A plan to provide a support service for emigrants before they leave the country – and a strategy to lure them back to Ireland when jobs become available, is to be developed by an Oireachtas committee.
The move was agreed by members of the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation following the presentation of a report to the committee by the National Youth Council of Ireland which showed an estimated 177,000 young people between the ages of 15 to 24 left the country in the last five years.
The report entitled Time To Go also showed an estimated 209,000 people in the 25 to 44-year-old bracket also left during the same period.
Senior policy officer at the Youth Council Marie-Claire McAleer said its research had showed that of those who left some 47 per cent were in employment at the time of leaving, but just 39.5 per cent said they would be interested in returning.
She said while the figures indicated many people were being pushed into emigration there was also an element of "pull" in the attractions of a new life abroad.
Lack of data
However, she told the committee that whatever the reasons, "Ireland needs these people" for their skills, for societal reasons, and for the economy.
But she said there was very little data available on who was going, what their skills were and where they were going.
Even the Youth Council’s own study was based largely on estimates because the Central Statistics Office did not differentiate between who was Irish and who was not when they were leaving the country, she said.
Of the 39.5 per cent who said they would be interested in coming back, it was not surprising that more did not want to come back given they did not get any help to go in the first place.
The kind of help she said that could be provided was a country-by-country breakdown of what sort of Irish social networks such as the GAA were there for them in the host countries when they emigrated and what sort of jobs might be available.
Committee chairman Damien English said the country “needed to get over the nervousness” about providing help for people to emigrate. “We need to grow up an just accept it,” he said.
Mr English proposed developing a plan for support services for emigrants and a strategy to bring them back to Ireland when the time was right.
Labour TD John Lyons said there was work being done in the area of job creation at home.
While he was aware that colleagues had “got an awful beating” for suggesting there was an element of choice in some emigration, there was “push and pull factors”.
The Government had recently updated “Pathways to Work” a plan aimed particularly at youth unemployment, said Mr Lyons.