Setting targets for remote jobs per county would help drive balanced regional development and regenerate local communities across the country, a Fine Gael senator has said.
Senator Emer Currie, Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson on Employment Affairs and Work/Life Balance, was speaking as a report from NUI Galway’s Whitaker Institute and the Western Development Commission (WDC), highlighted the potential benefits of remote working, including improved productivity, greater labour market participation, reduced emissions and more balanced regional and rural development.
Senator Currie said: “With the recent increase in location-less or less location-dependent work, the Government’s forthcoming remote working strategy could benefit from measuring and setting targets for remote jobs in each local authority area. What gets measured gets done. We must set county targets for remote work or we will miss the opportunity given to us by COVID-19.
“Remote work disrupts the official approach to job creation. Traditionally, there is an announcement or a ribbon cutting moment when a company locates to a specific area with a certain number of jobs to offer and while that will continue, we also need to be able to pursue and track location-less or hybrid jobs in communities too.
“October was the busiest month for mortgage approvals since they began recording approval activity in 2011 and part of the trends show an increase in demand for homes outside of the capital and other cities in more rural areas, as well as space for home offices and gardens.
“According to Permanent TSB, demand in all regions is on the rise and mortgage applications from August to October show some regions outside Dublin are 20-30% ahead of where they were pre-lockdown. Their city centre branches in Cork are up 49%.
“This is an incredible opportunity to regenerate local communities in rural and urban areas as well as our regional cities. But unless we make remote work more visible in the and measure its impact on local communities, the tendency will be to continue the status quo. Now that the vaccine is in sight this work is more important than ever. A lot of people don’t want to go back to where we were.
“People see the value of remote work because it gives them the opportunity to live where they want, not where they work. They want the choice, and I stress the word choice, because it isn’t for everyone.
Some may want to work from home, others from a co-working hub, some companies will be able to provide bubble offices around the country for employees to work remotely or attend physical meetings, while others will continue their daily commutes as they did pre-Covid.
“The acceleration of remote work due to the pandemic has undoubtedly brought disruption like any unexpected and dramatic shift in behaviour. However the Government, through its Remote Work Strategy, has the opportunity not only to address issues like social isolation through the expansion of the hubs network, or ensuring people are protected from the “always-on culture”.
“It should also encourage politicians and those involved in job creation to start thinking about how many remote jobs, new and existing, they can bring to every county in the country per year.
“IDA research shows that for every 3 new jobs created, they sustain another 2 locally. That positive multiplier effect needs to be included in future government strategies. Think of all the places in Ireland that don’t see too many ribbon cutting moments – generating jobs in those areas is what we should be aiming for”, Senator Currie concluded.