Education for Emigration: 2015


A letter accompanied a recent dole payment. It advertised a ‘networking and interview day for Irish Teachers DIRECTLY with UK schools’ (emphasis in original). The exclamation mark in the letter’s heading – ‘Teaching Opportunities in the UK!’ - illustrates neatly how readily, even enthusiastically the Irish state is prepared to export Ireland’s young people in order to preserve the status quo.

Of the 475,000 men, women and children who have left Ireland since 2008, some 300,000 were aged 20-34 [1]. Imagine the entire population of Cork city (c. 119,230) disappeared, followed by Galway city (c. 75,529) and then Limerick city (c. 57,106) [1]. And you still wouldn’t have reached the number of young people who have left...

Youth emigration is the almost inevitable consequence of youth unemployment. Employment for those aged 20-34 has fallen by a third [2]. The unemployment rate for those aged between 20 and 24 years is 19.6 percent – twice the national average. Moreover, since the crisis began, a whole series of ‘emigration activation’ measures have proliferated. For those 24 years and under, the Jobseekers’ Allowance is now €100 per week, well below the standard €188. At 25 years old, your dole rises to €144. That’s still well below the standard payment. €144 per week is also less than 10 per cent of TDs’ annual salary of €87,258. (And don’t forget their expenses...)

The push to disappear our friends and loved ones off this island is deeply rooted in its political economy. Historically, Ireland’s ruling class preferred to export the country’s young people - generally children other than their own - in order to preserve the status quo. Department of Finance officials in the 1930s and 1950s used to praise emigration as a means of keeping social expenditure low and acting as a ‘safety valve’ to prevent social unrest, even revolution [3]. If the letter I got is anything to go by, much the same laissez-faire ideology informs the thinking of today’s Department of Social Protection.

When I think of my friends who’ve emigrated to far-flung corners of the world, I sometimes think of the words of the Wobbly and song-writer, Joe Hill: ‘Don’t Mourn: Organize!’

We have a ruling class to fight and a whole wide world to win.

WORDS: Tom Murray

[1] CSO population figures, 2011. Available at:…/populationofeachprovincecountyandcity2…/
[2] CSO figures usefully compiled by Michael Taft, 2015, Notes from the Front. Available at:…/no-country-for-young-p…
[3] See Joe Lee, 1987, Ireland, 1912-85.