A superficial glance at the emigration figures from the Irish Central Statistics Office seems like a good news story – the number of people emigrating from Ireland during the period April 2013 to April 2014 was 81,900, down 7,200 on the previous twelve months. This figure can be spun in a positive direction – a decrease in emigration is usually taken as a signifier of an improving economy.
However, scratch the surface of the statistics and the brain drain becomes stark. Fewer people may be leaving Ireland, but the number of graduates leaving has increased. From graph 1, it can be seen that graduate emigration is up. It’s up a lot – 29,000 people who emigrated last year were students prior to leaving. The previous year, that was 20,200. That’s a huge increase in just graduated students leaving within a twelve month period. Obviously, new Irish graduates are seeking greener grass across the world (see destination graph 2).
It is traditionally assumed that such a high flow of emigration is high unemployment – but an additional striking figure can be seen from graph 3. Contrary to perceptions, fewer than one in five of those leaving Ireland were unemployed. People are still flowing out of the country at a rate of 224 per day, 1568 per week, over 6720 every month. The country will be counting that cost in the future – the economic cost of exporting expensively educated young people, but also a loss of texture and vitality in society. Reasons for youth emigration are complex – perhaps it is low pay, job insecurity, or simply the fact that it is easier to emigrate when most of your worldy possessions fit in a backpack and banks are not knocking on the door for mortgage payments. What is clear is that young Irish people feel that they can do better elsewhere, and those in authority need to come up with solutions to stem the flow.
Header image by Michael Foley under