The risk of automation of jobs in Irish towns has been revealed in a report titled ‘Automation in Irish Towns: Who’s Most at Risk?’. The report, conducted by UCC researchers Dr Frank Crowley and Dr Justin Doran, was presented at ‘The Creative Rural Economy’ event to leading academics, policymakers, and entrepreneurs.
The report found that two out of every five jobs in Irish towns are at a ‘high risk’, with Dr Crowley saying that people face the prospect of being replaced by machinery. 2016 Census data along with an internationally-recognised automation risk methodology were used to analyse 200 Irish towns with a population of over 1,500 in order to establish the report’s findings.
According to the report, the towns most at risk of automation are: Edgeworthstown in Co Longford, Ballyjamesduff in Co Cavan, Carrick-On-Suir in Co Tipperary, Portlaw in Co Waterford, Clones in Co Monaghan, Tullow in Co Carlow, Cahir in Co Tipperary, Lifford in Co Donegal, Edenderry in Co Offaly, and Fethard in Co Tipperary. In addition, the report revealed that the jobs most at risk of automation are routine based positions, office administration, secretarial positions, process plant operators, jobs in agriculture, manufacturing, and customer service.
The jobs and towns in Ireland with the least risk of automation were also identified in the report. Teaching and education, the arts, media and culture related positions, health and social care, and research and development positions are all found to be not at risk. Among the Irish towns least at risk of automation are Bearna in Co Galway, Strandhill in Co Sligo, Maladhide in Co Dublin, Annacotty in Co Limerick, Greystones in Co Wicklow, Portmarnock in Co Dublin, Enniskerry in Co Wicklow, Ballina in Co Mayo, Skerries in Co Dublin, and Maynooth in Co Kildare.
Determining the risk of automation in a town, according to Dr Crowley, “is primarily explained by population differences, by education levels, age demographics, the proportion of creative occupations in the town, town size and differences in the types of industries across towns.” The education level of towns was of particular importance for the report, as the higher the number of third level educated people in a town, the lower its risk of automation. Bearna in County Galway is least at risk of automation because of its large number of highly educated young people working in sectors which are not focused on routine-based tasks.
The report also reveals that the distance between a high risk town and a low risk town can be minimal, with many such towns neighbouring each other. In addition, concentrations of both higher risk towns and concentrations of lower risk towns were found in the report. Fermoy and Bandon in Co Cork as well as Shannon and Abbeyfeale in Co Limerick were two such concentrations with a higher risk of automation, while the Dublin city region, Malahide, and Donabate were found to have a lower risk.
With the international trend of growth in cities, Dr Crowley says that there is currently not a focused policy to deal with automation and its potential to cause the decline of Irish towns. Dr Crowley adds that the threat brought by this will have to be dealt with through a “localised” and “place-based” approach to policy intervention to protect these towns – in particular, training and education will have to be made more financially accessible for them. Without intervention, it is predicted that the report’s findings could be seen over the next two decades.