Lifestyle

Wednesday 20 August 2014

From emigrant to immigrant: the Irish are coming home

The recovering jobs market has led to many emigrants returning to a better life in this country. But it may be causing a rise in property prices.

Linda Murphy
Mary Elizabeth Kenny, husband Simon and daughters Imogen and Claire
Shane O'Connell

Did you hear the one about the Irish emigrant who returned home for enhanced job opportunity? Well an absurd notion for some is becoming a reality for many former ex-pats who are benefitting from a recovering jobs market.

More than 120,000 people have returned since 2008, according to figures published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), with nearly 16,000 in 2013 coming back to claim one of the 61,000 new jobs that has reportedly been added to the Irish economy in the last 12 months.

"At over 3pc, we've the fastest rate of jobs growth in the EU and the OECD," says a spokesperson for the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

"Though unemployment at 11.8pc is still far too high, there are job openings spread across growing sectors including technology, tourism, manufacturing, construction and food/agriculture."

While outward migration still remains the dominating direction of Irish nationals – with 89,000 leaving the country last year – 55,900 people came to Ireland overall, giving a net outward migration figure of just over 33,000, 2,000 fewer than last year. "Up to 16,000 Irish people returned in the year to April 2013 and we would expect the last 12 months to be similar despite the continuing difficult economic conditions," says Joe O'Brien of Crosscare Migrant Project.

"Many come back to be closer to their family and what they still regard as home."

The returning numbers could also be having an unexpected impact on the country's property prices.

Research conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) suggests house values are likely to rise as cash-rich ex-pats snap up property.

"In the last year, it wasn't unusual to have many people flying in from all over the world for a weekend in order to secure a property very quickly," says Clodagh Murphy, branch manager at Gunne.

"Most of the surprise activity has come from young couples, who had children while living away and decided to move back for education reasons."

However, Murphy adds much of the purchasing traffic is bound within the high-end property bracket.

"Where prices are being pushed are houses at the million-euro mark upwards. The demand from returning emigrants has been phenomenal.

"One property in particular, in Dublin's city centre, had two bidders based in Singapore, while I auctioned by phone. A couple of years ago, that was unheard of. But how this will affect property prices overall in the country, remains to be seen."

After nearly two and a half years in London, advertising account executive, Linda Murphy (26) from Cabinteely, was planning a move to Australia before landing a position at Twitter in Ireland.

Linda says: "I'd had enough of London. I achieved what I wanted to achieve so I was thinking of a temporary stay back home in Dublin, before heading off to Australia.

"After working in display advertising sales at Bauer Media, I put my CV online just to see what was out there.

"There were a few responses from UK recruiters but then I got a reply from Twitter in Dublin for a position in social-media advertising that I'd applied for on Jobs.ie

"Next thing I flew back for my interview, landed the job as a UK and Ireland Account Executive, moved back at Christmas and started the new position in January.

"I never thought I would find something like this back at home.

"I feel that I have got a better quality of life. I'm living in an apartment in Stillorgan and there's such a big difference in the price of living.

"In London, with rent, water, council tax, you're working to live. Granted, I've definitely come back to more money but again, I never thought that was even possible back in Ireland. And considering I didn't wanted to leave because I'm so tight with my family, things couldn't have worked out better.

"It's another world compared to when I graduated in 2010. We were advised to continue studying but I wanted to get my career going. I wanted to make money and work and enjoy that aspect so moving away was the only choice.

"Australia's no longer an option [for me]. I'm delighted to be home and want to continue working with Twitter and see where it takes me."

Financial analyst Shane O'Connell (26) from Terenure, was working at Whirlpool in Italy for nearly two years when a recruitment agency offered an unexpected golden ticket back home.

"They contacted me with a great job offer at Lidl after having seen my profile on Linkedin. I moved back to Dublin with a 25pc salary increase – it seemed too good to be true.

"I'd studied Commerce and German at UCD and went on to do a Masters in International Management at Smurfit Business School which included six months studying in Switzerland.

"At the peak of the bad times in 2010, the general attitude towards securing employment at home was pretty dismal.

"I landed an internship for six months living in the city of Bremen, working for a freight forwarding company. On the back of that I got a job, a graduate programme with Whirlpool which was based in Varese, just north of Milan.

"I was only a two-hour flight away so the option was there for me to fly home for a weekend and work was great. Life was great.

"At the end of the graduate programme, I would have moved into one of the roles that I'd previously worked on [and would spend]the next three to four years in Italy.

"But then the job came up at Lidl in Newbridge in Kildare as a financial analyst and I couldn't have been happier.

"What I'm learning from friends is the types of jobs that people are now being offered by recruiters has markedly increased.

"It feels like there has been a sea change in how Ireland is performing, though the cost of living is going back up again slowly. Hopefully it won't return to where it was.

"For now, I'm sticking with Ireland. There's wealth of opportunities at Lidl and I'm quite optimistic of how things are looking with no immediate plans to leave at all. It's scoring high on the general happiness indicator."

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'We're better off at home than we were in Sydney'

After he secured a position in the financial department of fuel traders Peninsula Petroleum, accountant Simon Kenny (32) and his wife Mary Elizabeth (33), a food-retail manager, moved home to Dublin with daughters Imogen (3) and 18-month-old Claire. They had spent four years in Sydney.

"We wanted the girls to be Irish," Mary Elizabeth says, "and to have the values that we were brought up with.

"The distance is also very hard when you come from wonderful families like we do. Even speaking on the phone with the time difference is difficult. You ultimately find yourself questioning your part within the family. Now, both our mums are around the corner. That's just priceless."

Simon adds: "We left Ireland not long after we got married when opportunities were low on the ground.

"I'd just qualified as an accountant and lots of my friends had found good contract work while living the life in Australia.

"Moving to Sydney, Mary Elizabeth worked in food retail at Simon Johnson, a fine foods company for the two years until we had Imogen.

"I worked as an accounts assistant at Reckitt Benckiser before landing a six-month contract in a property company, heading up their finance team. I ended up staying there, assuming number of different roles and got promoted about four times. That just wasn't happening at home.

"Eventually, we got to a point where things were changing dramatically. Claire was born and Sydney was becoming too expensive for a young family but we weren't sure if settling back in Ireland was a possibility.

"However, our return in April last year proved more successful than planned.

"I got my job at Peninsula Petroleum, implementing the new finance system.

"It's difficult to judge if I would have landed a job like this had I stayed in Dublin but I believe my experience in Sydney proved a massive benefit."

Mary Elizabeth says: "There's a much more positive feel in Ireland than when we left.

"We're now also more comfortable financially than we were in Sydney.

"I'm working part-time, which is now possible thanks to our support network. Now we're hearing of more friends who are returning home, many of whom had said that they would never leave.

"People thought we were crazy to move from Australia. Ultimately, we knew what was right for us."

Irish Independent

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