Ireland 'not providing employment opportunities for graduates'

MASS emigration from Ireland over the coming year has been identified as a key concern to UK authorities in a policy document drawn up to examine the future of immigration into Britain.

According to the briefing paper published by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), tens of thousands of Irish people unable to secure work could flood the British system.

Some 120,000 people are expected to leave Ireland between 2010 and this year, many of whom are likely to relocate to the UK in search of employment.

This has been highlighted as a primary reason the decline in immigration figures promised by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government will not happen, as the UK remains an attractive destination for job seekers.

This will be particularly the case in the run-up to next year's Olympic Games, which will be held in London.

The IPPR has said the potential for significant Irish immigration – which has been relatively low over recent years – is more of a political concern than a public one.

"It's just a numbers problem. Essentially the UK government has set a target to more or less halve net immigration into the UK so in that sense it doesn't matter if they are Irish, Polish or from anywhere else," said Sarah Mulley, IPPR associate director. "In general, Irish immigration is not a great cause of public concern here. There is a long history of immigration. We share a language and there are very close cultural ties."

Reacting to the document, the Labour Party's education and science spokesman Ruairí Quinn said Ireland needed to change its attitude to what migration means.

He said that while young educated Irish people are leaving the country, it is not necessarily a permanent measure and much of the professional experience gained abroad could benefit the Irish system on their return.

He added that in order to address the balance of labour exportation and importation, the education system in Ireland has to be addressed so that Irish graduates can avail of domestic job opportunities. He specified employment in the health and science sectors.

"It's a concern for us that we are not providing the employment opportunities here in order to employ Irish graduates and get back the income tax returns in terms of the investment we put into them," he said.

"We have a serious question to ask ourselves as to why we export nurses on the one hand and import Filipino nurses on the other."

He added that while forced emigration for Irish people is unwelcome, the issue is not as heartrending for families as it once was, "because we have a tradition of emigration going back to at least the famine, and certainly from independence and people going to the States and never being seen again.

"Emigration now has to be replaced with the word migration," he said.

"Very few people are leaving Ireland with the intention of permanently leaving. Quite a lot of people leave for a period of time, deliberately."