Tens of thousands of people have left Ireland after the country has experienced an economic downturn in 2008. While some of them have returned to the Emerald Isle after finding luck abroad, it seemed that many Irish emigrants have no plans to go back home ever again.
Emigration expert and UCC academic Piaras MacEinri said of the almost 250,000 Irish who have left the country since 2008, almost 50% of them will never return. According to him, skyrocketing rents and new restrictive mortgage deposit requirements are keeping Irish emigrants from returning home.
Although the economy has shown signs of improvement and Prime Minister Enda Kenny has repeatedly encouraged Irish expats to return home, MacEinri expressed belief that it will take more than that to convince the country’s “Lost Generation.”
Alan Barrett, an economist at the Economic and Social Research Institute, echoed MacEinri’s sentiment. He explained that the cost of living and the affordability of housing are important considerations for emigrants who are planning to return home. However, the current state of the local housing market is not painting a pretty picture.
When they return home, emigrants will face exorbitant rents. If they are first-time home buyers, they will have to abide by new mortgage lending rules that require them to pay a 10% deposit on the first €220,000 of a mortgage and 20% thereafter. They will also have to deal with the housing shortage in Dublin, which has made rents in the capital city amongst the most expensive in Europe.
“The reality is when it comes to migration, people tend to go to cities. But the housing and rental situation in Dublin is now a real worry,” said Barrett.
Despite these roadblocks, MacEinri said the government is not doing anything to make the country more liveable for returning emigrants. “I’m not seeing any fiscal incentives that would attract people back,” he said.
Since 2009, around 129,200 Irish emigrants have returned home. However, their numbers continued to dwindle. Last year, only 11,600 emigrants came back to Ireland. The figure is said to be the lowest in years.
Jimmy Deenihan, Minister of State for the Diaspora, admitted that while it is very important to convince the Lost Generation to return home, there are factors that prevent them from doing that. However, he believes that housing is not the biggest challenge of them all.
“Housing is a big issue, but the biggest hurdle is the job market. They have to have a job. People won’t uproot if they’re not guaranteed a sustainable job,” he said.