Ciara Kenny

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

From today’s paper: More analysis of the CSO migration stats

UK and Australia most popular destinations; number of children emigrating also on the rise

Fri, Aug 30, 2013, 10:38


Ciara Kenny

While the total flows contained in the latest migration figures from the Central Statistics Office are not unlike last year’s, there are some notable shifts. A total of 89,000 people left Ireland in the year to April, 2.2 per cent up on the previous 12 months.

The population of non-Irish nationals here has risen for the first time since 2008. Some 2,500 fewer non-Irish left the country in the 12 months to April than the previous year, while a significant 8,100 arrived. Although the net increase of 2,100 is relatively small, it marks a turnaround on the last four years when those leaving significantly outnumbered new arrivals.

The number of Irish people moving back home is also worth noting. Some 15,700 Irish people moved back, and many will wonder why they are coming home at a time when so many are out of work.

A large percentage of this figure is made up of young people returning home after their working holiday visas for countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand expire, usually after a year or two if they can’t secure employer sponsorship.

And there are those who haven’t settled in their new homes abroad, or long-term emigrants who have always harboured a desire to return which may have been facilitated in recent years by the fall in property prices.

The numbers of Irish returning has fallen significantly in the last year however, from 20,600 to 15,700, showing perhaps that concerns about the chance of securing employment here are overriding other motivations.

The new Irish population in countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand is becoming more permanent too, with a notable increase in the numbers being granted permanent residency or citizenship.

The UK remains the most popular destination for people of all nationalities leaving Ireland, with 21,900 people moving there last year, almost three times the 2008 figure.

While a small proportion of this figure would be British citizens returning home to live, the majority would be young Irish moving to London in search of employment opportunities.

While Australia remains the second most popular destination, the numbers moving there fell quite significantly in the 12-month period covered by the CSO statistics, from 18,200 to 15,400.

In contrast, the popularity of Canada has risen sharply, with 5,300 people moving there last year compared to just 3,000 in the previous 12 months.

This figure is likely to continue to rise, as visa quotas for Irish citizens, which have restricted the number of people allowed to apply for working holidays, was increased for 2013 and will almost double again next year.

Another striking element is the age profile of the typical emigrant. While the number of people emigrating from the 15-to-24-year-old age group has remained fairly static at around 35,000 over the last three years, the number aged 25 to 44 has increased dramatically, from 31,300 in 2011 to 41,000 last year.

The number of children under age 14 is also on the up, rising by 1,900 in the last year alone to 6,800.

These combined figures would indicate that a lot more families, who might have been slower than young single people to pack up and leave when the recession first hit, are seeing no alternative now but to move abroad.

Case study: ‘Here the opportunities are endless. If I went home I’d be on the dole again’

After two years of fruitless job searching, Jamie Ralph left Ireland for London last February. The 25-year-old from Tuam in Co Galway had just graduated from University College Cork with a Masters in politics. He had spent the previous year doing unpaid internships and looking for permanent work.

“I began sending CVs speculatively to employers in London as I had heard stories of other Irish graduates who had no problem securing employment in the UK. From the beginning I was getting a much more enthusiastic response from employers than I had been getting in Ireland,” he says.

“My girlfriend has just graduated as a nurse and had job offers from recruitment agencies in London to work for a much higher salary than the new HSE recruitment scheme that was offering graduate nurses a very low wage. It became a no-brainer.”

He chose London because of the good employment prospects, the lack of a language barrier and a long history in his family of emigrating to London. He now works as communications officer for an organisation representing GPs in London.

“I’m going to try build a career here as the opportunities are endless. At some stage I would love to be able to be successful in Ireland but at the moment it’s impossible. If I went home now, or in the next couple of years, I’d be signing on the dole again.”

He is not surprised by the figures published yesterday by the Central Statistics Office which show the number of Irish people emigrating continued to rise in the 12 months to April.

“When I was queuing for my flight to London there was quite a few other families saying goodbye to loved ones. It’s a common sight on every flight out of Ireland these days.

“I would estimate at least half of my Leaving Cert class have emigrated, mostly to Australia, the US and Canada. Out of her five grandchildren, my 92-year-old grandmother has only one grandchild left in Ireland.”

This article appears in the newspaper today, alongside yesterday’s full news report on the CSO figures. The Population and Migration Estimates April 2013 document can be downloaded from the CSO website.