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Irish emigration levels similar to the 1980s | Immigration Matters

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Forecasts suggest that 120,000 people will leave the country in 2010 and 2011, the Irish Times reports.

The number of people emigrating in search of jobs abroad in 2010 reached levels not seen since the 1980s as the unemployment rate in the Republic remained stubbornly above 13 per cent.

In the 12 months to April 2010, 65,300 people left the country, a figure just below the 70,600 people who emigrated in 1989 – a year when unemployment stood at almost 18 per cent. Emigration is expected to continue at a similar rate this year, with the Economic and Social Research Institute forecasting 120,000 people leaving the country in 2010 and 2011.

These figures are dramatic, although it must be recognised that 30,800 people came to live in Ireland in the year to April 2010. This creates a net migration figure to 34,500. Analysis from the Central Statistics Office also suggests a large number of emigrants (19,100) are citizens from eastern Europe, who are returning to their home countries after a period spent working in Ireland.

That leaves about 27,700 Irish citizens who have packed their bags and headed off for a new life in another country. What the statistics office doesn’t provide is an accurate answer to the question of where they are all going.

However, an analysis of the most recent migration statistics published by Australia, Canada, Britain, New Zealand and the US identifies these countries among the most popular destinations.

Australia, which has been a favourite destination for young Irish people in recent years, is now seeing an increase in long-term migration. The number of residence visas issued to Irish citizens is up 21 per cent. There has also been a recent surge in the number of visas issued by companies to Irish workers, some 2,290 visas over the past five months alone.

This trend towards long-term migration options has occurred during a year when the number of one-year working holiday visas for people aged under 31 years has fallen 35 per cent to 14,833.

Liz O’Hagan of Australian Visa Specialists says this fall can be explained by many young people now seeking more permanent job opportunities in Australia as they come to the end of their working holiday visa. She says the biggest increase seems to be in companies sponsoring Irish people on so-called 457 temporary work visas. She said these visas do not apply such strict criteria as the permanent residence visas offered under the migration programme, which require participants to prove they have worked for 12 months of the previous two years.

Neil Dundon, a Dubliner who arrived in Australia in 2004 and is now director of the RedDot recruitment company in Sydney, says he placed three Irish people with companies last month.

“Most are looking to stay for a few years – I’m sure to see out the worst of the recession back home. I think for any Irish out here – including myself – circumstance dictates whether they stay or go but right now there is no compelling reason to go home,” he said.

Canada is also issuing significantly more work permits to Irish citizens. In the first six months of 2010 it issued 3,077 temporary permits, which is more than the 3,047 issued in the whole of 2009.

New Zealand issued 434 residence visas to Irish citizens in the year to June 30th, 2010, compared to 292 a year earlier. It also issued 4,010 work visas in this period, compared to 3,936 visas in 2009.

Getting an accurate picture of emigration to the US, which is a traditional destination for Irish people, is difficult due to the large number of visa programmes for temporary migrants and long-term residents. Irish immigrant groups also report an increase in illegal immigration to the US by Irish citizens, which does not show up in official statistics, further complicating matters.

The difficulty of obtaining a work visa is clearly a deterrent for people who may otherwise consider moving to the US. Unemployment also remains stubbornly high in the US at 9 per cent, significantly higher than the unemployment rates in Australia (5 per cent) and Canada (7 per cent).

Britain, which was a favourite destination for Irish emigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, has seen only a moderate rise in the numbers in recent years. In the first six months of the year, 5,630 people registered for national insurance numbers enabling them to work in the country. This suggests the full-year figures in 2010 will rise above the 11,050 Irish people who registered in 2009. “The ease of access in terms of there being no visa restriction, the proximity, cheap travel, no language barrier and the size of the UK economy will mean that the UK will always be a primary destination for prospective Irish emigrants,” says Joe O’Brien, policy officer at Crosscare migrant project, which offers advice at its drop-in centre.

He said Crosscare is expecting a big increase in its pre-departure advice service next year because economic events over the past few months is making people think of more permanent emigration.

“Emigration now is not the life sentence that it once was. But that does not make it easier for people who feel forced to leave their family and home to find a decent living abroad,” said Mr O’Brien. Source: Irish Times.

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4 Responses to “Irish emigration levels similar to the 1980s”
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  1. […] since 1987. The current Coalition presided over the loss of 250,000 private-sector jobs, and the emigration of 65,300 people in 2010. Up to 50,000 young people are expected to follow them in 2011. In times of […]

  2. […] ippr also estimates an increased influx of people coming in from Ireland, with 120,000 Irish nationals expected to leave the Republic in 2010 and 2011. And continued inflows from Eastern Europe are also likely – the latest data on […]

  3. […] Irish emigration levels similar to the 1980s […]

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