Current Affairs Economics Politics

Ireland’s Export-Based Economy – Emigration, Emigration, Emigration

Eurostat figure for unemployment rates in EU states for June 2013 (Íomhá: Middle Class Political Economist)
Eurostat figure for unemployment rates in EU states for June 2013 (Íomhá: Middle Class Political Economist)

From Middle Class Political Economist:

“July 31 saw the latest release of European Union unemployment numbers, and Monday’s gross domestic product figures brought no joy, especially for Greece. As Think Progress reports, Greek unemployment hit a new record of 27.6 % in May, while Spain’s June unemployment figure was 26.3%, according to Eurostat.

But, wait! you say. What about Ireland? Its unemployment rate has dropped an estimated 1.5 percentage points from its January 2012 peak of 15.1% to just 13.6% in June 2013. Isn’t austerity finally paying off there?

If only that were so. What actually is happening is that Ireland has returned to its historical solution of substantial out-migration to reduce the number of unemployed workers that show up in the official data. And yes, the numbers are way more than enough to wipe out the apparent 1.5 point drop.

According to the Central Statistics Office Ireland …emigration has surged from 72,000 in 2009, the last year of net in-migration, to 87,100 in 2012, when net out-migration was 34,400. If you look at net emigration of those 15-64, the closest we can get with the data to prime working age, the situation is even somewhat worse. Over 2010-2012, net out-migration in that age group has totalled 90,700.

I calculate the potential effect on the unemployment rate as follows. Ireland only compiles official unemployment data quarterly, and makes monthly estimates in between. So the last official unemployment rate was 13.7% for the first quarter of this year. According to the CSO, there were 292,000 unemployed then. Dividing by 0.137, we get a labour force of 2,131,387, subject to rounding error. Now add 90,700 to both numerator and denominator, and the maximum potential unemployment rate, if all of those people were in the labour force and unemployed, is 382,700/2,222,087 or 17.2%.

Now, certainly some of the 15-24 year olds would not be in the labour force, though many will. Even if we restrict ourselves to the 25-44 age group, net out-migration for 2010-2012 comes to 36,000, which would bring the unemployment rate back to 15.1%, equal to the worst month since the recession began.

We can see, then, that austerity is sinking all boats. Greece has passed Spain in unemployment and is producing barely 3/4 what it did in 2008. Ireland’s reduction in unemployment is a mirage based on emigration. The same is true in Latvia and Lithuania, by the way, which the Irish Times reports have lost 7.6% and 10.1% of their population between 2007 and 2012. As the paper notes, “If Spain and Italy had lost the same proportion, it would have been 11 million.”

Yet the drumbeat for austerity continues. The sequester goes on. And millions suffer needlessly.”

Actually I would argue that the “true” Irish unemployment rate minus enforced emigration (and as An Lorcánach points out in the Comments the state-promoted, statistics-massaging training/internship schemes) would be nearer to the 20% mark rather than just over over the 17% one, with youth unemployment in and around 40%. Despite the many political and media denials, and disdainful talk of “lifestyle emigration“, there is no doubt that mass emigration coupled with a relatively (and unfortunately) quiescent immigrant component to the national workforce is keeping the current Randinista class comfortably ensconced atop of Ireland’s wide-based, narrow-peaked social pyramid.

6 comments on “Ireland’s Export-Based Economy – Emigration, Emigration, Emigration

  1. an lorcánach

    ní hé sin amháin! “official” low levels of unemployment is more profoundly result of the multi-billion ecb funding for subsidised internships [] and courses for all european union nationals resident in this state [ (no irish available)] — ultimately created with the complicity of the ‘education industrial complex’ – that uniquely anti-republican social ‘partnership’ value system created by capricious, hiberno-english, neo-thatcherite ideologues, and facilitated by both the federalised union currency at obscenely unnatural low interest rates (benefiting the then ten-year old unified germany), as well as a quiescent middling class who voted between 1997 and 2011 for the fianna fáil-progressive democrat-green party coalitions. “balls!” the progressive-optimists reply. want a picture of the bottom half of “irish” society as it is, right now?! you need only look to england!

    ‘At the minimum wage people in London have no option but to work two or three jobs. Many work 15 hours a day, without rest, Monday to Monday, seven days a week and still struggle to get by. This in-work poverty is illogical. Before I got sick I had to work three jobs to survive. I would start work at 5am, working as a cleaner until 8am in Whitehall before beginning my second job at the Home Office, from 8.30am until 4.30pm. My third job would begin at 6pm and I would finish at 10pm, getting home at midnight. After paying my rent and bills, and sending money to my children, there was never any money left. And these jobs are not easy, they are difficult. Our employers want to save money by recruiting fewer people, so three end up doing the work of 10. My body couldn’t handle it. I started having problems with my back, my shoulders and my legs. If my wages had been higher, I would have been able to work shorter days, and this would have saved my health. After four months out of work, my manager called me in for a meeting and told me that they were going to let me go. She gave me her card and said: “If you get better you can call me.” Then my pay stopped and they sent me to the job centre. What kind of a life is this?’ – konan koffi, 8 August 2013


    (any chance of a shortened ‘morning ireland’ or ‘drivetime’ on a saturday radió 1as bbc radio 4 does with no obvious additional cost? no way it’ll happen!) @

    • an lorcánach

      incidentally, the rot set in early on: mary harney’s “outsourcing” of government training programmes for unemployed to private companies – undermining fás (anco) which had before 1997 a good reputation — now the creation of education training boards to replace v.e.c.s is proof of the neo liberals success at suckering worker’s thanks to their so called reps (cassells, mccloone et al bought off early on) – meanwhile making fás trainers as patsies – fás workers are having their job security watered down in the transfer to the new e.t.b.s – they’re screwed! @

      • an lorcánach

        Just so there’s no ambiguity, it should also mentioned that people have no idea how desperate the ‘labour’ party are to reduce the dole numbers by any means possible — when the state’s LONG-term unemployed (tens of thousands of EU & non-EU nationals) are placed on publicly funded courses, they no longer are counted on the “live register” — a sleight of hand perfected by Bertram Ahern (a grotesquely duplicitous European Unionist if ever there was one) :-$ Bring on next year’s General election! @

      • The PDs were the flip-side of the Charles Haughey/FF crony culture and just as inimical to Irish society in the long run. Thatcherite politics in Irish dress.

    • Very good point re. the training/intern programmes that I should have included in the post. I will update it with that.

      • an lorcánach

        thanks for that sionnach – unfortunately no one on merrion street gives a toss – last sunday’s biz programme on newstalk (broadcast from the dundrum church of consumerism) with their ‘guests’ defending ‘zero contracts’ in this state speaks volumes @

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