Category Archives: emigration

28/9/17: Irish Migration: Some Good News in 2017

While headline figures for net migration to Ieland paint an overall positive picture in the annual data (provided on April-April basis) for 2017, there are some creases on the canvas, both good and bad.

Top line numbers are good: net inward migration posted a print of 19,800 in 2017, up on 16,200 in 2016 and 5,900 in 2015. This marks the third year of positive inflows. However, on a cumulative basis, the last three years are still falling short of offsetting massive outflows recorded in 2010-2014. Cumulatively, between 2010 and 2017, the overall net migration stands at -65,900. Taking last two years’ average net inward immigration, it will take Ireland almost 4 years to cover the shortfall. Worse, on pre-crisis trend (omitting peak inward migration years of 2005-2007), we should be seeing inward net migration of around 27,100, well above the current rate. And on a cumulative basis, were the pre-crisis trends to remain unbroken, we would have added 487,600 residents between 2000 and 2017, instead of the actual addition of 394,500 over the same period. 

So things are improving and getting toward healthy, but we are not quite there, yet.

And there are other points of concern. Primary one is the fact that net inward migration remains negative for Irish nationals: in 2017, net outflow of Irish nationals fell to 3,400 from 8,700 in 2016. However, the figures continue to record net outflows for 8th year in a row. Over the period of 2010-2017, Ireland lost net 139,800 nationals.

On a positive side, there is net inflow of all other nationalities into Ireland, with non-EU nationals inflows jumping (net basis) to 15,7000 in 2017, the highest levels on record (albeit records only start from 2006). It is impossible to tell from CSO figures which nationalities are driving these numbers - a crucial point when it comes to assessing the nature of inflows.

Final point worth making is a positive one: in 2017, Ireland recorded another year or growth in - already strong - net inflows of skills and human capital as reflected both in age demographics and educational attainment. By educational attainment, third level graduates and higher category of net inflows posted another historical record in 2017 at 23,600, topping 2016 record of 20,800. Since 2009, including the years of the acute crisis of 2010-2012, Ireland added net 61,000 new immigrants and returned migrants with third level and higher education. This is consistent with continued recovery in human capital-intensive sectors of the economy and is a huge net positive for Ireland.

Hence, overall, the figures for migration are on the balance positive, although some pockets of weaknesses continue to remain and pose a challenge to the arguments about the breadth and depth of the recovery to-date.

25/2/15: QNHS Q4 2014: Broader Measures of Irish Unemployment

In the previous post ( I covered the QNHS results for Q4 2014 from the point of Labour Force Participation Rate (poor news showing decline in the already historically low participation) and Unemployment Rate (goods news with unemployment - absent seasonal adjustment falling to 9.9% and the rate of decline in unemployment on quarterly basis accelerating).

Here, let's consider actual size of the labour force and the broader measures of unemployment, including numbers on state training programmes (e.g. JobBridge) and factoring in estimates of inward and outward migration.

Few definitions are provided in the note below the post, so feel free to consult these.

Now, onto numbers.

Total size of Irish labour force at Q4 2014 stood at 2,152,500 down from 2,172,400 in Q3 2014 and down 10,600 on Q4 2013. This is not good. Compared to peak, current Labour Force is down 147,600 and compared to crisis period trough it is up 15,000. Over the last 12 months, irish labour force average levels were down 117,100 on pre-crisis average. All indicators point to a decline in labour force, consistent with the weak labour force participation rate reported in the previous post. All of this suggests that some share of improvements in unemployment performance is down to people dropping out of the labour force rather than the unemployed finding jobs.

As chart above highlights, remarkably, there has been basically no change in labour force numbers from H2 2010 through Q4 2014, something that is not consistent with our natural demographics, but is consistent with the story of outward emigration and dropping-out from the labour force by working age adults.

Now onto more pleasant news. All broader measures of unemployment have registered declines in Q4 2014 both y/y and q/q:

PLS1 indicator - basically a measure of unemployment fell 2.0 percentage points y/y in Q4 2014 to 10.5%, marking an acceleration in the rate of decline from 1.9% drop in Q3 2014.

PLS3 indicator, capturing those employed, unemployed, discouraged, plus all those not seeking a job for reasons other than being in Education & Training - has fallen from 15.1% in Q3 2014 to 13.3% - a drop of 2.7 percentage points y/y accelerated from 2.4 percentage points decline back in Q3 2014.

PLS4 - the broadest officially reported measure of unemployment that includes PLS3, and also underemployed - has fallen to 18.5 in Q4 2014, marking the first reading below 20% since Q1 2009. The measure is down 3.8 percentage points y/y and this marks a major acceleration in decline compared to 2.9 percentage points drop in Q3 2014.

Adding State Training Programmes participants to PLS$ to produce PLS4+STP puts the broader unemployment measure to 22.34%. This is the lowest reading since Q4 2009 and also marks acceleration in decline exactly matching that for PLS4.

Accounting (and this is rough estimation, so be warned) for net outward emigration, however, PLS4+STP measure of broad unemployment rises to 29.8% in Q4 2014. This marks a decline of 2.8 percentage points y/y and acceleration of decline from 2.0 percentage points drop in Q3 2014. However, the rates of decline in both Q3 and Q4 were shallower than for other measures, save PLS 1.

To summarise, labour force levels are worrying and static at and around crisis trough. Broader measures of unemployment show significant improvements, but the levels of unemployment, especially adjusted for state training programmes and potential adverse effects of net emigration are still high and more worrying than the headline unemployment measures suggest. While we do not know exactly, indications are - the data is consistent with at least some declines in unemployment officially recorded by the CSO coming not from jobs gains, but from emigration, state training programmes and exits from the labour force.

For example, compered to H1 2011, there were 23,373 more individuals that were participating in state training programmes who are not counted as unemployed. Furthermore, estimated net 94,800 individuals of working are have left Ireland between end of Q1 2011 through end of Q1 2014. They too are no longer counted in the labour force or in employment/unemployment statistics.


  • PLS1 indicator is unemployed persons plus discouraged workers as a percentage of the Labour Force plus discouraged workers.
  • PLS2 indicator is unemployed persons plus Potential Additional Labour Force as a percentage of the Labour Force plus Potential Additional Labour Force
  • PLS3 indicator is PLS2 plus others who want a job, who are not available and not seeking for reasons other than being in education or training as a percentage of the Labour Force plus Potential Additional Labour Force plus others who want a job, who are not available and not seeking for reasons other than being in education or training.
  • PLS4 indicator is PLS3 plus part-time underemployed persons as a percentage of the Labour Force plus Potential Additional Labour Force plus others who want a job, who are not available and not seeking for reasons other than being in education or training.
  • PLS4+STP is the indicator combining PLS4 above and State Training Programmes Participants but excluding those of working age who emigrated (net of those who immigrated). 
  • PLS4+STP+migration numbers reported below are reflective of PLS4+STP measure and add estimates of net emigration from Ireland based on latest available data extrapolated linearly over the year from May 2014 and adjusted for working age and labour force participation rate in the economy.