Inflow of migrants may have been underestimated

Fri, Jul 1, 2011, 01:00

IMMIGRATION:HIGH LEVELS of immigration helped drive population growth over the past five years, with 118,650 more people arriving to live in the country than leaving.

Central Statistics Office officials said they may have underestimated the high level of net inward migration and overestimated emigration rates in recent research.

The officials said they may now have to re-examine some of the population estimates which they have published previously.

Overall the Census 2011 figures show that the extraordinarily high net migration rates charted by the previous census undertaken in 2006 have moderated. The annual average inflow of people coming to live in the State between 2006-2011 was 23,730, half that recorded by the previous census covering 2002- 2006.

The Central Statistics Office said the pattern of migration recorded by Census 2011 is also “markedly different”from the previous census results, with net outward migration beginning in the second half of the census period.

The preliminary census figures published yesterday do not give a year-by-year breakdown on net migration.

However, the Central Statistics Office population and migration estimates report, which was published last year, showed net outward migration of 34,500 in the year to April 2010.

James Wickham, director of the employment research centre at Trinity College Dublin, said it was not surprising there was an under-reporting of migrants during the boom as they tended to live transitory and very mobile lives. He said this made them difficult to track in official statistics.

“I’m also convinced there has been an overestimation in the reported emigration rates. There was an assumption all migrant workers would leave immediately but that hasn’t happened,” said Mr Wickham.

The Economic and Social Research Institute has estimated that 100,000 people will emigrate over the next two years as people seek opportunities abroad to escape unemployment at home.

Net outward migration has varied considerably over the past 50 years.

Strong outward migration during the 1950s led to a population low point of 2.8 million being recorded in the 1961 census.

Net inward migration appeared briefly in the 1970s with an annual average of 14,000 people between 1971 and 1979.

This quickly reverted to net outward migration again throughout the 1980s with a record low point of 44,000 in 1989, says the Census 2011 preliminary report.