More people are leaving Ireland than arrive for the first time since 1995 as unemployment passed the quarter of a million mark, it was revealed today.
The country is now seeing rapidly increased emigration as the numbers out of work doubled in the last year leaving 264,600 people jobless.
While stockbroking economists insisted the 1980s brain-drain would not be repeated, Fine Gael warned of the danger of a lost generation of Irish youth.
The party’s labour affairs spokesman Damien English claimed fears over spiralling emigration were becoming a reality.
“For the first time in a generation Ireland is again a net exporter of people, as a combination of rising unemployment and falling job levels drives people abroad,” he said.
“This is the direct consequence of an economy ruined by Fianna Fail’s debt-fuelled housing boom.
According to the Central Statistics Office:
:: Emigration jumped from from 45,300 to 65,100 in the year to the end of April.
:: Some 30,100 of these migrants were from Eastern Europe, Malta and Cyprus either returning home or looking elsewhere for work.
:: In the same period immigration plummeted from 83,800 to 57,300.
:: Some 186,900 men and 77,700 women were unemployed this summer.
:: More than 86,000 construction workers lost their jobs this year.
Despite these worrying trends a baby boom is in full swing with 74,500 children born in the year to May – figures not seen since 1896.
Brian Devine, economist with NCB Stockbrokers, said the Government could stop a brain-drain if competitiveness is restored, state finances are mended and investors are convinced the country is a fully functioning part of the EU.
Irish Small and Medium Enterprises said a large number of businesses across all sectors were just hanging on.
“It is now vitally important that the Government focuses its attention away from bailing out the banks and property sector,” Isme chief Mark Fielding said.
“To date all we have had is piecemeal initiatives that have had little or no impact.”
The CSO’s quarterly national household survey showed 186,900 men and 77,700 women were unemployed.
The report said there were more than 1.9 million people in work – a fall of 8.2% in the last year.
The number of people in the labour market has fallen by 81,600 since the start of the year.
Reetta Suonpera, economist with business lobby group Ibec, called for more money to save jobs and training for people laid off.
“The need for further labour market supports is now acute,” she said.
“We must in the first instance prevent job losses to the greatest extent possible. The scale of the €250m package announced over the summer is inadequate.”
The CSO survey compares to the Live Register figures published every month which show 428,800 signed on for benefits in August – an unemployment rate of 12.4%.