More jobs not having expected impact on migration figures

Analysis: Quality of work, wages and living costs driving people away

Almost 40,000 people with a third-level qualification emigrated from Ireland in the 12 months to April. Photograph: Thinkstock

Almost 40,000 people with a third-level qualification emigrated from Ireland in the 12 months to April. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

When the Government published its first diaspora policy in March this year, encouraging emigrants who had left the country in their droves to return was at the centre of the launch. Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he expected outward migration of Irish people to fall significantly this year, and that 2016 would be the year when returning Irish emigrants would outnumber those leaving.

But figures from the Central Statistics Office published on Wednesday show the number of Irish people who left Ireland in the 12 months to April was down just 13 per cent on the previous year, with 35,300 emigrating in the period.

The number of Irish people returning from abroad increased slightly to 12,100, but it was from a very low base of just 11,600, the lowest figure since CSO records began in 1996.

The trends are certainly moving in the right direction, but not as quickly as the Government would hope. So why are so many Irish still emigrating, and so few returning, when Ireland is supposed to be in recovery mode?

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Unemployment hit a six-year low of 9.5 per cent in July, the CSO also announced, which must be encouraging for people who want to stay in Ireland, or for those living abroad who are planning to return. But job prospects are not the only push and pull factors, which is emphasised by the fact that just one in seven of those who emigrated last year were unemployed before they left.

The number of third-level graduates leaving Ireland is also on the rise. Almost 40,000 people with a degree or higher moved abroad in the 12 months to April. While a significant proportion of the returning Irish and immigrants of other nationalities moving to Ireland have third-level qualifications, we have lost a net 56,200 graduates since 2010.

This points clearly towards a dissatisfaction with the quality of work on offer to newly qualified graduates, who are not being given the support they need to start their careers here in Ireland. A culture of unpaid internships, when rents are soaring and the cost of living is also on the up, is driving young people away who simply cannot afford to stay.

Over the past seven years, high emigration rates, combined with low birth rates in the late 1980s and early 1990s, have led to a 34 per cent drop in the number of 20- to 24-year-olds living in the country, and a 27.5 per cent drop in 25- to 29-year-olds.

The National Youth Council of Ireland has warned that a failure to attract young emigrants back could have serious social and economic policy implications for the country in the future.

“Maximizing the rate of return of the current wave of young Irish emigrants back to Ireland as the economy starts to recover is critical for both social and economy recovery,” says Marie-Claire McAleer, senior policy officer with the NYCI. “But it depends on the availability of good quality employment and effective Government policies to reduce the high cost of living and address the housing crisis which serve as barriers to return for many young people.”

Case study: 'For me to come back, I'd need the security of a full-time job'

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