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Message from the Director

Frances Ruane, Director, ESRI
Frances Ruane, Director, ESRI

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to our website and to thank all those who support and use our work. The ESRI remains firmly focused on providing research to inform economic and social policymaking and we look forward to publishing new research findings and hosting relevant events in the coming months. Our recent book Using Evidence to Inform Policy, published by Gill & MacMillan, outlines how we see the role of evidence in informing policy in Ireland and illustrates how policy can be informed by careful and objective analysis in 11 different areas.

What the Institute is and does

The ESRI is an independent research institute founded in 1960. Over the past fifty years it has established its position as an important source of independent academic research on economic and social change, which informs public policymaking and civil society in Ireland.

We cover a wide range of research areas and these are outlined in our current research strategy. Annually, we report on our work in the form of the Institute's Review of Research which can be downloaded here. Our latest Review covers 2013.

Our new research strategy covers the period 2014-2018. It is based on a detailed review of existing activities, including our evolving relationship with the higher education sector and, in particular, our strategic alliance with Trinity College Dublin in the social sciences. It also takes into account evolving developments in academic research and current reforms within the Irish public sector. We identify our strategic focus across 12 research areas and our priority actions for the coming five years.

The remainder of this message is designed to give you a quick overview of some of the key research currently underway, with further details available under the webpages for each of the Institute’s 12 research areas. 

Current ESRI Research

ESRI research seeks to inform our understanding of key issues facing Irish society. At present there is a strong focus on research relevant to economic recovery and to the impact of austerity. Our research continues to inform the preparation of short-term forecasts for the economy as published in the Quarterly Economic Commentary as well as medium-term forecasts for the economy as recently published in the Medium Term Review, 2013 - 2020. The recent QEC Autumn 2014, in addition to reviewing the current macro position, included two Special Articles titled "Credit Requirements for Irish Firms in the Economic Recovery and "Irish Fiscal Policy in Good Times and in Bad: Its Effectiveness Over the Economic Cycle" and the following Research Note "Nowcasting and the Need for Timely Estimates of Movements in Irish Output".

The ESRI continues to undertake and publish research on the macroeconomic behaviour of the Irish economy. Our macroeconomists are currently working on a programme of research with the Central Bank of Ireland which is developing the next generation of macro models for Ireland, and a programme of research on the housing market, which is funded by NAMA and the Irish Banking Federation (view details of research in this area). Recent publications relevant to housing can be found in “Bubble, Bubble Toil and Trouble? An Assessment of the Current State of the Irish Housing Market” and the following four Research Notes: "The Distribution of Income and the Public Finances"; "Household Formation and Tenure Choice"; "Updated Estimates for the Extent of Negative Equity in the Irish Housing Market"; "Projected Population Change and Housing Demand: A County Level Analysis".

A major new project, completed in May of this year, produced two studies for the European Competitiveness Report 2014. It is funded by DG Enterprise and Industry. The studies are on Access to External Financing and Firm Growth, and Drivers of SMEs Internationalisation: Implications for Firm Growth and Competitiveness. These studies are due to be published by the European Commission in September 2014. Related research on SMEs, arising from research programme funded by the Department of Finance, can be found in a report published jointly by the ESRI and the Department on Budget Day, and was discussed at an ESRI conference on September 26th.

The Institute has completed the first year of a two-year programme of research, funded by the Health and Safety Authority, which is seeking to create, improve and enhance knowledge on occupational health and safety in order to provide evidence for policy on Health, Safety and Well-being at Work. It has also commenced a new programme of research with Pobal, and the first findings of research from this programme are expected in early 2015. 

Researchers at the Institute are developing computerised experiments to explore the limits of consumers’ abilities to value complex products and to choose between them. This research seeks to provide evidence for policymakers that may help them to devise policies to support consumers to make better decisions in key markets. The research [Programme of Research Investigating Consumer Evaluations] (PRICE) Lab is co-funded by the National Consumer Agency, Commission for Energy Regulation, ComReg, and the Central Bank of Ireland.

Research funded by the Department of Social Protection is focusing on analysing aspects of social inclusion using the Survey of Income and Living Conditions (SILC) data. Research published in December 2013 explores the role of social transfers in alleviating poverty in Ireland and the capacity of indicators of financial stress to capture the impact of the recession on households.

Research on disability combined data from the National Disability Survey (NDS) and 2006 Census data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to produce two reports: Understanding Emotional, Psychological and Mental Health (EPMH) Disability in Ireland: Factors Facilitating Social Inclusion, published in July jointly with the National Disability Authority and Disability in the Irish Labour Market: Evidence from the QNHS Equality Module 2010, published jointly, in January, by The Equality Authority and the ESRI. A recent conference provided an overview of ESRI research in disability across a range of areas, including equality, labour market participation and education.

