A lack of education opportunities and a poor ICT infrastructure are putting a brake on the development of enterprise in the Midlands region.
That’s according to Irish Rural Link (IRL ), the national organisation campaigning for sustainable rural communities. The group has made a submission to the Midland Regional Authority as part of a review of the the region’s Regional Planning Guidelines (RPGs ).
The submission notes that, according to the latest CSO figures, the Midland region has one of the lowest proportions of persons with a third level qualification of all the regions, at 22.7 per cent.
The Midland region also has the lowest proportion of persons aged 15-24 still in full-time education, at 54.3 per cent, and the highest proportions of persons with only primary or no formal education.
According to IRL, developing ICT infrastructure plays a role in addressing this; however currently just 22 per cent of households with a PC in the Midlands have broadband access, compared with 53 per cent in Dublin.
The group describes the figures as “worrying”, and claims they will act as a brake on enterprise development in the region. It recommends that a strategy for developing the region’s ICT infrastructure must be set out in the RPGs, and that an economic strategy for the region must be closely linked with the educational assets of the region.
Irish Rural Link’s submission also states that the demographics of the region present very serious challenges. According to the CSO’s population projections for 2011 to 2026, the number of old persons (65 years and over ) will almost double in every region over the lifetime of the projections, with one of the most marked increases likely to occur in the Midland region (+102 per cent ).
All regions are expected to see rises in the old dependency ratio (those aged 65 years and over as a percentage of those aged 15-64 ), with the Midlands projected to have the highest total dependency ratio in 2026 at 59.9 per cent.
In its submission, IRL contends that developing the full potential of each region is more important in the current circumstances than ever before. The high risk of poverty rates and low income figures in the region can only be addressed by developing and improving access to educational and training opportunities, combined with job creation.
A copy of the submission is available from Irish Rural Link’s website www.irishrurallink.ie