Commuter belt regions worst hit by downturn, survey finds
The outer stretches of Dublin’s commuter belt have experienced the greatest drop in affluence of anywhere in the State since the economic downturn, new figures show.
An index of affluence and deprivation commissioned by State agency Pobal shows parts of Meath, Offaly, Wexford, Roscommon and Cavan experienced the biggest increase in deprivation between 2006 and 2011.
The main cities such as Dublin, Cork and Galway fared comparatively well, experiencing a much less dramatic increase in unemployment.
Traditionally deprived urban areas were also hurt by the downturn, but they declined far less compared to the outer stretches of Dublin’s commuter belt.
The findings are based on the Pobal HP Deprivation Index, which uses the 2011 census to determine how affluent or deprived parts of the State are. Indicators include employment rates, skill levels and educational attainment.
The collapse appears to have reversed many of the economic and social gains made during the 15 years of growth leading up to the 2006 census.
“We can see that the recession has affected everywhere,” said Trutz Haase, a social and economic consultant who helped devise the index.
“Many of the gains that were made over a 15-year period of economic boom have been undone in the space of a few years, but some areas have been affected more than others.” The areas most affected were in the commuter belt that experienced the most rapid development towards the end of the boom. Most of these areas are about one to 1½ hours’ commute from the capital, where the bulk of “ghost estates” are located.
Mr Haase said the findings indicated these areas attracted many lower middle-class non-professionals often in temporary jobs such as construction. These regions recorded an increase in male unemployment of about 250 per cent between 2006 and 2011, compared to the national average of 150 per cent. They experienced a fall in people with high levels of education or from professional backgrounds, indicating most who moved there were less well educated.
“We can see now that many of these were simply unsustainable communities,” Mr Haase said. “These were the first areas to be affected by the economic collapse. They were the late buyers in terms of negative equity and . . . most vulnerable to finding work.”
The most deprived areas, however, were urban. The communities with the poorest results are parts of Ballymun, Finglas and Tallaght in Dublin; parts of Cork city’s northside such as Knocknaheeny; and parts of Limerick such as Southill. Some had jobless rates of up to 65 per cent.
The most affluent areas were in the suburbs of southeast Dublin – parts of Blackrock, Foxrock, Ranelagh, Sandymount and Stillorgan. Levels of unemployment in these areas were very low, at 5-10 per cent.
The HP Deprivation Index does not measure personal wealth, debt or income, as this data is not contained in the census. Mr Haase said measures such as educational attainment, skills and employment were better long-term indicators of affluence.