Category Archives: Irish immigration

23/2/18: Ireland’s Migration Policies are Working Well

How to do immigration policy right? Ireland's CSO has published some new data on educational attainment in Ireland, covering 2017 results. The data is available here: One table stands out on the issue of migration:
Click on the image to enlarge

Despite the report itself focusing on 3rd level attainment as a 'catch all' category, what really matters in terms of future quality of the workforce is more advanced education. And in this area, Irish migration system shines. Both, EU15 ex-Ireland & UK and non-EU migration pathways are working to enhance the stock of human capital in the country when it comes to honours tertiary degrees and post-tertiary education.

This is amazing, because the two pathways are distinct in terms of regulations covering mobility (access for immigrants). And both seem to be working well.

Of course, other factors contribute, beyond policy / regulatory facilitation, including Ireland's amazingly open society, welcoming people and social networks that support easy integration of those who want to integrate. But Ireland's policymakers and civil servants, who often act as the early contributors to this mobility also deserve credit. While problems and bottlenecks remain and need addressing, credit should be given where credit is due.

2/9/15: House prices, rents and Irish demographics

Based on latest data from CSO, Dublin has gained disproportionately in population compared to the rest of the country in 12 months through April 2015. At the top level, Dublin population rose 30,700 in 2015 compared to overall state population rise of 25,800, which implies that ex-Dublin, the country lost population at the rate of 4,900. Dublin v rest of the state population changes were even more dramatic when one considers age distribution.

  • Population aged 0-19 years rose in Dublin by 15,700 in 2015. The same group numbers increased state-wide by 19,600. Which means ex-Dublin, younger population rose only 3,900 against Dublin's 15,700. This highlights family formation dynamics in Dublin as opposed to the rest of the country.
  • Younger working-age population (age 20-29) fell in Dublin by 5,700 in 2015. Across the country, the decline was 25,400. Which means that ex-Dublin, younger working-age population has declined by 19,700.
  • The main cohort of working-age population (30-64 years old) has risen in Dublin by 15,700 in 2015 compared to 2014. Across the country the increase was 14,100, which implies that ex-Dublin, the state lost 1,600 adults in the main working age cohort.
  • Older population dynamics were also in favour of Dublin. In 12 months through April 2015, population aged 65 and older rose in Dublin by 4,900 and it was up nationwide by 25,800. Which means that ex-Dublin, older age population rose 20,900.

The above dynamics suggest demographic support for rising property prices and rents in Dublin, as was suggested by some analysts. This may or may not be so, since population dynamics work over years, not in simple y/y terms. So let's take a look at relative changes in Dublin population compared to the rest of the state:

Dublin population, as % of state-wide population of core home ownership demographic that transacts on the purchasing side of the market (30-64 year olds) has been rising overall since falling to 27.5% in 2010 and is currently standing at 28.9%, still below 29.6% high in 1996. But the rental demographic of 20-29 year olds has shown different dynamics, reaching period trough in 2013 (at 32.3%) and rising since then to 33.1% in 2015, a level consistent with 2011. Neither suggests huge uplift in demand for rentals or owner-occupied homes.

Of course, these are cohorts of 2015. Back in 2007, when house loans were last available in plentiful supply, large share of purchasers demographic today was… err… renters. And absent credit for house purchases, as this demographic moved into purchasing age, they stayed renters.  This would suggest increased pressures on rents. But the picture is more messed up by the losses of population share in 20-29 years old group, most likely due to emigration. Longer tenure for children staying in parents' homes also should have held rents back. In other words, our traditional view of demographic distribution of buyers v renters has been messed up by the sheer duration of the current crisis.

Take 2010-2015 period. Over that time, Dublin population of 20-29 year olds fell 61,000 and across the rest of the country, this cohort numbers fell 123,000. But cohort of 30-64 year olds rose in Dublin by 60,900 against a rise of 47,600 in the rest of the country. Demand based on demographics, therefore, suggests swing from renting toward purchasing. Similar picture repeats if we take 2011-2015 cumulative changes and 2012-2015 and 2013-2015. And, still, rents were rising.

What is more mysterious is that overall working age population has been relatively mildly altered in recent years. In Dublin, working age cohort (20-64 year olds) has grown by just 10,000 in 2014-2015 period and it is up only 8,000 on 2012. The cohort is still down 13,300 on 2008. Across the country, ex-Dublin, things were much worse: since 2008 the cohort fell 62,200 and compared to 2014 it is now down 21,300. In simple terms, unless children and retirees are buying homes, there shouldn't be any dramatic uplifts in demand for property in Dublin, and most certainly outside Dublin.

