Immigrants not factored into job loss estimates
Cowen's grim forecast now looking optimistic
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen's prediction last Wednesday that unemployment could hit 400,000 by the end of this year came despite the Government making no provision for Irish and non-Irish nationals who may leave or enter the country as a result of the global downturn, the Sunday Independent has learned.
Given the failure by government officials to factor in any estimates on the expected outflow of workers who lose their jobs during 2009, Mr Cowen's grim forecast could yet turn out to be hopelessly optimistic to the tune of tens of thousands.
For in the case of non-Irish nationals from Eastern Europe, being unemployed in Ireland could still present a more attractive option than a return to one's home country.
The weekly entitlement to jobseeker's benefit stands at over €200 per week here and matches -- and in some cases outstrips -- professional salaries in EU accession countries such as Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia.
While Minister for Integration Conor Lenihan has frequently claimed that vast numbers of the immigrants who came for work at the height of Ireland's boom are returning to their home countries, no detailed statistics have been produced to date by any government department to back up his claim.
In terms of predicting the numbers who might leave Ireland in the course of 2009 in search of work, only the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has provided any estimates in this regard.
According to its latest Quarterly Economic Commentary, the ESRI is projecting an average fall in employment of 117,000 this year, suggesting that a further 80,000 jobs will be lost over the next 11 months on top of the 36,500 recorded losses in January.
The ESRI further stated that the fall in employment will be distributed across changes in unemployment, migration and participation.
Commenting on the impact of migration on those numbers, the ESRI report said: "It is very difficult to estimate how each will change but we can say that a fall in employment of that size will be consistent with net outward migration of 50,000."
The economic think-tank's estimate could be off the mark too, however, judging by recent statistics from the Department of Social and Family Affairs.
It appears that even as Ireland's economic fortunes have plunged, citizens from the EU are still flocking here looking for work.
According to the Department, some 66,992 PPS numbers were issued to citizens of the accession states up to the end of October last year, suggesting that even in its current economically precarious state, Ireland is still viewed as a better place for EU citizens to seek a living than in their home countries.
However, last week's Live Register numbers would imply that many of those workers who have come here looking for employment are finding it more difficult than their Irish counterparts to find and retain jobs.
The CSO statistics show that, in the month of January, there was an 18.1 per cent (9,879) increase in the number of non-Irish nationals on the Live Register compared to an 11.2 per cent (26,619) increase for Irish nationals.
In the year to January 2009, the number of Irish nationals on the Live Register increased by 108,566 to 263,527, while the corresponding annual increase for non-Irish nationals was 37,846 to 64,334.
With estimates from the Quarterly National Household Survey for June to August 2008 showing that non-Irish nationals represented some 16.1 per cent of the Irish labour force, last week's unemployment figures show a higher unemployment rate for non-Irish workers compared to the their Irish peers.