Tuesday/Wednesday 13 & 14th May 2015
Irish State’s elderly population set to increase significantly in next 45 years
A new EU report has said that the Republic’s elderly population is set to increase dramatically over the next 45 years.
The Irish State’s pension problems may be due to get worse, with new figures showing that the Republic’s elderly population is set to increase dramatically over the next 45 years.
The European Commission’s 2015 Ageing Report, published today, shows the national population is expected to rise to 5.3 million by 2060, with average life expectancy increasing from 79 to 85 for men and from 83 to 89 for women.
The elderly population, currently classified as those aged 80 and over, will rise from its current population share of 2.9% to as high as 10.2% over the same period.
Public spending demands will rise accordingly in the areas of healthcare and pension payments, the report says.
Spending on unemployment benefits, however, will most likely decrease due to a decline in the younger population.
The report says that those aged up to 14 years will fall in proportional terms from 21.9% to 18.5% of the population, with unemployment rates in the 20 to 64 age bracket expected to decrease from 12.8% in 2013 to 6.5% in 2060.
In broader terms, the EU population is projected to increase by almost 5%, rising from 507 million in 2013 to as high as 526 million by 2050.
A decline in population to about 523 million is then forecast over the following decade, although that figure may be altered by variations due to immigration.
According to these projections, the UK would become the most populous country in the EU by 2060, with about 80 million people, followed by France (76 million), Germany(71 million), Italy (66 million) and Spain (46 million).
SuperValu and Tesco on Irish retailer’s top spot
The Irish supermarkets SuperValu and Tesco have now 25% market share each and are tied in first place, according to the latest figures from Kantor for the 12 weeks ending April.
“Over the past 12 weeks SuperValu and Tesco have each captured 25% of the grocery market, with SuperValu battling to hold on to the number one position it claimed last month and Tesco aiming to recover lost ground,” said David Berry, director at Kantar Worldpanel.
Among the big three retailers, Dunnes has posted the strongest sales growth of 3.6%, lifting its market share from 21.5% to 22%.
Dunnes has been benefiting from an offer that gives hefty discounts to customers who make big purchases.
It wasn’t good news for everybody.
“One of the most interesting trends in the latest data is the slowing growth rate of bothAldi and Lidl,” he added.
“While the 8.8% growth posted by Aldi and 7.8% for Lidl remains impressive, this is the first time since 2010 that both Aldi and Lidl have grown their sales by less than 10%.”
Classroom internet access linked to much higher Irish schools sucess test scores
Schools teaching design and graphics programme set to benefit from €7m in grants.
Researchers said “we cannot be certain that the use of internet in the class caused” the higher scores but a strong “relationship” was identified.
Primary school children who used the internet in the classroom had significantly higher mathematics and reading scores on average than peers who had no online access, a study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has found.
The researchers said “we cannot be certain that the use of internet in the class caused” the higher scores but there was a strong “relationship” identified.
The study comes amid further investment in technology in schools, with the announcement of €7 million in grants to post-primary schools to support the implementation of Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) curriculum.
Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan announced the funding on Tuesday, which will see 450 schools get an average of €15,560 for the purchase of computers and software to encourage more students to take DCG in the Leaving Cert.
The ESRI study, published in the ‘Economic and Social Review’, identified “encouraging” returns from the state’s investment of €30 million in primary school broadband between 2005 and 2008.
The researchers found “no evidence for Ireland of the negative effects of broadband in schools reported in some studies internationally” but cited a time lapse in the positive results filtering through here.
“We found that on average teachers were more than twice as likely to use the internet in class after broadband service was installed under the programme, but it took about two years for this gain to emerge.
“This is not surprising, because it takes time for teachers to learn to use new technologies and to change their teaching practices.
“In addition, teachers in schools with better computer-related facilities were also more likely to use the internet in class.”
While many teachers and pupils express frustration at slow broadband speeds, the researchers found that having a faster connection speed had no statistically significant effect on educational outcomes.
Of the scale of these improvements, the authors noted, “the average difference in mathematics test scores between children in classes with and without internet use was as big as the rise enjoyed by children whose mothers had completed a degree rather than finishing at the Leaving Cert”.
ESRI and TCD researcher Seán Lyons, one of the authors of the study, said “we think the effect of the internet in the classroom depends on the context, and the way it’s used.
“So it may even differ from one school to another, and certainly from one country to another.”
A study in Portugal last year found that the roll out of broadband in schools led to negative educational outcomes for both male and female pupils.
But Mr Lyons said Portuguese schools appeared to have brought in internet access “in an unrestrictive way”.
The negative impact had been greatest in Portuguese schools where pupils were allowed to access websites such as YouTube.
