At present Live Register data are only available at the scale of the 120 or so social welfare offices.  These areas, which have no defined boundaries, whilst telling the story of Live Register at a sub-county scale are quite large in size, and mask the complex patterns of claimants on the ground.  As any local knows, not all places in an area are equally affected by the recession, with some neighbourhoods being disproportionally hit by job losses.  As studies in the UK and elsewhere demonstrate, where data can be mapped at the postcode level, large variations can occur across just a few streets.  Such evidence is important because in a time of declining resources for intervention it is more effective to target those resources at areas of most need.

To date, maps of Live Register data are, at best, mapped at the county scale.  The three maps below, in contrast, show the unemployment rate ranked by area for Dublin mapped at Enumerator Area scale (c. 330 households) for 2008, and Live Register recipients for August 2008, and change in the number of recipients between August 08 and February 09, at the new Small Area scale (c. 100-120 households) for the Ballyfermot/Chapelizod Partnership Area.

Unemployment Dublin EA scale 2008

Live Register recipients Aug 08

Live register recipients increase Aug 08 to Feb 09

In the first map, the areas that are shaded dark brown are in the top decile for unemployment rate.  In the second map, the areas shaded red have the highest numbers of claimants.  With respect to the third map, the areas in red are those that have experienced significant increases in Live Register claimants, whereas those in dark blue show places where people up to Feb 09 have so far retained their jobs.  In general, what the map shows is that existing areas of high numbers of claimants and the areas immediately surrounding them are those areas gaining the most new claimants and that those areas with low numbers of claimants remain relatively low.  In this case, it is in parts of Ballyfermot that claimants have grown, whereas Chapelizod weathers the storm quite well, reflecting the different labour markets that their respective inhabitants are/were employed in.

The study was undertaken by NIRSA working with Ballyfermot/Chapelizod and Northside Partnerships and the Department of Social and Family Affairs (DSFA) and was published by Dublin City Council earlier in the year.  Neighbourhood maps were created for all forms of Live Register claims at the new Small Area scale.  These Small Areas, created by the National Centre for Geocomputation for Ordnance Survey Ireland, will form the micro-geography for the 2011 census.

At present the research remains a one-off pilot study, but it does highlight two things: 1) the geography of unemployment, and the recession in general, is highly uneven and is not affecting all areas equally; 2) that the evidence base for making key policy decisions would be significantly enhanced by these kinds of data.

Justin Gleeson and Rob Kitchin

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