A junior jobs minister in Ireland has been harshly criticized after he claimed that many Irish were "emigrating by choice."

Fine Gael TD John Perry said he knew people who were "delighted" to be emigrating to the U.S. and Canada for work.

According to official CSO figures, over 87,000 people left Ireland in the year leading up to April 2012, with emigration surging to levels not experienced since the famine.

Speaking in the Dáil (Irish parliament) during questions on jobs, the Sligo–North Leitrim TD said:

"There are people emigrating by choice. I know several young people who will be quite delighted to go to the United States if they can get in, or to Canada if they have the required qualifications.”

Opposition TDs said most workers would be happier at home but Perry argued that there was a certain balance “for highly educated people, emigration was a matter of choice."

Perry said the Government was doing its best to sort out the economy but “one cannot just wave a magic wand."

Sinn Féin jobs spokesman Peadar Tóibín criticized Perry’s comments, saying: "Most emigration is forced emigration."

"It is astonishing that a minister in the Department of Jobs is that detached from reality to claim that those emigrating do so from personal choice."

Bríd O’Brien of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed told the Irish Examiner: "People of all age groups are emigrating because there’s no work here.

"We’ve lost an awful lot of jobs. I think a lot are leaving because they feel they have to."

Junior Minister on people emigrating by choice:

Fine Gael TD John PerryHandout