So What If Emigration Is Up? There's a Bigger Picture; MY VIEW

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), September 19, 2010 | Go to article overview

So What If Emigration Is Up? There's a Bigger Picture; MY VIEW


Emigration will be back in the news this week with the release of official figures showing an increase in the number of people leaving the country.

Emigration is nothing new. It has been with us since before the Famine and continued even during the boom years as many chose to go abroad to work, travel and gain experience.

The only difference was that during those Celtic Tiger years, there was more immigration than emigration. That continued until 2008. In the year to April 2009, there were 65,100 emigrants and 57,300 immigrants.

These latest figures, to be published by the Central Statistics Office on Tuesday, will confirm a continuation and consolidation of that trend during the year to April.

The population growth that marked our boom years is slowing to a halt and might even go into reverse.

It would be easy to view that as yet another piece of depressing news to add to all the other gloomy reports on the economy, the banks, the markets and bond yields. But there are many positives in the longerterm trends behind these latest population figures that provide grounds for hope rather than despair.

Forced emigration is not to be welcomed, of course, and some of those going do feel that they have no alternative. But there are others who would leave Ireland even if there were jobs here, and some who are simply returning home after hat they always expected to be a relatively short stay.

Some short-term emigration is inevitable in the current climate, particularly after the massive immigration of the boom years. It's worrying but not yet a portent of economic decline. The trend can and will be reversed when the inevitable recovery gets under way, and hidden behind those short-term fluctuations there are very positive trends.

We still have the youngest population in Europe, the highest fertility rate and by far the lowest old-age dependency rate. Even with some net emigration, we can look forward to a growing population, a high proportion of whom will remain in the working age groups.

House prices were fuelled by a bubble but the estimates of housing needs were based on population projections that were a little ahead of what's now expected, but not much.

There is not only an overhang of supply in the housing market but also an overhang of demand. …

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