Emigration of Irish nationals falls 20% in year to April

Just one in five emigrants unemployed before leaving, new CSO figures show

The number of Irish people emigrating for better opportunities abroad fell for the first time in seven years last year, dropping 20 per cent from 50,900 to 40,700.

Figures published by the Central Statistics Office show a total of 81,900 people of all nationalities moved out of Ireland in the 12 months to April, down 8 per cent on the 89,000 recorded in 2012/13.

Immigration has also increased, with the numbers arriving here (including returning Irish nationals) from other countries up 8.4 per cent, from 55,900 to 60,600.

The biggest rise in immigration came from countries outide the EU, with figures up 8.4 per cent to 25,500 people. The net increase in non-Irish nationals in Ireland is estimated to be close to 11,200, about 20 per cent of whom are Brazilian.


Fewer than one in five emigrants of all nationalities were unemployed before leaving Ireland, the figures also reveal, with the majority either at work or studying before departure. It is the first time the CSO has analysed the economic status of migrants entering and leaving the country.

A breakdown of emigration by level of education, also published for the first time, shows 47 per cent of emigrants had a degree or third level qualification.

About 29,000 people who emigrated last year were students prior to leaving, up from 20,200 the previous year, indicating a further rise in graduate emigration.


Despite a fall of 18 per cent in the numbers of people moving from Ireland to the UK, it continued to be the most popular destination for migrants of all nationalities, with 17,900 going there in the 12-month period.

Australia saw the biggest fall in popularity, with the number of people arriving from Ireland declining 35 per cent, from 15,400 to 10,000. Canada also witnessed a drop, from 5,300 in 2012/13 to 4,700 in 2013/14, despite an increase in the allocation of Canadian working holiday visas for Irish people this year and last.

The number of Irish males leaving continues to exceed the number of females, by 22,700 to 18,000.

Irish people returning to live in Ireland from abroad made up 11,600 of the total number of immigrants, down from 15,700 the previous year and almost half the figure in 2008, when 23,800 people moved home.

Combined with the fall in the number of Irish emigrating, this resulted in a net outward migration figure of 29,200 Irish people, down from 35,200.

Senior research and policy officer with the National Youth Council of Ireland Marie-Claire McAleer said that while the drop in the number of Irish people emigrating was to be welcomed, the figure was still far too high.

“Many of [THEM]are highly skilled and educated. This represents a brain drain and will inhibit our economic recovery. We need a pool of well-educated people to attract investment and stimulate and sustain economic growth,” she said.

The NYCI is calling on the recently appointed Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan to put more supports in place to help those who wish to move back home to do so. “We hope the new minister will use his ministry to connect and engage with the new wave of young emigrants, and facilitate return migration to avoid the permanent loss of valuable skills from the Irish economy,” she added.

Population increase

The number of births in the period was 67,700 and the number of deaths was 29,800, resulting in a natural increase of the population of 37,900.

The combined effect of the natural population increase and migration brought the total Irish population to 4.61 million in April, up 16,500 on the same month in 2013. Of this total, 4,045,300 are Irish nationals, 114,900 are from the UK, 268,800 are from the rest of the EU, and 180,500 are from the rest of the world.

The figures are calculated using information from the Quarterly National Household Survey, combined with data on the number of PPS numbers issued in the State as well as the number of visas issued for Irish people in the major English-speaking destinations such as Australia, the United States and Canada.

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny, founding editor of Irish Times Abroad, a section for Irish-connected people around the world, is Editor of the Irish Times Magazine