Emigrants 'leaving by choice'


A majority of those who emigrated from Ireland in the past few years left the country out of choice and did not feel they were forced to do so, according to a major survey of attitudes among recent emigrants.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos MRBI for The Irish Times, found that 59 per cent of emigrants left out of choice while 41 per cent said they were forced to emigrate.

Another important finding was that 72 per cent of those who have left the country intend to return to Ireland to live at some stage.

The findings appear to back the contention of Minister for Finance Michael Noonan that emigration is a lifestyle choice for many who have left the country in recent times. The Minister was widely criticised for making the comment in January.

The survey was conducted through telephone interviews with a cross-section of emigrants in terms of gender, age, place of origin in Ireland and destination abroad. The people interviewed were Irish nationals who had left the country since 2008 as emigrants. 

The sample was identified by Ipsos MRBI interviewers and research took place between March 1st and 13th. It covered emigrants across the globe.

One key finding was that 72 per cent of those surveyed were in paid jobs when they decided to emigrate, while 28 per cent were unemployed. 

Of those in jobs who emigrated, 42 per cent listed the desire for change as the main reason for their decision, 40 per cent gave their own or their partner’s work needs at the reason, and 17 per cent said personal reasons were behind the decision.

A total of 93 per cent who had jobs before they left Ireland are now employed in their new destinations. Asked if their new job was better than the one they had left behind, 75 per cent said better, 10 per cent said not as good and 14 per cent about the same.

Of those who were unemployed before they emigrated, 83 per cent gave work as the main reason for their decision to leave, with 7 per cent citing personal reasons and 9 per cent the desire for a change. 

A substantial majority of the unemployed who emigrated said they would have stayed in Ireland if they had been able to find work. 

Among all of those who emigrated, 94 per cent found work. 

Only 44 per cent of them had jobs lined up before they left, with a majority having to find a job after arriving in their country of choice. 

The majority of emigrants had some third-level qualifications: 25 per cent had a third-level certificate or diploma, 42 per cent had a primary degree, 16 per cent had a master’s degree and 2 per cent a PhD. Just 15 per cent of those who left had just a second-level education. 

A large majority, 72 per cent, have been home on a visit since they left, while 57 per cent have had a visit from a family member in their new homes.

Almost half of those surveyed, 48 per cent, emigrated alone, with 24 per cent going with a spouse or partner, 3 per cent with their children and 25 per cent with friends or work colleagues. 

A total of 70 per cent of emigrants believe they should continue to have a vote in Irish elections, with just 12 per cent disagreeing and 19 per cent having no opinion.

Asked who they would vote for, 40 per cent gave no opinion, about twice the norm for polls between elections. Of those with an opinion the political views of recent emigrants were close to those of people at home with Fine Gael on 34 per cent; Fianna Fáil 20 per cent; Labour 19 per cent; Sinn Féin 7 per cent; Greens 1 per cent; Independents 19 per cent and Others 1 per cent.