Population tops 4.6m but young still leaving
IRELAND'S population is at its highest since Independence, despite the continuing exodus of young people seeking better fortunes overseas.
There are now 4,609,600 people living here, according to the Population and Migration estimates released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). This is the highest number since Independence.
A combination of 67,700 births registered between the middle of April 2013 and mid-April 2014 and an influx of 60,600 immigrants versus 29,800 deaths, and the loss of 81,900 people due to emigration over the same period, has led the population to exceed 4.6 million.
And while the population has steadily risen over the past 20 years, the emigration of young people aged between 15 and 44 led to a loss of 416,600 people since 2009.
Last year, 33,500 people aged between 15 and 24 left the country along with 37,600 people aged between 25 and 44. This adds up to 71,100 of 81,900 people who emigrated over the 12 month period.
Close to half or 40,700 of the emigrants were Irish nationals.
At the same time, there was an influx of 11,600 Irish nationals returning from abroad, along with immigrants from the UK, continental Europe, eastern Europe and the rest of the world, for a total net outward migration of 21,400, a decrease of 11,700 over the previous year.
The findings, based on the CSO's Quarterly National Household Survey, PPS numbers and work visas issued, also found that close to half of emigrants (47pc) had a third level qualification or more, followed by 27,600 emigrants who had a higher secondary school qualification.
However, the bulk of immigrants to Ireland or 59pc also had third level qualifications, with 30,900 having a third level degree, followed by 13,400 with a secondary school qualification.
Economist Philip O'Sullivan with Investec Bank said the rising population and decline in overall (net) migration, are positive signs for the economy. However the "persistent large outflows in the 15-44 age group" is worrying.
"It might suggest that there could be skills mismatches, or young professionally qualified people are seeking their fortunes abroad," he told the Irish Independent.
Laura Harmon, president of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), said despite recent gains in the job market, a large number of college graduates are still being forced to emigrate due to the lack of career opportunities here.
"There's still 26pc youth unemployment, which is one of the highest in Europe," Ms Harmon said.
The use of low and unpaid internships, and the controversial JobsBridge programme, is also driving them away due to an "alarming culture that has developed that people think they have to work for free in order to earn a place in the workplace," she said.
The number of highly skilled or educated workers who are continuing to leave is also a concern for the National Youth Council of Ireland, which called it "a brain drain that will inhibit our economic recovery".
"We need a pool of well-educated people to attract investment and stimulate and sustain economic growth," the council said.