Which goes to say that any claims about actual demand (based on numbers of potential renters and buyers) are a bit strained. In 2008, there were 821,200 people of age 20-64 living in Dublin. Today there are 807,900. Unemployment rose over that time too. So where is that tremendous growth in demand coming from to push property prices up? Property prices in Dublin hit a period trough in 2012. Since then, there has been a net increase of just 8,000 in 20-64 year olds cohort living in Dublin. Again, where is that spiking in demand coming from?

In my view, simple demographics do not explain Irish property prices uptick from crisis lows. Speculation and latent surplus of savings in a relatively small category of Irish residents (and ex-past), plus re-distribution within cohorts between renters and buyers are the main drivers on demand side of the equation. Supply side also contributes significantly to prices uptick. And beyond that, there has to be significant behavioural component: our addiction to property - despite all the hopes of Dublin 'planners' for an Amsterdam on the Liffey - has not gone away over the years of the crisis. The first, initial shock to the economy has had an effect of scaring us put of the markets for property. Negative equity contributed more downward momentum. But once we learned to live with our fears, we simply decided o turn back to our old model of family investment: bricks and mortar. 

30/8/15: Migration & Changes in Irish Population: Working Age Population

In two previous posts, I looked at Irish migration and population changes data from the point of:
- Top level analysis of migration and natural changes in population; and
- Migration trends by nationality.

Continuing with analysis of population data from CSO released earlier this week, let's take a look at the age composition of population.

In what follows, I define two key categories within our population:

  • Working age group - population aged 20 years through 64 years. This is an approximate definition, and I prefer it to including 15-20 year olds into it, primarily because it allows for more accurate reflection of numbers in full time education. There are many caveats applicable here, so take the approximation for what it is - indicative, rather than definitive.
  • Non-working age population (rest of population). Again, that is not to say that younger students do not work (at least part-time) or that people beyond 65 years of age do not work. Some do. Majority do not. When many do work, they work less hours than is required to sustain independent living, so they still rely on either pensions or social transfers or family transfers or any permutations of the three to sustain themselves.

In simple terms, mindful of all caveats, etc, a ratio of working age population to non-working age population tells so a bit about how high is the dependency weight in the society due to age distribution in population. Lower ratio means fewer working age adults having to sustain themselves and non-working age people. By sustain I mean economically sustain - by working and adding value in the economy.

Chart below shows distribution of changes in working age population and non-working age population in y/y and cumulatively from 2008:

What stands out in the chart?

  1. Working age population overall has been in decline since 2010. In cumulative terms, number of working age adults has fallen 2.7% on 2008 level by April 2015 - a decline of 75,500. In 2015, the rate of decline was 0.4% - more moderate than in three previous years, but still steeper than 2010-2011 average.
  2. Non-working age population remains on the rise for every year covered by the CSO series and the rate of increase in 2015 (at 2%) was the highest since 2010. Overall, over 2008-2015 period, non-working age population those 13.3% or 225,900.
  3. The gap between working age population and non-working age population is now at 798,400 - the worst reading in series history and 301,400 worse than in 2008.

As the result of the above trends, ratio of working age population to non-working age population continued to fall precipitously in 2015:

In 2015, the ratio of working age population to non-working age population was 1.42 - meaning that for each non-working age person, there were 1.42 working age adults. This does not correct for the working age adults who are not in the labour force as well as for the unemployed. The best performance year in this metric was 2007 when the ratio was 1.66. In other words, in 2015, there were 24 fewer working age adults per each 100 non-working age persons than in 2007.

29/8/15: Migration & Natural Changes in Irish Population: Migration by Nationality

Having looked in the previous post at top level data for population changes in Ireland reported by CSO, now let's take a look at composition of migrants flows by nationality. This is going to be charts-heavy.

