Old and young emigrants live different lives

Under-25s more likely to have left voluntarily, and intend to stay short-term

The reasons for emigration and the duration you plan to live outside Ireland can vary greatly depending on your age. According to the results of an Ipsos MRBI poll for The Irish Times, younger people living abroad are more likely to say they emigrated voluntarily and that the intend to stay a shorter time, compared with over-35s who are more likely to have settled down abroad.

The Generation Emigration Survey interviewed 350 Irish nationals who had emigrated since 2008.

Of those under 25 living abroad, 84 per cent had emigrated by choice, compared with 41 per cent of over 35s who had felt “forced” to leave. While the majority of all ages were employed before they emigrated, of those who were unemployed, seven in ten of over-35s would have stayed had they found permanent employment at home. In comparison, more than eight in ten younger people would have “left anyway”.

Those under 25 are more likely to have emigrated alone or with friends, while those over 35 are more likely to have emigrated with a spouse or partner. The vast majority of those under 25 have no children, while 43 per cent of the over-35s have children under 12.


Most over-35s report wanting to find work or a better job as their reason for emigrating, while younger respondents are more likely to have left because they wanted to experience a change. Neither age group feels the economy has improved enough to offer enough opportunities to return home, though older respondents are slightly more pessimistic about this.

Of the under-25s, 39 per cent see themselves returning in the next three years. On the other hand, 29 per cent of over-35s do not see themselves returning at all, and over half of these list being settled and happy as their top reason not to return home. Since emigrating, 37 per cent of those over 35 have bought a home and 27 per cent have married, while no one under 25 has done either.

Of those who see themselves returning, younger respondents are most likely to return to settle down or because of homesickness, where family issues and job availability are among the top draws for older people.

Only 14 per cent of respondents feel that their quality of life would be better if they were to return home, but the over-35s more strongly feel an improved quality of life abroad.