NUIG study: Dublin pay levels no match for commuting costs

Research finds Galway employees also hit by high expense of travel to work

Higher income levels among those employed in the greater Dublin area do not compensate for the cost of commuting, a study by NUI Galway (NUIG) has found.

Research led by Dr Amaya Vega of NUIG's Whitaker Institute also found employees in Galway also bear relatively high net commuting costs.

The research, published by NUIG’s Whitaker Institute as a policy paper on Monday, analysed the socio-economic impact of the commuting belts which expanded during the economic “boom” years before 2007.

The substantial increase in car ownership and commuting during that period was highest in the greater Dublin area, with an unprecedented increase in both employment and private car registrations, the study notes.


While employment dropped by 6 per cent overall during the recession from 2008, there was a continued increase in suburbanisation around the main Irish cities.

Widening commuter belt

In Dublin's case, the belt extended to Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. Not surprisingly, the study finds that residents in the first two of these three counties experienced the largest financial impact of commuting, relative to employment income.

Further analysis found other Irish cities with high net commuting costs as a percentage of income, with those living in the commuter hinterland of Galway significantly affected.

The relative impact is “significantly lower” outside primary commuting belts, particularly in smaller towns and rural areas, the study finds.

Dr Vega, and fellow authors Paul Kilgariff, Cathal O'Donoghue and Karyn Morrissy, note that the census is the only nationwide source of information on commuting patterns, but it does not include information on individual income.

They decided to take three sub-samples of population from the census, and calculated the subjective value of travel time.

They combined this with data from the Simulation Model for the Irish Local Economy (Smile), published by Teagasc, which has employment income data for each individual.


Similar warnings about the rapid growth of greater Dublin were issued at a recent conference at NUIG hosted by the

Regional Studies Association

Irish branch and the

Western Development Commission


Comparing Dublin to Singapore, Department of Housing and Planning senior planning adviser Paul Hogan noted that the capital's footprint extended from Cavan to Wexford.

The capital was "the same in size and population terms as the next 40 towns and cities combined in Ireland, " Mr Hogan said, which was "possibly unique" outside city states such as Singapore.

He said he had analysed comparable small countries such as Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Scotland and "in every single case they have twice as many cities as we do at the levels below Dublin".

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times