The latest Annual Monitoring Report on Integration was published by the Minister for Justice and Equality in June 2014; it uses a range of indicators to measure different aspects of immigrant inclusion in Irish society. This is the fourth report on Integration and the Institute is currently seeking funding to ensure that Ireland continues to have this valuable annual assessment of integration in Ireland. The ESRI also conducts work on migration as part of the activities of the Irish National Contact Point of the European Migration Network (EMN), a network which is funded by the European Commission Directorate General for Home Affairs. A report providing an analysis of measures to identify victims of trafficking in human beings in asylum and forced return procedures in Ireland was published in May. A further report, published in July, on Migrant Access to Social Security and Healthcare: Policies and Practice in Ireland explored the proportion of non-Irish nationals in receipt of key social security benefits in January 2014, and looked at the policies and practices related to migrant access to social security.

Two related reports were jointly published with The Equality Authority earlier this year: Gender and the Quality of Work: From Boom to Recession examines whether there has been convergence or polarisation in employment conditions between men and women from boom to bust. The second report Winners and Losers? The Equality Impact of the Great Recession in Ireland investigates the impact of recession on key labour market and poverty outcomes with respect to equality.

The Institute’s tax-benefit (SWITCH) model continues to be used widely to analyse the distribution effects of different fiscal proposals (Distributional Impact of Tax, Welfare and Public Sector Pay Policies: 2009-2012). Training on the use of this model has also been provided to staff members in the Departments of Finance and Social Protection, to assist them in exploring distributional issues associated with tax and welfare changes. These analyses were used by the Departments in the preparation of Budget 2014. The paper "Welfare Targeting and Work Incentives” presented at the annual ESRI "Budget Perspectives" Conference in June, looked at current replacement rates, which measure the incentive to work, while an earlier paper using SWITCH examined the distributional impact of Budgets 2009 to 2014 was published in the QEC in December 2013. A further report was published in October titled Gender Impact of tax and benefit changes: A microsimulation approach.

The ESRI’s health programme covers both population health and health services research. A major new health programme has recently started at the Institute – it will provide evidence to inform healthcare reform over the coming three years. Funded by the Department of Health, the programme will include a range of specific projects including: the economic assessment of different financing, organisational and eligibility models in terms of sustainability, efficiency, cost and effectiveness; and the development of models of the drivers of health and long-term care need and demand. These models, which will incorporate demographic, epidemiological, organisational and behavioural factors, will support the medium to long range forecasting of health need and associated public and private expenditures. This programme will be a central plank of ESRI research in health.

Other research on health includes a study of the evidence on the cost and cost effectiveness of alternative models (comprehensive, intermediate, limited) of palliative care in the Irish healthcare system. In September the Institute co-published with the Irish Heart Foundation the findings of ESRI and RCSI research on an economic analysis of stroke rehabilitation, examining rehabilitation services for stroke patients in the Irish healthcare system. The report identified differences in patterns of use across Ireland and assessed the implications (economic, health outcomes) of existing and new models of care. The research report Ireland: Pharmaceutical Prices, Prescribing Practices and Usage of Generics in a Comparative Context assessed the level of pharmaceutical prices, the usage of generics and the prescribing practices of medical practitioners in Ireland in comparison with other EU Member States and OECD countries. This report was requested by the Troika to help inform progress on realising better value for money in the health budget.

A major change in 2014 was the transfer of responsibility for the Hospital In-Patient Enquiry (HIPE) and the National Perinatal Survey (NPRS) from the ESRI to the Hospital Pricing Office (HPO). The transfer, with effect from January 1 2014, reflects the government decision in 2013 to move to a method of funding hospitals in Ireland which is based on Money Follows the Patient.

The Growing Up in Ireland research project continues and the survey of five-year olds has been completed. The annual GUI research conference in 2013 was held on 27 November, and the 2014 conference will be held on 26 November. Further details can be found at http://www.esri.ie/Childrens_Longitudinal_Study/

Research on education provides evidence to increase the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of different elements of government spending on education and training. Recently completed projects include a large-scale multi-method longitudinal study of special classes in Irish primary and post-primary schools, and the first ever major Irish study on the transitions from second level into to further and higher education and into the workplace. This report was published in August to coincide with the publication of the Leaving Certificate results and a major conference on education transitions is being held on 6 November at the Institute. The Institute has also identified a range of issues where it believes research could very usefully inform policy and decision-making. One such issue is how further education, higher education and other forms of post-school education and training interact at the individual and institutional level.

Research, produced by a team of Education and Labour Market researchers, resulted in a major report for SOLAS, published in May, on Further Education and Training in Ireland: Past, Present and Future. The study was designed to produce evidence to underpin the development of a five year strategic plan and associated implementation plan for SOLAS, aimed at developing further education and training in Ireland to meet the needs of both learners and employers.

As we continue to address our major economic and fiscal challenges, the need for the ESRI’s research has never been greater. In focusing on policy-relevant research issues, the ESRI is continuing a tradition that now stretches back over 50 years. I am confident that the research activities of our research teams will continue to inform public and policy debates on how we may return to a path of sustained economic recovery and social progress.


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