Ireland’s rate of emigration continues to increase, with statistics showing that at some times a person was leaving the country to live abroad every six minutes — the highest number since modern records began in the late 1980s.
New figures published Thursday show that 397,500 people have emigrated since Ireland’s financial crisis began in 2008. Most have traveled to Britain, Australia, and Canada in search of work, the Financial Times reported
During the same period, 277,400 people have returned or moved to Ireland, for a net outward migration figure of 120,100. In the 12-month period starting in April 2012, 10 people left every hour.
The outflow, which is continuing despite a slight dip in unemployment over the past year, has prompted calls for the government to do more to provide opportunities for young people.
The data provide a stark reflection of how the current economic crisis has affected the Irish, many of whom believed the country had rid itself of this longtime scourge during the “Celtic Tiger” boom period, which began during the 1990s and lasted until the mid-2000s.
Ireland experienced one of the highest immigration rates in the European Union in the early to mid-2000s, when its economy was overheating as a result of a property bubble. But when the financial crisis struck, net emigration returned in 2009.
Almost one-third of 15- to 24-year-olds, who grew up during an era when highly paid jobs were plentiful, are now out of work and even those with jobs have seen their wages slashed.
More than one-third of people leaving the country during the one-year period ending April 30 were between 15 and 24 years old. Of the 89,000 people who emigrated, some 50,000 were Irish citizens while the rest were nationals from other countries, the FT reported.
“Emigration is a reflex action for Irish people in times of crisis,” says Niamh Hourigan, doctor of sociology at University College Cork. “The hope is that many of these young people can come back with new skills when the economy eventually recovers.”
While Ireland slipped back into recession in the first quarter of the year, there are encouraging signs that employment has stabilized. Ireland’s Central Statistics Office said on Thursday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment fell to 13.7 per cent, down from 14.8 per cent a year earlier.
The number of employed people increased by 33,800 to reach 1.9 million during the same period.
The number of immigrants moving to Ireland is recovering after the sharp declines which occurred when the economic crisis first struck the country in 2008. Between April 2012 and April 2013, some 55,900 people immigrants arrived in the country, up from 52,700 a year earlier.
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