Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Are you a long-distance commuter rather than an emigrant?

A UCC researcher is exploring the phenomenon of long-distance, overseas commuting among Irish families

Tue, Jun 4, 2013, 00:01


David Ralph

The return of high levels of emigration in recent years has been much-debated. However, a largely “invisible” group of those currently recorded as “emigrants” may be better classified as “overseas commuters” – that is, people who travel abroad for work for much of the week or month, then return for short visits to their family back in Ireland.

A recent survey of 527 would-be emigrants overseen by Dr Piaras Mac Éinrí from UCC found that 27 per cent of those surveyed with children said they would not be emigrating with their partner or children. Dr Mac Éinrí interpreted this as showing an “increase in so-called ‘commuter migration’, that is when someone works abroad but returns home regularly to their partner or children, who are still living in Ireland”.

My name is David Ralph, and I am a researcher at the Institute for Social Sciences in the 21st Century at University College Cork. I am currently researching the phenomenon of long-distance, overseas commuting among Irish families.

I am looking to speak with families where one person in the family commutes overseas for work, then returns at regular intervals to spend time with their partner who remains in Ireland. I am looking to speak with both the “commuting” and the “non-commuting” partner.

Those willing to be interviewed can do so anonymously. Interviews should last no more than one to one-and-half hours, and can be carried out at a location of your choice. Interview questions will focus on the experience of commuting for families, what challenges and opportunities it presents.

This research is funded by the Marie Curie Foundation of the European Commission. The results will be published in academic journals. If interested, please email

David Ralph wrote about his PhD research on returning Irish emigrants for Generation Emigration in Managing sameness and difference: the experience of returning Irish emigrants.