Today marks a huge step towards a vision of a thriving and vibrant rural Ireland, where opportunities are available to everyone, no matter where they live. At Grow Remote we strongly welcome the Government’s plan ‘Our Rural Future: Rural Development Policy 2021-2025’ which will be announced this afternoon and we are delighted to have been invited to participate in a launch discussion.
Imagine a rural Ireland where people no longer have to say the words ‘there are no jobs here’, are no longer forced to relocate to expensive urban areas or to face a daily 2-hour commute. In the rural Ireland of the future, parents will walk their children to school and stop off for a take-away coffee in the town centre on the way to their local co-working hub. Rural communities will be vibrant and diverse, the local GAA clubs will be thriving, and everyone will have more time to give back to their local community or just to enjoy exploring their local greenway.
Despite the huge challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year, the shift to remote working has thrown wide open the door to an incredible opportunity for the reinvigoration of rural Ireland. The Government’s plan focuses on a number of key initiatives which, if implemented, will be transformative for people who want to live and work in rural areas, such as the development of 400 co-working spaces, relocation grants, tax incentives and funding for local authorities and community groups. The transformation has already begun, already there are 55,000 remote jobs open in Ireland today, now it is about making sure rural communities are ready and able to take advantage of these opportunities.
While we welcome the government’s plan, we are also keenly aware that the window of opportunity to realise this vision is small, as we move towards a post-lockdown world. If the plan is going to work, it needs to work for companies first. Employers need incentives so that they do not simply move everyone back to the office and continue with business as usual. Businesses, community and government need to take a joined-up approach to driving the occupancy of co-working hubs. People in rural areas need to be skilled in remote work so that they are ready to take advantage of the opportunities which will be opened up to them, as they compete for jobs that can be done from anywhere in Ireland. Gentrification of our towns and villages, lack of housing, limited public transport and increased pressure on town centres are also issues which need to be addressed. For remote work to be a great enabler of change, it needs to work for people, profit and planet.
Today in Ireland there are over 60 communities of remote workers, led by people who volunteer their time to foster thriving communities of remote workers locally – running meetups, getting local people employed, and running re-location programmes. Today is a credit to their consistent efforts over the past number of years.
At Grow Remote we are excited about the future of rural Ireland and we look forward to working with the government together with our stakeholders, including Enterprise Ireland, IDA, WDC, NACEC and SOLAS. The government’s plan lays out the foundations for a truly reinvigorated and sustainable rural Ireland and we look forward to playing our role in the realisation of this vision.