Christmas is nearly upon us. At this time of year, our thoughts will naturally turn to reflect on the people in our lives, the friends and family that matter most to us, and to the year that has passed. Emigrants, separated from their families, often find Christmas a particularly tough time to be away from home. The previous few years have seen large numbers of young Irish people leave the country in search of work and a chance at a better life. Some will inevitably settle permanently in their adopted country, while others are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to return home to their families and make a life for themselves once again in Ireland. For these emigrants, the past 12 months has given cause for optimism. With the economy growing at a faster rate, job creation increasing, and unemployment falling, the time may well have arrived for those Irish people scattered across Canada, Australia, the UK, and elsewhere, to start planning their return home.
Employment prospects have improved considerably in 2014. We have experienced our 29th consecutive month of falling unemployment. The latest CSO figures have unemployment at 10.7%. This remains above the EU average but it is declining at a faster rate. It has fallen by 1.5% in the last 12 months and is down from a high of 15.1% in February 2012. Ireland is also the fastest growing country in the OECD. The European Commission forecasts Ireland’s economic growth at 4.6% for 2014. This compares to an EU growth rate of 1.2% for 2014. This is largely due to the strength of our trade with America and Britain. IBEC has noted a transition from part-time work to full-time employment, which is an important factor for anyone returning to Ireland. The quality of the jobs that are being created are also improving. This is particularly true of sectors that require highly skilled employees such as ICT, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and high tech manufacturing.
FIT, a tech-industry training initiative, has said that there are 7,000 current vacancies in ICT. Amazon (300 jobs), Groupon (200 jobs), SAP (260), Wipro (100 jobs), and Air Bnb (100 jobs) are a few of the companies that have launched major expansions this year. Facebook and LinkedIn have expanded their office space, Facebook now has space for another 1,000 staff and LinkedIn’s new premises will provide enough room for it to double its Irish workforce to 1,200. Despite the impressive increase in graduate output and conversion courses in this sector, there is still a large number of people being hired from outside the country. 13 of the top 15 companies applying for international work permits this year were tech companies, these 13 companies accounted for over 1,100 visa applications. These are jobs that could be filled by qualified and experienced Irish tech professionals returning home. This is a real opportunity for Irish people with the appropriate computer skills to find high-quality jobs in Ireland.
This is not the only sector that is generating employment. Pharmaceutical companies, particularly those involved in biopharmaceuticals, are investing heavily in Ireland. Bristol Myers Squib recently announced its plan to construct a new biologics manufacturing plant that will create another 400 jobs at its Irish site. Alexion (200 jobs), Abbvie (175 jobs), and Eli Lilly (100 jobs) have also made significant job announcements this year. The medical device sector is also experiencing positive growth. Ethicon Biosurgery, in Limerick, and Vistamed, in Leitrim, announced plans to recruit 270 and 125 professionals respectively. Emigrants that are working in business services, or that have gained multilingual experience, should also look at opportunities in Ireland. Shared services centres are experiencing rapid growth in the country, eBay/Paypal are hiring 400 more employees this year, and many ICT companies are establishing EMEA centres in Ireland. These are just some of the bigger announcements. There are many smaller recruitment drives looking to hire 20-40 new staff members, and these are coming from all over the country, in places like Sligo, Waterford, Athlone, Galway and many other locations.
Over 240,000 people have emigrated since 2008, 70% of whom were in their 20s. These emigrants were disproportionately well educated compared to the general population; 62% have a 3rd level qualification, compared with 47% of the population generally. There was a net loss of over 40,000 3rd level graduates in this period. A study conducted by UCC in 2013, called ‘Emigration in an Age of Austerity,’ the source of the above figures, found that 39.5% of recent emigrants would like to return in 3 years. This is now becoming a realistic possibility. If you are reading this from an office somewhere in Sydney, or Vancouver, and have been waiting for the chance to move home, now is the time to start looking for opportunities in Ireland. The problems that have driven so many of our young people from the country are not solved, there will be several more years of constrained budgets and the paying down of private debt, but the recovery is now well underway. The return of young emigrants from all over the world, having gained new skills and experiences, will further stimulate this revival. The opportunities for these talented, well-educated Irish people to find meaningful careers in Ireland are starting to open up. Hopefully we will see the 1st wave of returning emigrants begin to arrive home in the coming year.
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