For Irish emigrants, a phone call is a great way to keep in touch with Ireland. Chats cover family, friends, love lives and sporting conquests, but when talk turns to job prospects, what are these emigrants told about how things are at home? To put it mildly Ireland is not painted as the land of milk and honey. In fact most emigrants are left with the impression that they would be mad to come home.
I should know, I had many similar conversations before I moved back to Dublin from New York in 2010. I did it anyway. I left a well paid job in NY and headed home. With a struggling labour market and mass redundancies there was only one place to make my fortune – I took a job in recruitment.
To read the vast majority of media reports on the Irish jobs market would be to assume I have taken leave of my senses in suggesting people should consider employment at home.
I’m going to suggest it anyway. Right now there are thousands of jobs being created in IT, Finance, Law and Professional Services. Export related industries continue to grow and even industries like manufacturing are seeing signs of life. 20,000 more people were in work in Q1 2013 than there were in Q1 2012 and a recent survey from Chartered Accountants Ireland \ KBC Bank suggests that business hiring picked up in Q2 2013 with layoffs notably lower. Indeed, just last week 500 new jobs were announced in companies all over Ireland and from my own experience, more and more of my clients are putting their heads above the parapet and taking people on. While government at national and European level has been seen to be slow to address the obvious problems our economy and people face, domestic and international companies have been investing in Ireland and creating jobs here in significant numbers.
The CAI survey also highlights a well known problem of emigration – the “Brain Drain”. 25% of companies surveyed noted that outward migration is affecting their ability to fill vacancies. There are people sitting on Bondi Beach, walking through Trafalgar or Times Square, or looking at the lights of Roppongi who have the qualifications, experience and attitude that is needed to fill jobs in Ireland right now. Often times my biggest problem as a recruiter, is not a shortage of jobs, but a shortage of qualified people to fill them.
According to figures from the Central Bank 150,000 Irish people have left the country since 2008. Either for work or adventure Irish people have sought opportunity abroad since the start of the recession. Many of those people are now considering coming home. They are not alone. The same stats from the Central Bank show that 100,000 Irish people have returned home in the period 2008-2012. These figures, while still indicative of a drain on the country, do illustrate that the traffic is not all one way.
Being close to family and friends and of course wanting to start a family are all among the main reasons to return, but there are also monetary draws.
A 2010 ESRI paper notes that returning emigrants command a 7% premium in salary relative to people with similar qualifications and experience who have never lived abroad. The premium is greater for those with a college education and for those who have emigrated outside the EU. From Personal and Professional experience I know that when Irish people go abroad they tend to work hard and are well regarded by both employers and their host country. As a result they are given responsibility and gain experience which is invaluable and makes them hot property when it comes to competing for jobs at home.
Through my current job I have been able to engage with Irish people living abroad, and now considering the move home. Via e-mail, phone and Skype we can discuss options and give a clear picture of what is available here. Before they have even stepped back onto Irish soil, interviews can be set up and in some cases people have been offered and accepted good jobs within hours of being on terra firma.
I don’t have my head in the sand. The reality of the Irish economic landscape and the problems facing many seeking work cannot be brushed aside. Nor would I wish to downplay the difficulties families face here or the frustration of many who have had to leave home. The prevailing situation is far from ideal, but it is not hopeless by a long shot.
Ireland does not have the buoyant jobs market it did in 2007,true, but neither does it have the torpedoed market of 2010. There are literally thousands of opportunities at home and I feel the time has come to counteract the prevailing negativity about Ireland and its economy and start attracting its best and brightest back home. What this country needs as always is a skilled and educated workforce and population to drive it forward.
* Spencer is a recruitment consultant at Link Personnel Services and former emigrant who lived in New York