MORE than 1,000 people a week are being forced to leave the country in a desperate bid to find work abroad.
The extent of the emigration crisis -- the worst in the history of the State -- is revealed today in a major new report by the State's economic think-tank.
Up to 60,000 people will have left the country between April 2010 and this April, alarming new figures by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) show.
And, it is predicted another 40,000 will leave in the 12 months after this as the slowdown continues to bite and unemployment remains the third highest in Europe.
Just 44,000 emigrated in 1989 when the last recession reached its peak.
According to the forecasts, Ireland will lose the equivalent of the population of Galway city this year and twice the population of Kilkenny city next year.
And the real loss is even higher because some people are still immigrating to Ireland. The ESRI's figures only look at the net figure or how the population changes.
Confirmation of the huge numbers emigrating undermine government claims the unemployment crisis is easing.
Although the numbers on the Live Register have fallen by 30,000 to 437,000 since last August, analysts have claimed this is mainly down to more young people leaving.
The drop in those signing on was most pronounced among under-25s -- the people who are fleeing the country in the largest numbers.
The ESRI's latest quarterly report on the economy holds out little hope for those without a job. Unemployment is forecast to average 13.5pc this year and post a slight drop next year following a "minuscule" rise.
Employment will remain elusive as economic growth is limited to the export sector, which produces few jobs.
Long-term unemployment is now at 6.5pc. Unemployment among the young is particularly severe with more than one- third of 15 to 19-year-olds out of work and more than a quarter of 20 to 24-year-olds.
"The weakness in the labour market for younger people in particular has given rise to the return of emigration and our forecasts envisage a continuation of this," the ESRI report said.
ESRI economist Alan Barrett declined to say how many people are actually leaving the country when immigration is excluded. He also could not say what percentage are Irish and what percentage are foreigners returning home.
A recent investigation by the Irish Independent found almost 46,000 Irish citizens travelled to five key overseas destinations to find work in the last year.
This included almost 24,000 people who headed to Australia on work visas. Another 3,462 people emigrated to Canada, 4,444 went to New Zealand, over 1,700 travelled to the US and 600 headed for Germany.
More than 11,000 people are believed to have emigrated to the UK for work during 2010.
This is based on UK government figures showing 5,500 Irish citizens obtained UK national insurance numbers in the first six months of the year.
Peter Hammond, the director of the London Irish Centre in Camden, last night said most of the new people coming to the centre are in their 20s.
"Most other migrant groups emigrate as families to the UK, the Irish comes in twos and threes," he told the Irish Independent. "There are very few middle-aged people."
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Irish people do not need a visa to visit. More than 4,200 Irish people were given a Canadian working holiday visa last year. Canada charges €110 for a work permit; see Canada.ie. Usit opens bookings for its own allocation of visas today. Participants wishing to stay longer have to apply to the Canadian immigration authorities; See workincanada.ie. You can apply for permanent residence through the federal skilled worker programme.