Generation Emigration Survey: Where are the Irish happiest?

Irish Times survey indicates 70% are more cheerful abroad than they were in Ireland

Canada is the country where Irish emigrants find greatest happiness, this year’s Irish Times Generation Emigration survey suggests.

Almost eight in ten (79 per cent) recent emigrants surveyed in Canada said they were happier there than they were in Ireland.

And the positivity extends well beyond the Canadian border. In all countries surveyed, a majority of Irish emigrants – 70 per cent – said they were happier in the countries they had moved to.

The satisfaction rate was 73 per cent in Australia and New Zealand, 72 in mainland Europe, 69 per cent in the US, 67 per cent in the UK, and 58 per cent in the rest of the world.


The survey, conducted by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of The Irish Times, interviewed 350 Irish-born people who had emigrated between 2008 and 2015. This is the second Irish Times poll of Irish emigrants. The first took place in 2012.

A comparison of the two surveys suggests emigrants are growing more contented. In the 2012 survey, just 56 per cent of recent emigrants said they were happier in their new homes than in Ireland.

“Lifestyle is the major factor for people moving to Canada,” says Ruairi Spillane, who moved to Vancouver in 2008 and now runs the Moving2Canada information website, and Outpost Recruitment, an agency specialising in construction and engineering.

“Wages are higher elsewhere and the immigration system has historically been more complicated here, so it is not the easy option, but lots of Irish fall in love the quality of life.”


Although emigrants are generally happier abroad, the survey also indicates that emigration brings challenges, chief among them homesickness. Thirty-one percent of respondents cite the distance from their loved ones as the greatest challenge they have faced since moving.

Survey participants in Canada were most likely to socialise with other Irish people, with 72 per cent saying they had a mainly Irish social circle.

Emigrants in Australia and New Zealand were most likely to have citizenship or permanent residency.

The UK has been the most popular destination for Irish emigrants since 2008 and is also the country where emigrants are most likely to move ahead in their careers or be promoted. Finding a place to live poses a particular challenge there, however.

The US has more illegal Irish residents than any other country surveyed, with 19 per cent of respondents saying they are living there illegally. Seventeen per cent of participants in the US have not been home since emigrating.