165,300 young people have emigrated over the last 5 years, conference told
The main message that emerged from the NYCI Conference on Return Migration, ‘Home is where the Heart is’ is that now the economy is starting to show signs of recovery, the Govermnent must begin considering strategies to facilitate and encourage return migration in the future. The conference, organised by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI), took place in Dublin Castle on the 16th September and was opened by Minister for Diaspora Affairs Jimmy Deenihan T.D.
Minister Deenihan became Ireland's first minister in charge of diaspora affairs earlier this year recognising the importance of our Irish migrants abroad and the need for reach out to them.
After congratualting the NYCI for organising the event, he spoke of how we have witnessed huge numbers of people leave Ireland ,"some because they felt they had no other choice, some to enhance their experience and to improve their options and others because they sought new challenges."
The new Minster also noted that "the loss of the youth of our country will create problems in the future" and that this is an issue that needs to be addressed now. He recognised the need to encourage young emigrants with their new skills, experience, and confidence to return to Ireland, that the loss of so many young people was a huge blow to Irish society as we lost "Their innovation, their creativity and their capacity to challenge established norms and ideas." He went on to say: "It is vital that we encourage as many of these back to Ireland as possible. We need their fresh thinking. "
The strategy Minister envisaged for encouraging migrants back was one of job creation and also working to re-train and re-skill people for transition into areas where there is jobs. He also recognised the importance of all Irish emigrants and their communities and networks abroad and highlighted the GAA as a "vital network overseas" and noted how it has become such a wide reaching network with teams in far flung areas of the world.
Speaking at the event, Marie-Claire McAleer, NYCI Senior Research and Policy Officer said it was welcome that a conversation about the realities of emigration has been started. Ms McAleer stated: “The appointment of a new Minister of State for the Diaspora provides the opportunity for the political system to respond in a practical and sensible manner to the issue of youth migration and has the potential to enhance and sustain the link between Ireland and its emigrating youth.”
The conference heard that in the year to April 2014 an estimated 33,500 young people aged 15-24 emigrated* and that the numbers of young people who have emigrated over the last 5 years is 165,300.
Reflecting on the numbers of young people who have left, and continue to leave the country since the start of the recession, Ms McAleer stated that: “a strategy to facilitate and support young people to return in the future, when there are jobs in the Irish Labour market is essential. It is also vital that we foster closer ties between Ireland and its emigrants.”
She added that “substantial work remains to be done to stem the tide of young people having to leave Ireland at present and to provide the opportunities for them to return in the future.”
Young people and industry bodies highlight barriers to return
The event brought together experts and representatives of industries most affected by the recent wave of emigration, including speakers from Construction Industry Ireland, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland.
The conference also heard from young people living abroad who spoke about the barriers they faced in seeking to return to Ireland. Some of the key deterrents identified included:
- Poor infrastructure
- Precarious working conditions and poor salaries
- Lack of career opportunities and limited career progression options in Ireland
- Lack of affordable quality housing
NYCI’s Ms McAleer also warned of the social and economic implications of losing a significant proportion of the population's young people to emigration if these young people do not return, and stated that “in the context of a more competitive global market, we can no longer assume automatic return of migrant workers will happen organically”.
Ms McAleer concluded by stating that she hoped the outcomes of today’s conference would help to inform and influence the development of public policy on the diaspora.