Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Migration: A necessary element of the past, present and future in Ireland.

The need for Immigration

The history of the our country is pervaded with tales of migration, from the necessary departure from Irish soil during times of Famine, the Great Depression, recession in the 1980s and of course the current day consequences of the collapse of the Celtic Tiger. Between 1871 and 1961, the average annual net emigration from Ireland consistently exceeded the natural increase in the Irish population, which shrank from about 4.4 million in 1861 to 2.8 million in 1961.[1] With the exception of the 1970s, when, for the first time in Irish history, net migration to Ireland was positive, outflows continued to exceed inflows until the early 1990s.

However migration is not a faucet of our society’s history which completely emanates doom, embodying unhappier times. The 1990s – early 2000s economic boom saw unprecedented levels of prosperity. Ireland experienced a flow of migrant workers, both EU workers and asylum seekers from outside the Union. In 1996, Ireland reached its migration "turning point," making it the last EU Member State to become a country of net immigration. This was a consequence of rapid economic growth which created an unprecedented demand for labour across a wide range of sectors, including construction, financial, information technology, and health care. Unemployment declined from 15.9% in 1993 to a historic low of 3.6% in 2001.[2]

A recent report ‘Migration and the Economy’ compiled by the economist Jim Power, for the Integration Centre (a not - for – profit organisation dedicated to promoting integration) has found that even after the crash, immigrants are playing a vital role in the Irish economy. In fact for Ireland to prosper, it is necessary to promote inward immigration.

This is a stark contrast to the commonly held view that migrants are in fact a burden on the Irish economy.
The report found that foreign born works work at all levels of the economy, most working in lowly paid, service and administrative jobs. In some trades they make up one third of the workforce. The highest number of migrants came from Poland and then from the UK, both EU countries. The report also states that immigration was vital to the Irish economy in the boom years when the unemployment rate fell below 4%. It was commonly agreed that immigration was necessary. However, after the crash in 2008, there were elements in Ireland who said that immigration was unaffordable.

The report stipulates that there is little evidence to support this. It states that immigrants are retraining. There is no evidence of benefits tourism being a motivation for immigration into Ireland.

 'The non-Irish population is highly skilled with qualification levels exceeding that of the foreign population in other EU countries. The overall majority hold professional or trade qualifications. The variety of language skills they hold is vital to the Irish economy…, in short, the immigrant population has been and remains a key asset to the Irish economy.'[3]

The report recommends various measures to encourage immigrants to stay.

·        An improvement to the employment permit system in order to facilitate the recruitment of non EU workers.
·        Improved English training for immigrants.
·        A more streamlined system for recognising foreign qualifications.
·        Greater efforts to attract immigrant entrepreneurs.
·        The enactment of a statutory right to family reunification for victims.
·        Improved anti-racism measures in the workplace.
·        Greater commitment from the Gardai to tacking racist incidents
·        Keeping personal tax levels low to avoid scaring immigrant workers.

It is apparent from recent case law; M.M v minster for Justice Equality and Reform & Attorney General[4], Okunade v Minster for Justice, Equality and Reform & Attorney Genera[5]l,  that an urgent reform of our system of asylum application is required.

 Migration has been an obvious element in attempts to recover in the past, and this is not about to chance. However, in contrast to popular belief, this report commands that rather than encouraging our youth and recent graduates to depart from our shores, we should in fact be more encouraging of people arriving to avail of employment opportunities here.

Brophy Solicitors

[1] Figures sourced from http://www.migrationinformation.org/Feature/display.cfm?ID=740 retrieved 3.12.12 at 10.18 a.m.
[3] Source :http://www.workpermit.com/news/2012-11-01/irish-report-says-immigration-vital-to-economic-success. Retrieved 3.12.12 at 10.44 a.m.
[4] Case C- 277/11 M.M v minster for Justice Equality and Reform & Attorney General, 22 November 2012.
[5] {2012}IESC 49.

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