Major report find that 1 in 4 rural households has been directly affected by the emigration of at least one member since 2006 and that for many emigrants this was not not a ‘lifestyle choice’. The study also disclosed that there was evidence of a 'brain drain' due to emigration with 62% of recent Irish emigrants holding a tertiary qualification.
Researchers at University College Cork have completed an extensive study on emigration in Ireland offering unparalleled insights into the breadth and complexity of Irish emigration today. Using cartographic and demographic data available for the first time in the 2011 Census, they have been able to explore Irish emigration today in a fine-grained and broad-based fashion not previously possible. Over the course of a year they have knocked on more than 2,400 doors in all parts of Ireland, collected detailed online data from more than 1,500 emigrants, surveyed more than 500 intending emigrants at jobs fairs and interviewed over 50 emigrants at length about their emigrant decisions, experiences and future plans.
Caption: The research team in Mayo L- R Dr Piaras Mac Éinrí (Principal Investigator), Tomás Kelly (Researcher), Cian Tobin (Postgraduate Researcher), Dr Irial Glynn (Researcher).
Levels of emigration are now running at almost four times what they were in 2006 showing the impact of the economic crisis. Many of those who are leaving are not unemployed – they are leaving jobs which they see as offering poor or limited prospects, and casting a vote of no-confidence in a country which they feel is failing their generation. The UCC team found a disturbing gap between the number of those who ‘would like’ to return and those who felt it was ‘likely’ that they actually would come back. While many though by no means all are generally doing well in their host countries, for some, the future is uncertain for visa reasons (Australia, Canada).
SOME KEY FINDINGS
· Today's emigrants are much more likely to have a high standard of education than the population in general. While 47% of Irish people aged between 25-34 hold a tertiary qualification of three years or more, 62% of recent Irish emigrants hold the equivalent qualification, suggesting that graduates are over-represented amongst those leaving.
· Despite not necessarily experiencing the same level of unemployment as Spain or Greece, Ireland appears to have experienced significantly higher levels of emigration per capita than other Western European countries affected by the Eurozone crisis. Portuguese emigration comes closest to resembling the scale of Irish emigration.
· Over 17% of Irish emigrants worked in Ireland in the construction or construction-related industry. These people comprised tradesmen, civil engineers, architects, quantity surveyors and many others.
· Emigration continues to have a greater effect on rural parts of Ireland than on urban areas. At least one household in four in the extremely rural areas has been directly affected by the emigration of at least one member since 2006.
· 15.9% of households said that it was extremely likely that someone from their residence would emigrate in the next three years.
· Contrary to what many people might expect, 47% of today's emigrants were in fact employed in full-time jobs before leaving. Just under 40% of these emigrants left because they wanted to travel and to experience another culture. These were often people with qualifications that other countries coveted, such as valuable IT skills or health professionals. A significant proportion left to find another job or to attain job experience not available to them at home (43.6% combined).
· Underemployment was a major driving factor, with 13% of emigrants working in part-time jobs before their departure. Many were recent graduates who left to attain job experience abroad.
· Almost 23% of those leaving were unemployed before departing. The great majority of those unemployed left to find a job (76%) or to gain work experience (8%).
· In 2008, 36% of emigrants left for work-related reasons. By 2012, the equivalent figure had risen to 65%.
· The UK and Australia are by far the two most popular destinations for Irish emigrants. Canada is becoming an increasingly important destination, especially as 10,700 2-year working holiday visas will be available for Irish citizens in 2014.
· 28% of emigrants had previous experience of living abroad, a factor which may have helped them to settle in their more recent destinations.
· Ireland trails behind the rest of Europe, as well as many less developed countries in its attitude towards emigrants voting. The research revealed that the overwhelming majority of the Irish population support emigrants' right to vote in presidential (79%) and general elections (69%) in some form or another.
· Although 39.5% out of all recent emigrants would like to return to Ireland in the next three years, only 22% see it as likely. 82% of all emigrants said that improvements to the Irish economy would improve their likelihood of returning.
· Emigrants living in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and America often hold visas of a limited duration. Less than 10% of emigrants on visas of a fixed duration intend to return to Ireland when their visas expire. 68% would like to extend their visas if possible. It is difficult to predict whether people will always be successful in attaining an extension or permanent residency as it often depends on various factors in the country hosting emigrants.
· Irish emigrants maintain strong connections with home via social networks, texts, Skype, email and telephone calls. Over 70% of emigrants use Skype and telephone calls to regularly maintain contact with family and friends in Ireland. Over 90% of emigrants use Facebook and other social network sites to keep updated.
The results of this research have highlighted how complicated a topic emigration is and how nuanced individuals' experiences of emigration can be. There exists no single emigrant who is typical of today's Irish emigrant, and no single set of circumstances or experiences that can be prescribed as being typical of Irish emigrants. In fact, there are a number of 'types' of emigrant, from the commonly portrayed educated younger person in the media, to less educated emigrants who felt forced to leave out of economic necessity, to older emigrants who have left mortgages and/or children at home in Ireland. This report aims to represent the variety of emigrants who are leaving Ireland today, their disparate motivations and experiences, and their concerns for the future. It is hoped that the findings outlined will stimulate a number of public, academic and policy level debates on emigration.