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Remains of the 12th-century Trim Castle in County Meath, the largest Norman castle in Ireland. (PHOTO: ANDREW PARNELL/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Ireland Is Dying

• August 30, 2013 • 12:42 PM

Remains of the 12th-century Trim Castle in County Meath, the largest Norman castle in Ireland. (PHOTO: ANDREW PARNELL/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Why so many people—an average of 10 every hour—are fleeing the Emerald Isle.

Rest in peace, Seamus Heaney. The latest exodus from the Emerald Isle has reached hyperbolic speed. The Financial Times titillating its readers with data porn:

Ireland’s rate of emigration is continuing to increase and at one stage one person was leaving the country to live abroad every six minutes – the highest number since modern records began in the late 1980s.

New figures published on Thursday show 397,500 people have emigrated since Ireland’s financial crisis began in 2008, with most travelling to the UK, Australia and Canada in search of work.

During the same period 277,400 people have returned or moved to Ireland, giving a net outward migration figure of 120,100. In a 12-month period from April last year, 10 people left every hour.

Using the same cited data for the same 12-month period, more than 20 people moved to Ireland every hour. Of course, that also means over 30 people emigrated from Ireland every hour. The centerfold shot:

Almost a third of 15 to 24-year-olds, who grew up during an era when highly paid jobs were plentiful, are now out of work and even those with jobs have seen their wages slashed. More than a third of people leaving the country in the 12-month period to the end of April were between 15 and 24 years of age. Some 50,900 of the 89,000 people who emigrated were Irish citizens while the rest were nationals from other countries.

Yes, throw some dirt on dear old Dublin. The Celtic Tiger can no longer hunt. Time to put her down.

Two variables explain much of outmigration, age and educational attainment. I’ve posted quite a bit about ties between a college education and geographic mobility. Concerning age, the younger you are (as an adult), the more likely you are to leave. Relatively speaking, Ireland’s population is young:

In contrast to general European trends, the birth rate in Ireland is soaring. According to the Economic and Social Research Institute’s latest Perinatal Statistics Report, Ireland’s birth rate increased nearly 30 percent over the past 10 years, equating to about 17,000 more births in 2010 than 10 years before. The island boasts the highest birth rate of any European Union member.

Galway, a small college city on the Irish west coast, likes to tout itself as the “youngest city in Europe.” In 2001, 40 percent of Ireland was under the age of 25. When the going gets tough, the young and college educated get going. Everywhere, not just in Ireland. All those babies will grow up and go to college. Then they will move away like all the other twentysomethings around the world.

Jim Russell
Jim Russell is a geographer studying the relationship between migration and economic development.

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