Many returnees are young with expired working visas

UK and Australia most popular destinations; number of children emigrating also on the rise


While the total flows contained in the latest migration figures are not unlike last year’s, there are some notable shifts.

A total of 89,000 people left Ireland in the year to April, 2.2 per cent up on the previous 12 months.

The population of non-Irish nationals here has risen for the first time since 2008. Some 2,500 fewer non-Irish left the country in the 12 months to April than the previous year, while a significant 8,100 arrived. Although the net increase of 2,100 is relatively small, it marks a turnaround on the last four years when those leaving significantly outnumbered new arrivals.

The number of Irish people moving back home is also worth noting. Some 15,700 Irish people moved back, and many will wonder why they are coming home at a time when so many are out of work.

A large percentage of this figure is made up of young people returning home after their working holiday visas for countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand expire, usually after a year or two if they can’t secure employer sponsorship.

And there are those who haven’t settled in their new homes abroad, or long-term emigrants who have always harboured a desire to return which may have been facilitated in recent years by the fall in property prices.

The numbers of Irish returning has fallen significantly in the last year however, from 20,600 to 15,700, showing perhaps that concerns about the chance of securing employment here are overriding other motivations.

The new Irish population in countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand is becoming more permanent too, with a notable increase in the numbers being granted permanent residency or citizenship.

The UK remains the most popular destination for people of all nationalities leaving Ireland, with 21,900 people moving there last year, almost three times the 2008 figure.

While a small proportion of this figure would be British citizens returning home to live, the majority would be young Irish moving to London in search of employment opportunities.

While Australia remains the second most popular destination, the numbers moving there fell quite significantly in the 12-month period covered by the CSO statistics, from 18,200 to 15,400.

Visa quotas
In contrast, the popularity of Canada has risen sharply, with 5,300 people moving there last year compared to just 3,000 in the previous 12 months.

This figure is likely to continue to rise, as visa quotas for Irish citizens, which have restricted the number of people allowed to apply for working holidays, was increased for 2013 and will almost double again next year.

Another striking element is the age profile of the typical emigrant. While the number of people emigrating from the 15-to-24-year-old age group has remained fairly static at around 35,000 over the last three years, the number aged 25 to 44 has increased dramatically, from 31,300 in 2011 to 41,000 last year.

The number of children under age 14 is also on the up, rising by 1,900 in the last year alone to 6,800.

These combined figures would indicate that a lot more families, who might have been slower than young single people to pack up and leave when the recession first hit, are seeing no alternative now but to move abroad.