For the study, the team of researchers, comprising Mr Lyons, Marie Hyland, Richard Layte, Selina McCoy and Mary Silles, examined data from standardised test scores, statistics on the broadband rollout, and figures from the Growing Up in Ireland survey.
Announcing the grants for the DCG programme, Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan says the subject incorporated principles of science, materials, manufacture, design, technology and information technology and as such “directly contributes to the key skills required in Ireland’s knowledge-based economy”.
In 2012, 5,319 candidates sat the exam, with the predicted 2015 figure standing at 5,705.
“The allocated funding has been increased accordingly and will ensure that this important subject continues to go from strength to strength,” she said.
Letters will issue to schools detailing the amount of money they’re being allocated, based on the number of students who had taken the subject in the past three-four years.
The Department has also purchased support software from Solid Solutions Ireland for six years and three months, at a cost of €299,000.
Tourism Ireland Board Meets in Sligo
The Sligo Park Hotel was the venue for the May board meeting of Tourism Ireland, which took place on Thursday, 7th May.
The board members took the opportunity to meet with local tourism operators prior to the meeting, to discuss the upcoming peak season and the extensive promotional programme which Tourism Ireland is undertaking to highlight Sligo, the North West and the island of Ireland around the world this year.
Speaking after the board meeting, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “We were delighted to be in Sligo for this month’s board meeting and to have the chance to meet with representatives of the tourism industry from Sligo and to hear directly how business is shaping up for the upcoming peak season.”
Man falls flat on his face behind Vincent Browne live on air
TV3 broadcaster Vincent Browne can’t help but chuckle when somebody faceplants behind him as he says his intro on Tonight with Vincent Browne.
During the opening of the show, which was broadcast from the Headfort Arms Hotel in Kells, the unlucky man stumbles and falls, landing at the presenter’s feet, prompting
Vincent to look down in surprise and exclaim, “Somebody’s just fallen down beside me” much to the delight of audience and guests alike.
Robot pets way of future, could change human relationship with animals, researcher says
Robot pets could be common place in 10 years’ time and change the way we interact and relate with the real things, a Melbourne researcher believes.
Dr Jean-Loup Rault from Melbourne University studies animal welfare and the way humans and animals interact with each other.
Recently, he has been looking into how technology has changed the way we relate to animals and pets.
“We know very little about robotic pets, virtual animals online and what they actually do to people,” Dr Rault said.
“Is that going to change the way we relate to animals? Can that be a substitute to a live pet?
“Technology is moving very fast. The Tamagotchi in the early 1990s was really a prototype of a robotic pet and now Sony and other big companies have elaborated a lot on what have become robotic animals.”
He said humans were able to become emotionally attached to objects.
“There’s anecdotal evidence and a few studies that show people actually develop a bond, some kind of emotional attachment to those robots,” Dr Rault said.
“They know it’s not a live pet, they don’t consider it as a live animal but they also don’t consider it a mere object.
“It has an intermittent status between that of an animal and that of an object that projects some kind of personality.”
Dr Rault said robot pets could suit someone living in inner-city or high-density areas, as well as those with allergies and who were unable to look after a live animal.
But robotics expert Professor Maurice Pagnucco from the School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of New South Wales said there was still a big gap between the current technology and a “virtual pet”.
“I don’t think we’re at the point where you could have a reliable pet,” he said.
“They wouldn’t be at the same level as a real pet, at the moment they’re basically toys.
“But where we’ll be in the future, we can’t really say.”
Technology ‘now part of our normal lives’
Dr Rault said the growing popularity of robot pets also raised questions about the way humans developed socially.
“There are school programs that use animals to teach children about responsibility, if you replace those live animals with robotic animals that don’t need to feed, you just plug them in and turn them off, is that the same thing?” he said.
“Are they going to develop in a different way?
Maybe you have a dog that stays at home when you’re at work so you buy it a robotic companion, so it interacts with it when you’re gone.
Dr Jean-Loup Rault, researcher
“It raises some major ethical questions in the same way that Facebook has – does interacting with others on the site actually make you social or less social?”
Dr Rault said robot pets could also have a positive effect, with robotic baby seals being used in the United States to help people with Alzheimer’s.
“They found out if you gave them a robotic baby seal, people would interact with it and derive some benefits from it,” he said.
“Maybe you have a dog that stays at home when you’re at work so you buy it a robotic companion, so it interacts with it when you’re gone and it keep it company.
“It’s not replacing anything that we have, it’s creating something new.
“Now we think as them as strange, weird and perhaps creepy, but in 10 years’ time people may think it’s normal.
“The new generation is very different. This technology is part of their lives, it’s not seen as something extra.
“Will it change the way we interact with real animals? A difficult question to ask, but it is an interesting one.”