Changing Face of Ireland

Changing Face Ireland emigration 2017
Photo: Sam Boal/

More Irish people leaving, but overall population sees highest increase in a decade

More Irish people are leaving Ireland than returning, with sharply rising numbers of skilled migrants among those emigrating.

New data released by Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows that 27,400 Irish nationals returned to the country in the year to the end of April 2017 – but a further 30,800 citizens emigrated.

The UK is still the favoured destination for people leaving Ireland, with 12,100 migrants – of all nationalities – crossing the Irish Sea in the 12- month period.

It follows on the news last week that there are 100,000 more Irish people living in Britain, than there are British people living in Ireland.

A potential note of concern for Ireland – which is said by economists to be booming once more – is the high numbers of qualified people still leaving Ireland, as record numbers of graduates left the country. A total of 64,800 people left, with 84,600 people arriving. Of these, 48,600 people entering Ireland were educated to third level, while 24,900 people leaving Ireland were graduates.

The figures show a net increase of 23,600 graduates leaving Ireland – a 15 per cent increase in the numbers of graduates leaving the country compared to the year ending April 2016.

Population increase

There was a net inward migration of plus-19,800 – the highest level since 2008. The number of births in the same period was 63,900 and the number of deaths was 30,800, a natural increase of 33,100, meaning an overall population increase of 52,900, the largest annual increase since 2008.

The Republic of Ireland’s population is now officially estimated, as of April of this year, to be 4.79 million – a 1.1 per cent annual increase. This is in line with global averages, as the world’s population is currently growing at a rate of around 1.12 per cent per year, down from 1.14 per cent in 2016.

But it is much sharper than the UK’s far below average of 0.8 per cent. The current global average population increase is estimated at 83 million people per year.

Annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at around two per cent.

Young people and employment

Despite the fact that more Irish people are leaving the country than returning, there is actually a decrease in the numbers of Irish citizens leaving.

Net outward migration of Irish nationals was estimated to be minus-3,400 in 2017, a decrease of 88.5 per cent on 2012 when net outward migration of Irish nationals peaked at minus-29,600.

In April 2017, 42,100, or 55.5 per cent, of immigrants aged 15 or over were in employment. The number of young people in Ireland is also dropping dramatically, with the number of people in their twenties in the country falling from 756,300 in 2011 to 640,300 this year.

Changing Face Ireland emigration 2017Changing Face Ireland emigration 2017
Irish Citizenship Ceremony. Pictured Clarisse Coelko originally from Brazil living in Co Tipperary. Photo: Sam Boal/

The number of 15-to 24- year-olds emigrating has fallen from 18,300 to 16,200, and the numbers of that age group returning have risen slightly, from 18,200 to 18,600.

Even though the UK remains the most popular destination for migrants from Ireland, this year’s figure of 12,100 arriving in Britain has fallen from 14,400 since last year, and 20,000 in 2011 when the numbers were at their peak.

A further 5,300 went to Australia, 22,600 went across the EU, 3,700 to Canada and 6,500 to the US.

Last week the CSO and the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) compared the UK to Ireland migrant habits. Despite the fact that there are high numbers of young qualified people leaving Ireland, and that the UK is the most popular destination for those leaving the country, there is still an ageing Irish population in Britain where 42 per cent of the Irish population in the UK are aged 65 years and over, compared with just 10 per cent of the British that are living in Ireland.

Fianna Fáil is the official opposition in Dail Eireann and keeps the minority Fine Gael government, led by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, in power in a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement.

Its spokesperson on jobs, Niall Collins, said Ireland can not afford to keep losing graduates at the numbers recorded.

“In the midst of a supposed economic recovery, this is a 15 per cent increase year on year,” he said. “Can our country really afford to be losing 500 graduates every week, many of whom are medical and nursing graduates who are desperately needed in the Irish health service?

“It’s clear that while there are job opportunities in Ireland, graduates are prioritising quality of life and cost of living when deciding where to work after graduation.

“The cost of housing in particular is damaging Ireland’s ability to hold onto its graduates.

“We are already hearing about a severe lack of graduates in IT and in science and technology.

“Our economy, our health system and our communities cannot afford to lose any more graduates. It’s time to arrest it to ensure that our country can continue to prosper and develop.”

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