Unemployed Irish have rushed to apply for foreign jobs after being alerted to them by the Department of Social Protection.

Hundreds of skilled workers have secured jobs around Europe and in Canada after being alerted to them in letters sent by the department, which is facing criticism that it is fueling emigration and causing Ireland to lose its skilled workers.

The Irish Independent reports that many of the positions have been advertized under the European Employment Service (EURES) scheme, which has assisted jobseekers to take up work in other EU countries since 1993.

A spokesperson for Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said Ireland, as part of the EURES network, was obliged by law to inform unemployed jobseekers of the positions.

The letters state: "Please note this letter is only for information and there is no obligation on you to apply for the vacancy and it will not have an impact on your jobseeker payment if you are in receipt of one and decide not to apply for the vacancy."

The spokesperson said that the EURES scheme worked both ways, with Irish job openings available to candidates from across the EU.