Tens of thousands of Irish people are fleeing from their country's economic crisis and more than ever are arriving in Australia, figures suggest.
Since the onset of the global recession in 2007, annual emigration from Ireland has steadily climbed from just under 15,000 to almost 30,000, according to the Central Statistics Office in Dublin. This number is expected to significantly increase in the coming years as the Irish government's austerity budget and deep spending cuts in response to terms of the massive bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund chokes off economic opportunities at home and prompts large scale departures.
The Dublin based Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) predicts that 200,000 people will emigrate between 2010 and 2015 and recent reports suggest that 100,000 could leave in 2011 alone.
The numbers travelling to Australia to work have increased 80% to 24,316 since 2007. While most are on temporary one-year visas, some will seek long-term opportunities while they are there. Indeed, just under 3,000 Irish citizens were granted permanent residency in the financial year ending in June 2010, a rise of 22% on the previous year.
Also figures from the Australian government figures show that 1,530 permanent settlers from Ireland arrived in the financial year 2008 to 2009. The number of Irish on one year working holiday visas also soared to 22,786, up from less than 13,000 three years ago.
Dr Alan Barrett, who co ordinates the migration programme at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), said the emigration figures reflected one of the most depressing aspects of the economic downturn. He said that given there are few job opportunities in Ireland, it was probably preferable that people went away to work elsewhere to maintain their skills.
The ESRI also points out that the full impact of the Irish economic crisis that has seen the country accept a bail out from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund has yet to filter down.
The latest KBC Ireland/ESRI Consumer Sentiment Index shows that consumer sentiment rose unexpectedly last month as uncertainty over the scale of the budgetary adjustment facing the country declined. But the survey, which was conducted in the middle of the month, does not reflect the period leading up to the bailout and overall sentiment remains overwhelmingly gloomy.
Such a depressing sentiment could lead to even more Irish citizens looking to countries like Australia as three quarters of respondents said that they believe the economy will get worse in 2011 while some two thirds expect their household income to deteriorate next year.