Irish make up more than half of 76,400 emigrants

Thu, Dec 29, 2011, 00:00

THE NUMBER of Irish people moving to Britain, Canada, New Zealand, the US and Australia increased over the last year as the flat economy and jobs market continued to drive emigration.

New figures show a 56 per cent rise in the number of British national insurance numbers issued to Irish people over the last year, and that the number of temporary Irish residents in Australia increased by almost one-third.

They also show the number of Canadian visas issued to Irish citizens in the first half of this year exceeded the total for all of 2010, and that in the second half of this year Irish workers were arriving in New Zealand at an average rate of more than 400 per month.

Figures from five of the most likely destinations for Irish emigrants are in line with recent data from the Central Statistics Office which shows 76,400 people emigrated from Ireland in the year to the end of April, an increase of 16.9 per cent. The data indicates that, for the first time since the recession began, more than half of those who left Ireland during the year were Irish citizens.

A total of 40,200 Irish citizens emigrated in the year to April, up from 27,700 in 2009/10 and 18,400 in 2008/09. There was also a 43 per cent increase in the number of women emigrating to 17,100.

Dr Mary Gilmartin, of the NUI Maynooth department of geography, said the spike in female emigrants could partly be attributed to reduced public sector recruitment – with work difficult to find in professions such as teaching and nursing.

There was also a rise in the number of Irish returning to the State in the same period (up 3,800 to 17,000) but net outward migration among Irish people increased by 60 per cent from 14,400 to 23,100 year on year.

Britain and Australia remain the most regular landing points for Irish emigrants with the numbers seeking work in Britain last year rising significantly.

Some 16,130 national insurance numbers were issued to Irish citizens in the 12 months to the end of March, a 56 per cent increase on the previous year.

In Australia, the number of temporary Irish residents increased by 6,193 to 20,493 in the first six months of this year. There was a rise of 3,311 in the number of working holidaymakers, aged between 18 and 30, in the six months to the end of June to 12,945.

The number of Irish people employed on sponsored skilled work (long stay) visas increased by 2,877 in the six months to the end of June to 7,421, highlighting that more Irish emigrants are filling posts where skill deficits exist.

Canada issued 3,869 work permits to Irish citizens in the first six months of this year, more than the 3,729 it issued during all of 2010.

This continues a steady growth in Irish workers relocating to Canada with 3,047 permits issued in 2009 and 2,617 in 2008.

The US issued a total of 17,755 non-immigrant visas – covering students’ work programmes, intra-company transfers and other temporary workers – in the 11 months to December, a 22 per cent increase on the previous year.

A total of 306 immigrant visas were issued to Irish people in the 11 months to December, a slight increase on the previous year. Irish immigrant groups in the US also reported an increase in the number of undocumented Irish who remained in the country after their visas expired.

New Zealand’s department of labour said a total of 4,400 Irish people were granted work permits in the year to the end of June, up 10 per cent. Year-long working holiday visas accounted for about 60 per cent of the total.

More recent figures from New Zealand, for the five months to December 4th, suggest the number of Irish people arriving is on course to increase again, with a total of 2,092 work permits granted in the period.

Philip O’Connell, research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute, said current projections indicated a further 75,000 or so people would emigrate next year.

He said migration was driven by the labour market and economic factors and the numbers leaving were unlikely to decline until there is sustained economic growth and a significant drop in the unemployment rate, which currently stands at 14.4 per cent.