Irial Glynn, Piaras Mac Éinrí, Tomás Kelly


©EMIGRE Project, University College Cork. Do not reproduce without permission



These preliminary results are based on a survey undertaken at the Working Abroad Expo in Dublin on 2/3 March and Cork on 6 March 2013. The survey was carried out by members of the Emigre team, funded by the Irish Research Council and based at the Department of Geography and the Institute for Social Sciences in the 21st Century (ISS21) at University College Cork. The team consists of Dr Irial Glynn, Dr Piaras Mac Éinrí (Principal Investigator) and Tomás Kelly. In all, 527 questionnaires were returned. To see the questionnaire used for the survey, please go to page 10.


Main reasons for moving abroad



Most people are thinking of emigrating for work-related reasons. This is totally at odds with the 'lifestyle choice' line favoured by the Government (and, it should be said, all previous governments - remember Brian Lenihan Snr's comment in 1987 'after all, we can't all live on a small island').


‘Choice’ or ‘constraint’?



This question was also intended to address the question of the extent to which emigration is seen as involuntary, on one hand, or as a quest for a better quality of life, on the other. It is difficult to interpret the results with any degree of confidence. It could be that a person is a 'reluctant' emigrant in the sense that if things here were better s/he would not leave, but they might still 'want' to leave because the prospects here are bleak.

Where would respondents move to?


The most important destination in terms of overall Irish emigration numbers is, as has been the case since the 1930s, the UK. The data shown here reflect the countries of origin of the exhibitors at this jobs fair, who were exclusively from Australia and Canada. Nonetheless, it is true that Irish people today are emigrating to a much broader range of destinations than in the 1950s or 1980s, such as Australia and Canada, but also including locations such as the Middle East.


Nationality of respondents



85% of respondents were Irish and 15% came from other countries. This is slightly more than the Census data for the number of foreign nationals in Ireland. It is only since 2011 that the number of Irish people leaving the country has outnumbered foreign nationals.


Rural or urban origin


The majority of the population today lives in cities, suburbs and towns. This is reflected in the places of origin of those considering emigration, a major change when viewed in comparison with traditional emigration from rural Ireland.


Gender of respondents


59% of all respondents were male and 41% female. This may be due in part to the fact that 21% of all respondents had a construction-related background and that a number of exhibitors at the fair were offering jobs in related sectors. However, this trend also largely reflects recent emigration flows since males have outnumbered females.


Family  Status

About half of those surveyed were married or had partners. This reflects, among other things, the number of older would-be migrants and is very different from the traditional picture of young, single adults.

27% of all respondents had children, which suggests that whole families are thinking about leaving. Approximately one quarter of the people with children, however, do not intend to bring their children with them if they leave. This demonstrates the increase in so-called ‘commuter migration’, that is when someone works abroad but returns home regularly to their wife or partner and children, who are still living in Ireland.


A number of respondents who did have families (either partner/spouse or partner/spouse and children) expressed their intention of emigrating alone. It may be that they are would-be 'commuter migrants', living partly in Ireland and working elsewhere. It may also reflect complex family circumstances.


Age of respondents


44% of all those surveyed were over 30. This is an astonishing figure in light of traditional emigration, which was primarily associated with young people. However, it may reflect the attendance at this particular job fair, aimed as it was at people with appropriate qualifications and experience and thus not necessarily typical of the population in general.


Education and/or Training


About half of all those surveyed had a degree or higher qualification. Only 15% had no post-secondary qualification, with the rest holding some kind of post-Leaving Certificate diploma, apprenticeship, degree, postgraduate or other qualification. This is not quite in line with OECD statistics on Irish education, which would suggest somewhat lower numbers of highly qualified people. Moreover, it may be that people in marginal situations, or who do not have the skills required to compete in a globalised world in which they may be disadvantaged in terms of qualifications and even basic literacy, would be relatively unlikely to attend a jobs fair such as this.


Current employment status



63% of those surveyed were in employment. Those who find themselves unemployed are not necessarily the most likely to emigrate, for a variety of reasons, including financial factors. This is consistent with earlier data on Irish emigration.


Previous experience of living abroad


39% of respondents have lived abroad previously for a period of at least a year.


Likelihood of leaving Ireland in next six months



There is an obvious bias in this data - why would anyone attend a working abroad jobs fair unless they at least were willing to consider the possibility of emigration. Nonetheless the figure of 45% for 'extremely likely' (to leave in six months) is striking.


Likelihood of return to Ireland in the future


There are a lot of 'don't knows' (45%). By way of comparison, about half of those who left in the 1980s came back, aided by a very vibrant economy in the late 1990s and early 2000s before the Celtic Tiger period took hold. 20% do not intend to return.


The questionnaire