Let's start with immigration flows. Chart below shows Immigration into Ireland over the recent years:

Several interesting aspects of this jump out:

  1. There has been a significant increase of inflows of people from the 'Rest of the World' (ex-EU). Numbers of those coming into Ireland from outside the EU are up at 30,400 in 2015 from 25,500 in 2014. Pre-2015, average annual inflows of immigrants from outside the EU was 15,722, so last year things were pretty much ahead of the average for the third year in a row. Much of this is probably driven by big hiring numbers from multinationals which are increasingly moving their EMEA and MENA operations into Ireland. 
  2. There has been a small uptick in the number of new comers from the Accession States (EU12), the numbers of which rose to 12,800 in 2015 compared to 10,000 in 2014. This is the second highest inflow rate since the start of the crisis. 2006-2014 average for these inflows (29,078) is still significantly above 2015 figure. Again, I would suspect that much of this increase is accounted for by MNCs and also by demand for particular skills. Note: I will blogging on skills matters subsequently in a separate post.
  3. There has been virtually no change in inflows of people from the UK over the last 3 years, so nothing worth spotting here in terms of trends. Rest of EU-15 immigration flows also were relatively static, up to 8,900 in 2015 compared to 8,700 in 2014. Nonetheless, this has been the busiest year for EU15 migration inflows (ex-UK and Ireland) for some time - since 2009.
  4. Number of Irish nationals returning rose from 11,600 in 2014 to 12,100 in 2015. Which, kind of directly flies in the face of a number of media reports about 'returning migrants'. Apparently, the migrants are not quite returning, as current rate of immigration in Ireland by Irish nationals was the second slowest on record and much closer to the lowest year (2014) than to the third lowest (2013).

Now, consider emigration figures:

Again, few things worth a closer look:

  1. Irish emigration continued to decline in 2015 for the second year in a row. 2014 emigration of Irish nationals stood at 35,300 down from 40,700 in 2014 and down substantially on crisis period peak of 50,900 in 2013. The rate of emigration is now closer to 2006-2014 average of 29,444 that before, but it is still substantially above that number. Crucially, in more normal times, emigration by Irish nationals stood at around 13,700, which is well below current levels.
  2. Emigration by UK nationals out of Ireland remained pretty much stable and on-trend. Historical pre-2015 average is for annual outflow of 3,467 and in 2015 the number was 3,800. Emigration by the nationals of the EU15 states (ex-UK and Ireland) was up in 2015 at 15,600 compared to 14,000 in 2014. The rate is rising now for two years and is well ahead of 9,078 average for 2006-2014 period. This is interesting, as it reflects some shift in MNCs employment: in the past, MNCs were focusing much of their hiring on old EU markets, demanding language skills from these countries. Now, it seems the momentum is shifting toward ex-EU15 markets. Notably, pre-crisis average emigration by EU15 nationals stood at 6,667 per annum, very substantially below the 2015 figure.
  3. In contrast to EU15 pattern, emigration by the Accession EU12 nationals fell significantly in 2015 to 8,500 from 10,100 in 2014. This is the slowest rate of outflow for any year from 2007 on and significantly below the 2006-2014 average annual rate of outflow of 15,478.
  4. Rest of the World (ex-EU) emigration picked up, rising to 17,700 in 2015 compared to 14,100 in 2014 and against the 2006-2014 average of 9,9833. The reason for this, most likely, is the turnover of MNCs-employed tech workers and specialists who tend to stay in Ireland for 2-3 years and subsequently leave. 

So last remaking bit of analysis will have to cover net immigration / emigration:

As consistent with the number discussed above:

  1. Rate of net immigration from the 'Rest of the World' (ex-EU) picked up somewhat in 2015, rising to 12,700 from 11,200 in 2014. This is the highest rate of net increase in ex-EU population in Ireland for any year between 2006 and 2015.
  2. Second noticeable change in 2015 was positive contribution of EU12 (Accession states) nationals, with their net immigration at 4,300 in 2015 marking the first positive net result since 2008.
  3. EU15 (ex-UK and Ireland) net emigration remained significant and increased, with 6,700 more nationals of EU15 (ex-UK and Ireland) leaving Ireland than coming into Ireland in 2015, up on 5,300 in 2014. This marks the third year of rising net emigration by EU15 nationals out of Ireland and 6th consecutive year of negative net immigration by this group of residents.
  4. Irish nationals net emigration from Ireland remained very substantial in 2015 at 23,200. The number is lower than 29,200 net emigrations recorded in 2014 and the lowest reading in 4 years, but it is still well above the crisis period average. In simple terms, things are getting worse slower in this metric, they are not getting better.

Combined 2008-2015 net movements of people by nationality are shown in the chart below. Since 2008 through April 2015, there are 5,200 more UK nationals residing in Ireland, while the number of EU12 migrants rose 11,100. By far, the largest net emigration on a cumulative basis relates to outflow of Irish nationals: between 2008 and 2015, 132,400 more Irish nationals left the country than came back into the country - annual average rate of net emigration of 16,600 and in 2015 annual net emigration for Irish nationals was 6,700 above that.

