Newly released figures show that one person leaves Ireland every 13 minutes. However, this staggering figure has decreased since the height of the “brain drain” when the numbers of Irish leaving, in search of a better life abroad, was as high as during the Great Hunger.

This is the first time in seven years that the number of Irish people leaving has dropped. It has decreased by 20% from 50,900 to 40,700. The figures released by Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that a total of 81,900 people, of all nationalities, left Ireland in the 12 months up to April 2014. This is down by 8% on the 89,000 recorded in 2012/13.

The United Kingdom continued to be the most popular destination for migrants from Ireland, but these figures have fallen by 18% to 17,900. The number of Irish moving to Australia dropped by 35% to 10,000 while the numbers emigrating to Canada also saw a drop, from 5,300 to 4,700, despite the fact that Canada allocated more working holiday visas to the Irish in 2013 and 2014. 

There was a slight increase in Irish migration to the U.S., up to 6,900 from 6,200.

The CSO figures show that of those who left Ireland fewer than one in five of them were unemployed before leaving. The majority were either working or studying before they left. They also discovered that 47% of emigrants had a degree or third level qualification. This is the first time the CSO has examined the economic status of migrants.

In the past year 29,000 of those who emigrated, of all nationalities, were students before leaving. The previous year that figure was just 20,200.

Senior research and policy officer with the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) Marie-Claire McAleer told the Irish Times the number of educated youths migrating from Ireland is still too high.

“Many of [them]are highly skilled and educated. This represents a brain drain and will inhibit our economic recovery. We need a pool of well-educated people to attract investment and stimulate and sustain economic growth,” she said.

The NYCI is calling on the Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan to create supports for those Irish who wish to return home.

She added “We hope the new minister will use his ministry to connect and engage with the new wave of young emigrants, and facilitate return migration to avoid the permanent loss of valuable skills from the Irish economy.”

Last month Deenihan was appointed as the first minister with a focus on the Diaspora a position Irish expats and Irish Americans have long been advocates for.

A new “diaspora strategy,” due in September, will be compiled. The strategy will include issues such a welfare support for the vulnerable and the elderly, as well as business and tourism and engaging with the Irish abroad.

Speaking at a think-tank session in Youghal, County Cork in July, Deenihan said there was no point in having the new portfolio, with a focus on the Irish abroad, if there was no plan of action.

He said “The last thing you want to do is build up hopes and not deliver.

“It could become counter-productive if people don’t see results.”

He told the Irish Times how important his new role is to him.

He said “When you are born in a county like Kerry, with such a huge diaspora, even from within your own family circle, you are connected with the Irish abroad from birth.”