Difficulties on horizon for those planning to leave


BACKGROUND:Demand for labour in Britain is falling, and Australia is to overhaul its work permit system

EMIGRATION IS expected to continue at a pace next year but migration experts have warned that the prospects of obtaining visas and finding work in two of the most popular destinations for those leaving Ireland are to become more difficult.

The Australian permit system is to be overhauled from next July, with candidates seeking skilled immigrant visas set to be affected by the changes.

Liz O’Hagan of Australian Visa Specialists, a Co Kildare-based firm providing visa advice and services, said people seeking such permits would in future be asked to outline their skills in an expression of interest before being entered into a pool from which they may be selected to make an immigration application.

“The skills wanted could change at any time and the quotas will fill quickly,” she said. “Applicants still need to invest in the process, which could cost [hundreds of euro], with no guarantees of a successful outcome.”

O’Hagan also said New Zealand was become an increasingly popular destination for Irish construction workers due to the amount of building work being undertaken following the Christchurch earthquake in February.

Irish people arrived in New Zealand at a rate of more than 400 per month in the five months to December 4th.

As with waves of emigration in the 1950s and 1980s, Britain remains a popular destination for Irish emigrants, with the number of national insurance numbers issued to them increasing by 56 per cent in the year to June.

Mary Gilmartin of the department of geography at NUI Maynooth said she believed a form of “long-distance commuting” was occurring with people travelling back and forth to Britain to work.

She said members of the “negative equity generation” – people who bought properties at high prices during the boom years that they are now unable to sell or rent – were the most likely to do this, with one member of a couple remaining at home while the other travels to work.

“That’s more damaging in the longer term than young people leaving and returning after gaining experience in another country,” she said.

Philip O’Connell, research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute, said Britain would probably become a less attractive destination next year as labour demands were falling.

Britain’s Office for National Statistics has revised economic growth downwards for the second quarter of 2012, and unemployment jumped to a 17-year high of 8.3 per cent this month.

Central Statistics Office figures estimate that 252,100 people have emigrated from Ireland over the last four years, of which 99,700 were Irish citizens.

There was a rise in the number of Irish returning in the year to April (up 3,800 to 17,000) but the 17 per cent rise in Irish nationals leaving saw net outward migration increase by 60 per cent to 23,100 year on year.

Piaras Mac Éinrí of the department of geography in University College Cork said about half of the 500,000 people who emigrated in the 1980s and early 1990s returned to Ireland during the boom years.

He said migrants in their 30s were less likely to return than younger people as they were more inclined to start families or settle down at that stage in life.

“If we can’t create substantial growth in the next few years, the chances of some [emigrants] returning diminishes,” he said.

O’Connell said there had been a positive outcome for some Irish people who emigrated during the 1980s and came home in the Celtic Tiger years, with those returning commanding higher wages, having built up valuable “human capital” on their travels.