Youth emigration is rarely a lifestyle choice

It is simply not true to suggest that those who emigrated did so as a “lifestyle” choice.

Since 2008 it is reported that over 200,000 Irish people have emigrated. It would appear that at every opportunity and using any excuse our ministers continue to suggest that most of these folk wanted to go.

In the last week, Michael Noonan has thrown his fifty cents in as has Leo Varadkar and Brian Hayes.

Hundreds of thousands of people are on the live register. Whole sectors of the economy have been decimated. Sectors such as the construction industry and all those sectors that feed into the construction industry are all barely ticking over. That is, of course, if they have even survived the ‘holocaust’ as the sector imploded. Engineering firms, architects and other professional and material suppliers to the industry are in serious trouble. Work has simply dried up.

What was a booming industrial sector for the best part of two decades until a few short years is now on its knees. However, when it was thriving our students were encouraged to take courses, do apprenticeships or get degrees to allow them to work. It is ludicrous to suggest that those folk who left and had architectural and engineering and associated degrees left because they were simply looking for a good time.

If the lifestyle choice they made is to choose to work and eat and not be a burden on the State or on their families then we should be grateful for their sacrifices. Yet our ministers would have it that they left to avoid our high levels of taxation or to have a good time and see the world.

However, the construction sector was not the only sector affected by the deep downturn. Almost, every other sector of the economy from retail to restaurants, tourism to farming, has been affected. The live register underpins that. What should these people do? Hang around Ireland hoping that there is “light at the end of the tunnel” for real rather than only on a political wish list? Those who could left, as did those who wished for a better life for themselves and their families. After all, the future in Ireland remains dismal as we will continue to pay back for the sins of bankers, developers, politicians and regulators.

To suggest that those who were in work left because they were all making a lifestyle choice to seek adventure and travel the world is also disingenuous. Why would we be surprised if an engineer or an architect working, to make ends meet, say, in a McDonalds outlet, left to go somewhere where they can work in their chosen profession, and where they can build a future.

Just because a lot of people did the “year out” or gap year or even took more time out in the nineties and the early noughties to “see the world” does not mean that those who left after 2008 were doing the same thing. It suits our politicians’ agenda of never being responsible for anything negative. It is simply not true. If in doubt, ask those who have been left behind.

According to Leo Varadkar these highly qualified younger workers are going for “a better lifestyle, higher pay and lower taxes” and because they are paying too much tax here. Obviously Leo hasn’t visited the mines of Western Australia where many Irish engineering graduates work. They do get higher pay but a better lifestyle is very questionable, and the lifestyle is not sustainable.

Those who have emigrated did so because they had to. A recently completed survey by UCC looking at the reasoning behind recent emigration showed that while 82% of those surveyed said they would love to return home if economic conditions improve, only 22% see that as likely in the short to medium term. In other words, they would love to come home but there are just no jobs.

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