Tens of thousands more workers are expected to flee the country in the coming months because of the jobs crisis, a leading think-tank said today.
The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) also warned of an urgent need to deal with a massive jump in long-term unemployment.
While it urged the Government to keep its nerve on drastic cutbacks, the economic forecasters said money needs to be spent retraining those forced onto the dole.
In its latest quarterly report, the ESRI signalled official unemployment figures are being skewed by people “dropping off” the workforce – particularly young men – and huge emigration.
Jean Goggin, a co-author of the report, said a bottoming out of joblessness next year will be down to 120,000 people leaving the country to look for work.
“It’s quite significant – we expect 70,000 to leave in 2010 and a further 50,000 in 2011,” she said.
“If these people don’t leave then unemployment will be higher.
“But based on the trends we are seeing, migration of that magnitude is expected to continue into next year.”
While much of the migration is expected to be among foreign workers returning home it includes Irish people seeking new lives overseas.
A growing number of young men returning to education also shrunk the workforce, impacting on official unemployment figures.
One of the main concerns in recent trends is the number of people now classed as long-term unemployed – which has more than doubled in a year from 2.2% to 5.3%.
“That is quite high – it is a concern,” said Ms Goggin.
“The experience of long-term unemployment is the longer you are out of work the harder it is to get back into work.”
The economist said the Government needs to do more on reskilling and retraining those – particularly ex-construction workers – unqualified to apply for other types of work.
This makes more sense than spending money on big infrastructural projects to artificially boost building jobs in the short-term, she argued.
“That isn’t credible as a long-term solution because the economy is going to go forward on different lines,” she said.
Long-term unemployment is officially classed as those who have been out of work for more than a year.
The ESRI said official joblessness – which does not include seasonal, part-time or temporary workers signing on the dole – will drop slightly from 285,000 to 280,000 next year.
The Government’s shortfall in the public finances will remain one of the worst among the world’s advanced economies when measured against what the country produces in goods and services.
That ratio – which is seen as an indicator of the economy’s health – will soar to 20% because of the bail-outs of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide, the ESRI said.
While Ms Goggin said this deficit catapulted Ireland “into a league of our own” she added the bail-outs were a one-off debt without which the figure would be around 11.5%, comparable to the UK or the US.
“What we are really saying is that the Government needs to stick to its plan,” she said.
“There’s no room for slippage in the €3bn savings expected in the December Budget.”
Ms Goggin said there will be small growth in the economy next year as people who have saved during the downturn, kept their jobs and feel the worst of the austerity Budgets are over, begin to feel more confident and start spending again.