The Irish Times view on national statistics: warning signs

The fact that more Irish emigrants are leaving the country than returning is cause for concern

An estimated 29,000 Irish nationals left the country in the year to April compared to the 26,900 who returned, according to the Central Statistics Office. Photograph: Kate Geraghty

An estimated 29,000 Irish nationals left the country in the year to April compared to the 26,900 who returned, according to the Central Statistics Office. Photograph: Kate Geraghty

 

New figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that the population of the State has continued to rise and has now reached 4.92 million. That is a remarkable turnaround in just a few decades, considering that the population had dropped to just 2.8 million in 1961. The rapid increase in population is a sign of just how far the country and its economy have come since the dark days of the 1950s. Ireland now receives a substantial flow of immigrants from other countries attracted by the jobs and quality of life they can obtain here.

Another piece of good news arising from the CSO’s work came in the latest Labour Force Survey, which showed a record 2.3 million people were employed in the Irish economy in the second quarter of 2019. This a remarkable turnaround since the low point of the crash.

However, the statistics also show some worrying trends which could be a sign of difficult days ahead. While employment increased on an annual basis, there was a decrease of 45,000 in the three months to the end of June compared to the previous quarter. This may be attributable to slower construction growth, uncertainty over Brexit and wider concerns about global trade. Given the increasingly gloomy outlook for Brexit there must be a serious worry that this could be a sign of much worse to come in the months ahead.

Another feature of the CSO figures giving grounds for concern is the fact that more Irish emigrants are leaving the country than returning after a period abroad. An estimated 29,000 Irish nationals left the country in the year to April, while 26,900 returned.

Some of the factors causing this trend are clearly the high cost of living and poor availability of affordable housing, either to rent or buy, particularly in the Dublin region. The high cost of insurance has also become an issue for returning emigrants. The availability of jobs is by itself clearly not enough to attract Irish people to return home. The trend highlights the failure of the Government to take effective action to deal with these persistent problems.

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