors that are more conducive to remote working”, according to the report, such as: finance; insurance and real estate; information and communications; and professional, scientific and technical activities.

Therefore, the AEC counties “exhibit a greater reliance on public services” like agriculture, industry (largely manufacturing), health, education, public administration.

Covid-19

The report notes that it is “unsurprising” that the AEC counties were “severely affected” by the initial restrictions in April/May.

In April, Kerry and Donegal had almost a third of their labour forces in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), higher than any other counties.

The report shows how “pre-existing employment patterns and structural issues” are important factors in understanding the regional dynamics of the labour market shock.

The Western Region and AEC have a “distinct enterprise structure that is more heavily reliant on micro-enterprises and a historical pattern of concentrated employment” in certain sectors so the “greater initial adverse employment shock to counties in the AEC should not have been surprising given these stylised facts”.

CAP is ‘not perfect, but immeasurably better’

Meanwhile, in other news, MEP Billy Kelleher has described the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as “not perfect and far from ideal, but immeasurably better” than before.

Kelleher was commenting after the three main legislative files in the CAP reform package – strategic plans (SPR), financing, management and monitoring (FMM) and amending legislation (CMO) – were adopted by MEPs last week.

The Fianna Fáil MEP said:

“The primary function of CAP is to ensure food security, protect farm incomes and develop rural communities.

Within the three proposals adopted, significant progress was made on all three. The role and importance of CAP in supporting sustainable and vibrant rural economies must not be overlooked as the focus turns to how CAP can deliver for the environment.

“These objectives can and must go hand in hand.”