Young families emigrate as brain drain grips economy
THE flailing Irish economy is facing a new "brain drain" as tens of thousands of skilled workers emigrate in search of a better life.
Vital workers such as doctors, nurses and physiotherapists are being wooed by countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada to fill shortgaes in their own health services.
But while in the 1980s it was largely single people who jetted off to start new lives, this time thousands of young profess-ional families are joining the exodus.
Visa consultants have seen a surge in interest from workers who have recently been made redundant or fear their jobs may be under threat.
Latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show emigration is at its highest level for almost 20 years. In the year to April, 45,300 workers left the country. Australia and New Zealand attracted the largest proportion of these -- 11,300 -- followed by continental Europe and the UK.
As the economic downturn bites at home, one immigration consultancy said it had received about 8,000 inquiries from Irish workers in the past 12 months, up by 1,000 from a year earlier. All are contemplating permanent moves to English-speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
"There has been a tendency for the Irish to travel for a year or two to places such as Australia and New Zealand, and of course there is a big history of the Irish settling permanently in America. But the vast majority of people we see -- over 80pc -- are people aged 30 to 40 with a family. They are looking for a complete change of life and career," explained spokesman Nathan Brennan.
The construction boom in Australia has left a shortage of all skilled tradespeople, including bricklayers, carpenters and plasterers. However there are also shortages in a number of professions, including the financial services, accountancy and IT, as well as nursing and teaching.
A rapidly expanding mining industry in Western Australia has led to a big demand for workers, with mining specialists earning up to AUS$165,000 (€96,000).
New Zealand has reported high demand for both skilled and unskilled workers, including agricultural and fishery workers, labourers and freight handlers as well as administrators and managers. There are also shortages across all of the professions, as well as service and sales workers.
Canada is facing a shortage of construction workers as well as telecommunications technicians and IT workers. The country's booming oil industry has also led to a shortage of engineers. In the United States there are opportunities for hi-tech workers, such as software engineers, data communication analysts, as well as home healthcare workers and financial advisors.
Meanwhile, medical professionals, particularly physiotherapists, are in short supply across all countries.
Liz O'Hagan, founder of Australian Visa Specialists, said that while migrants had traditionally always been tradespeople, they were now seeing a surge in professionals looking to move Down Under. "Since the beginning of the year we have definitely seen a higher number of inquiries than ever before and with each month that is increasing further.
"People are telling us that they have lost their jobs here, are going to be made redundant and have been given two months' notice or that their partner has lost their job. People are also worried about their children's future. These are real families looking to move because of the economic environment in Ireland.
"People who contacted us in 2003 or 2004 with the idea of moving to Australia are coming back to us saying they now want to go ahead," she added.
She said Ireland's economic problems had been well publicised in the Australian media and companies there were actively recruiting in Ireland.