Tens of thousands of Irish people are expected to move abroad in 2011 to seek jobs and get away from the country’s financial gloom with many going to the UK, Canada, the US, New Zealand and Australia.
Since 2007, the number of Irish people immigrating to Canada has risen by 80% and the UK is seeing 1,000 Irish nationals arriving per month.
Last year, 3,462 Irish immigrants gained permanent residency in Canada and over 1,500 moved permanently to Australia.
Emigration among Irish nationals has increased significantly in the year, from 18,400 in April 2009 to 27,700 in the 12 months to April 2010. According to the Economic and Social Research Institute, net migration from Ireland may reach 60,000 in 2011.
The Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU), one of Ireland’s largest trade unions, now trains its members for work overseas. Unemployment in Ireland stood at 13.4% in December 2010 and there is an increasingly aging population with the estimated number of persons aged 65 years and over now exceeding half a million for the first time ever.
New figures show Irish citizens have received 21% more long term resident visas for Australia, 49% more New Zealand resident visas and 33% more US immigrant visas.
The figures from the Central Statistics Office also show that 65,300 people emigrated in the year to April 2010, the highest number leaving the country since 1989.
Dr Alan Barrett, who co-ordinates the migration programme at the Economic and Social Research Institute, said the emigration figures reflected one of the most depressing aspects of the economic downturn. He said, given there are few job opportunities in Ireland, it was probably preferable that people went away to work elsewhere to maintain their skills.
The move abroad though is not always an easy one. Leaving family and friends can be hard and those who move to Canada and Australia find that they have to pay for everything in cash while they get their registration sorted out. ‘It is very hard to get established here. It took months to get health care coverage,’ said one woman who moved to Canada and whose husband works in the construction industry.
Spouses and partners can also find it difficult to get a job, even if they are highly qualified. One doctor whose husband took up a job in a teaching hospital in the US said that she still has not been able to work a year since moving from Dublin. ‘There is an unbelievable amount of red tape. Even basic issues like buying a car is hard as you have a zero credit rating,’ she added.
An Irish immigration centre in Philadelphia where there is an established Irish community said it receives calls on a daily basis from people in Ireland wanting to move to the US. There are also concerns about people becoming illegal immigrants by arriving in the US on a tourist visa and then overstaying.