Remote work could be as transformative for people living outside of our cities as the Rural Electrification Scheme, which brought electricity to 1.75 million people and opened up unlimited opportunities for rural development.
But the data this week from the CSO tells us what we already knew from our work on the ground – that we still have some distance to travel.
The income gap between the richest and poorest counties in Ireland has grown and will continue to grow unless we take decisive action.
The highest disposable incomes in Ireland by county are in Dublin, followed by Limerick and Cork. Donegal is the lowest at 22% below the national average, followed by Longford, then Laois. The Midlands is the lowest region with disposable incomes at 18.7% below the national average.
If we can unlock jobs from urban areas and make them available to people anywhere in Ireland, that old saying ‘there are no jobs here’ will no longer be true. Grow Remote has been working on solving this issue for years. It is the reason we came together in 2018.
But remote work is not a silver bullet that will fix income inequality – there are many barriers in the way.
The first is awareness. There are tens of thousands of remote jobs available to people living in rural Ireland, but they do not know about them or they think that they are not for them. These jobs are not advertised in the local paper or posted on the notice boards of the local shops. We need a nationwide platform to drive awareness of these job opportunities locally.
The second barrier is the pipeline of remote jobs. While the world of work has changed dramatically since the pandemic and we are seeing a huge increase in the number of companies making jobs available remotely, it is still not enough.
Remote jobs are still heavily concentrated in very high skill, high paying roles in the ICT sector – there are simply not enough options for people in regional areas. There are many reasons for this and the shift to remote is complex and challenging for employers. Every day we talk to companies that are struggling to make this transition and are reverting back to the office as they are concerned about the impact it is having on their business and their employees.
Remote work is not a ready-made solution for income inequality in Ireland. There is a lot of work that is needed if we are to realise its potential to transform the lives of people living outside of our cities. Communities, employers and individuals all need to be made aware of the potential of remote work and educated on how to best make it work for them.
But we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capitalise on the monumental shift we have seen over the past 3 years, before this window of opportunity closes and the people living in regional Ireland continue to fall behind.