29/8/15: Migration & Natural Changes in Irish Population: Top Level Analysis of 2015 data

Irish migration and population data for the 12 months through April 2015 have been published by CSO recently. It is a tough read. 

Let's take a look at overall picture (2015 here references May 2014-April 2015 period as per CSO data):
  • There were 67,000 births in 2015, down on 67,700 in 2014 - a decline of 700. Compared to peak births year - 2010 - births are down 10,200.
  • There were also 29,600 deaths in 2015, compared to 29,800 in 2014 which is 3,200 lower than peak year (1990), but more significantly - below 2013 and 2014 readings. 
  • Which means that natural increase in population was 37,400 in 2015, compared to 37,900 in 2014. This is the lowest natural rate of population increase since 2006 and it is driven exclusively by decline in birth rate which fell to 1.445% (births as percentage of total population) from 1.469% in 2014. Current birth rate is the lowest since 2001.
  • Immigration into Ireland amounted to 69,300 in 2015, an uplift on 60,300 in 2014 and the highest reading since 2009. Immigration has been increasing every year starting with 2013. Note: I will be blogging on quality of immigration and emigration separately, so stay tuned. Current rate of immigration is ahead of 2008-2014 average (64,500) but behind 2000-2007 average (80,100).
  • Meanwhile, emigration slipped slightly  - the good news you heard by now, most likely - from 81,900 in 2014 to 80,900 in 2015. This brings 2015 emigration closer to 2011 level (80,600) and lowest in 4 years. However, historical comparisons are still weak: in 2000-2007 average rate of emigration from Ireland was 30,700 and in 2008-2014 period it was 75,571, which means 2015 figure is higher than either pre-crisis average (obvious, really) and crisis period average. 
  • Net emigration stood at 11,600 in 2015, down from 21,400 in 2014 - a decline that is accounted for by an 8,700 increase in immigration and by 1,000 decrease in emigration. Thanks to immigrants numbers rising, we are at the lowest crisis period level of net emigration

Over 2009-2015, cumulated net outflows of people from Ireland stand at 153,800 - or 3.3% of our population in 2015 - close to 4 last years of combined natural increases in population (births less deaths). Over the last 6 years, average annual net emigration from Ireland stood at 25,900. During the 6 years of 1987-1992 the average was 21,050. even with 2015 decline in net emigration rate, we are still sending more people abroad in the current crisis than in the late-1980s -early 1990s crisis.

Which brings us to the 'opportunity cost' of this emigration, or in simple terms - what would our population be were it not for the crisis. 

First up, our current population estimates: per CSO, in April 2015 there were 4,635,400 people living in Ireland - an increase of 25,800 on same period 2014. The rate of increase was the highest since 2009. Which is all good news. However, the rate of annual population increase in 2015 was lower than 2008-2014 average (33,386) and was way below the 2000-2007 average of 80,100.

Now, let's take three scenarios. Starting with 1997 - the year when majority of us think Ireland's catching up with EA15 states was pretty much well underway and things were not yet fully 'mad' in a Celtic Garfield sense. This is also happens to be the year when net immigration posted the first above zero trend, with 7 year average through 1997 at 4,600 being the first positive 7 year average on record (note, 7 year average is chosen because of the cut-off period and because it corresponds to the duration of the current crisis too). Now, let's define 3 scenarios:
  1. Scenario 1: take an average for net migration over 1997-2000 (capturing the period all of can agree was pre-bubble in the property markets) and take projection from 1987 through 2015 at this average net immigration rate and accounting for actual realised natural rate of population change. You get 2015 population at 4,662,700 or 27,300 more people than current official estimated population.
  2. Scenario 2: take an average for net migration over 1997-2003 (7 years period), capturing the period that some think was still pretty much pre-Garfield craze and, crucially, before the Accession of 2004 that brought into Ireland significant inflows of Eastern European workers. You get 2015 population of 4,784,500 or 149,100 more people than current official estimated population.
  3. Scenario 3: while a bit outlandish, let's just consider the period of the entire Celtic Garfield and take the average net immigration rate at 1997-2007. Extreme, I know, but what the hell. You get 2015 population of 5,701,300 or 1,065,900 more people than current official estimated population.

Stay tuned for more analysis of net migration flows.