HUNDREDS of skilled Irish tradesmen and women will emigrate to Canada before Christmas as the budget cuts to the job-seekers' allowance hit home.
Building firms in Western Canada are looking for 700 plumbers, carpenters, pipe-fitters, welders and millwrights from Ireland to fill vacancies.
The move comes after it was revealed in the Dail on Budget Day that Joan Burton's Department of Social Protection has taken the extraordinary step of sending out Canadian job adverts to those on the dole.
And it has emerged that it is couples, rather than single people, who are turning their back on Ireland and moving to the other side of the Atlantic in their hundreds.
Fianna Fail's budget spokesman Michael McGrath told a shocked Dail of the new tactics employed by the Department of Social Protection to "encourage" the unemployed to find work – even if it is 3,000 miles away.
The letter sent out to a social welfare claimant and seen by the Sunday Independent refers to a vacancy for a skilled glazier in Canada.
If the claimant was interested in emigration, he was advised to send his CV to an official at the department who would then forward it on to the Canadian employer.
The letter states that there was "no obligation" to apply and it would not impact on the jobseeker payment.
It also carried details of more than 100 jobs with various companies in British Columbia, including positions for cabinet makers, fence builders, carpenters and shutterers.
The Sunday Independent has learned that construction companies in British Columbia are crying out for 700 Irish tradespeople.
The move is being driven by Canada's ageing population with 38,000 British Columbians due to retire in the next five years.
Ruairi Spillane, who is from Kerry, went to Canada five years ago as a tradesman and now works as a recruitment specialist.
His firm, Moving2Canada, specialises in placing Irish workers with Canadian firms.
Mr Spillane says all the 700 jobs come with Permanent Residency and the Canadian authorities are anxious to attract young families.
"As far as I'm aware all the roles are Permanent Residency through Provincial Nominee Programme as opposed to Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) which is a stop-gap work permit," he told the Irish Independent.
"They want to attract people to stay long term so tend to target families who are more inclined to settle."
One problem is that most migrants tend to favour the big cities like Toronto and Vancouver rather than the less-populated areas of Northern British Columbia, the East Coast or Saskatchewan. As a result, wages are higher in Northern British Columbia and the cost of living is lower.
"Northern British Columbia makes great sense to those Irish people that fit into the economic immigrant category. Unfortunately, many of our younger immigrants still seek the lifestyle options of Vancouver and Toronto to the detriment of their career progression. Canada is massive, grossly underpopulated and has an ageing population," Mr Spillane said.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin announced in the Budget that the €100 reduced rate of jobseeker's allowance will be extended to those up to age 22.
For new entrants from January, it will extend to age 24. The reduced rate of €144 will apply to those reaching 25 from January 2014.