THE number of people who emigrated from Ireland soared to 87,000 over the last year, official figures show.
More than half of those who left the country in the 12 months up to April were Irish and almost 36,000 were under the age of 25, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said.
Youth Work Ireland warned the demographic position of the country is approaching crisis level with 150,000 young people emigrating for a better future since 2008.
The CSO said the overall number rose by almost 7,000 in the last year, but have jumped 62,000 from the number who left Ireland 10 years earlier.
Michael Mc Loughlin, of Youth Work Ireland, said Ireland will lack the people and the skills to build a smart economy.
"There must be a dedicated jobs strategy for young people if we are to avoid the effects of the massive emigration of the 1980s which so decimated communities," he said.
"The spectre of emigration is a major social tragedy and seems to be accepted as almost an Irish solution to an Irish problem, this must be challenged."
While emigration is at a record high since new records began 25 years ago, the number of immigrants into Ireland fell only marginally to 52,700.
Elsewhere, the CSO said 74,000 babies were delivered over the year, while 29,200 people died - giving a natural growth of 44,900.
The combined effect of natural increase and negative net migration resulted in a small increase in the population of 10,500, bringing the population estimate to 4.59 million in April 2012.
The male population is estimated to have decreased by 900 in the year, the first drop since 1990. This is due to a fall of 8,900 in the number of foreign men who moved to Ireland to work during the building boom.