Job Hunt

Emigration once again

Emigration once again – but where can our young job seekers go now?

It declined to a trickle during the boom years, but emigration is back on the agenda for tens of thousands of young Irish people who have recently lost their jobs. Based on figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), at least 50,000 people are expected to have left the country by the end of this year.

Cosseted during the boom years, this generation faces a rude awakening as it competes with young hopefuls from across the world in the middle of a global economic slump.

"It is not like the old days when you could hop on a bus to London and secure a steady job in the morning,'' says Paraic Kelly, director of recruitment website

The United States and Britain were the traditional safety nets for Ireland's vast army of unemployed in the pre-Celtic Tiger era. When times were tough, there was usually room for Irish workers — middle class and working class — in enclaves such as north London, Boston and New York.

But this time around, the traditional avenues for Irish emigrants are firmly closed, according to Alan McQuaid, economist with Bloxham Stockbrokers.

"The economic forecasts for the US and the UK are very bleak. So there will be very few jobs there in the coming months.''

The young Irish are competing against many other nationalities, who previously did not have the freedom or resources to travel, including eastern Europeans and Indians.

Unless they choose their destinations carefully, they may be in danger of jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Mr Kelly says the current climate should reinforce the importance of gaining a high level of skills.

"There are still a lot of jobs out there for people with good professional qualifications in areas such as engineering, architecture, surveying. The employers are looking for people with experience working on big projects such as building power stations, oil and gas installations.''

Mr Kelly says a generation of graduates who found it easy to find work in Ireland are having to change their outlook drastically.

"The attitude of young people coming out of college has to be: the world is your oyster.''


The blue skies Down Under look like the most attractive destination when it comes to emigration, particularly during our bleak mid-winter.

But Australia may no longer be a bed of roses for job seekers.

The most recent CSO numbers put the annual outflow of emigrants to Australia and nearby countries at 11,300. But that probably under-estimates the figures. The Sydney-based Irish Echo reported a massive increase in Irish immigrants arriving recently.

Australian immigration authorities reported a 33pc increase in the number of working holiday visas issued to Irish people since July. Meanwhile, the number of Irish granted permanent visas has increased by 60pc.

While Australia had labour shortages a year ago, the number of vacancies appears to be dropping as the economy stalls.

Australia's unemployment rate may be relatively low at 4.4pc but it is now edging upwards, adding to fears that the economy may follow the US and Europe into recession.

There has been a recent wave of redundancies in financial services, the car industry and the media.

This week, The Sydney Morning Herald predicted a weakening job market in the coming months.

"Weakening demand, brought on by the global financial crisis, has forced companies to hold off on hiring and they are now shedding workers. The number of jobs advertised dropped the most on record in November.''


Irish job seekers have been looking to Canada for work. Until recently, the economy seemed more resilient than its American neighbour, but it suffered a dramatic downturn in recent weeks.

There were 71,000 job losses in November, the worst monthly figures for layoffs in a quarter of a century.

Many of these job losses were in the eastern half of the country. Employment has held steady in British Columbia in the west, and this may help to attract Irish workers.

The lowest unemployment rate in the country is in Victoria, a picture postcard seaside port on Vancouver Island.

United States

Irish emigrants hoping to take up where they left off in America may be in for a sharp shock.

Over 500,000 people lost their jobs in the United States in November, the biggest monthly decline since December 1974.

The New York Times reported that jobs disappeared last month from every sector of the economy except healthcare and state government. The biggest losses were in manufacturing, construction, retailing, financial services, hotels and restaurants.

The Middle East

The region has been hit by the massive drop in the price of oil, but there are still many job vacancies for well-qualified Irish workers in Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Website lists vacancies for a wide range of professionals including engineers, architects and accountants.

"Well-qualified Irish staff are in strong demand,'' says Mr Kelly.

Until recently, Dubai was seen as a land of opportunity for Irish workers, buffeted by the credit crunch.

But the situation has changed drastically in recent weeks.

Property in Dubai, which has been the subject of feverish speculation, has started to plummet in value. An article in Business Week estimates that prices, which rose about 14.4pc in the first eight months of this year, have suddenly dropped by up to 50pc.

With prices for villas and apartments falling and sales grinding to a halt, big developers are halting construction and laying off staff.

Jobs have also been lost at investment banks, dashing hopes that Dubai might become a leading global financial centre.

Eastern Europe

Proving that the world has been turned upside down, the region is now seen as a land of opportunity.

While the construction industry has nosedived across much of Europe, a report this week from Euroconstruct predicted growth in four eastern European countries next year – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and the Slovak Republic.

Another survey by Ireland's leading recruitment agency CPL predicted that more than 1,300 Polish workers would leave Ireland each week over the coming year, and many will return home.

About 85pc of those polled believe they would get a job in Poland within three months of returning home.

CPL's country manager for Poland, Agnieszka Walter, said that despite the international economic gloom, the Polish economy was still forecast to grow by about 5.5pc this year, following a 4pc rise last year.

But it's not only Polish workers who are looking for work in the east European country.

"Some of the most surprising inquiries that we've had in the last month were three separate calls we got from relatively senior Irish bankers who were trying to find out if there were senior vacancies in Poland," said Ms Walter. "There are many opportunities for those with world-class skills. The ability to speak Polish isn't a necessity."

Mr Kelly says Irish companies are expanding in eastern Europe and there are opportunities for Irish employees with good qualifications.

"For workers, the wages would obviously be less than in Ireland, but the gap is closing and the cost of living is much less.''


Europe's economic powerhouse attracted Irish workers during previous recessions, but the employment outlook does not look strong in the short term.

A report from financial news agency Bloomberg predicted that the German economy will shrink 2pc next year, the biggest annual contraction since the Second World War.


campus poll

At Campus we asked you what you though about being a graduate or emerging graduate in this current climate. Is emigration the only answer? Are there still jobs? Is continuing to study the answer? What about Volunteer work?

Here's what you said…