He wasn’t penniless, but at the same time Seán Keane was closely watching what he spent while as an unpaid intern at The Irish Examiner.
The 25-year-old Irishman recently emigrated to New York in hopes of seeking employment and new opportunities for his field.
With both a bachelors and masters degree under his belt, Keane found Ireland wasn’t offering him the opportunities he needed to reach his goal as a broadcast journalist.
“I left for New York so I could try something different,” Keane said. “There certainly are more job opportunities and more varieties of job opportunities here in New York than there would be in Dublin.”
Ireland has a long history of emigration, but its economic struggles since the global financial crisis of 2008 have prompted even more people to seek their fortunes abroad.
Emigration from Ireland is now at levels not seen since the Famine, according to new details.
More than 200 people a day emigrate, figures not recorded since the Famine. Irish nationals accounted for 53 percent of the total. This figure is three times the emigration numbers recorded during the Celtic Tiger boom.
“There are certainly jobs there [Dublin], but there are certain industries where there are those seeking employment abroad,” Keane said.
Ninety-two percent of emigrants were aged between 25 and 44 accounting for the largest number, with 39,500 people in this age group leaving the country. This increased from 31,300 in the previous 12 months.
The United States granted some 17,143 Irish people and their families temporary work permits while another 1,533 obtained permanent resident status according to the US Office of Immigration Statistics for 2011.
“There was a financial struggle to get the visa and move to New York,” Keane said. “It cost a fair amount of money to get the visa and then get over here.”
Keane has been in New York for less than two weeks and is still searching for employment. If and when he does find employment, he feels the opportunity and experience will make up for the struggles he has overcome.
“I could have stayed at my current job [in Ireland], but I wasn’t crazy about it. It was a reasonable job, except it wasn’t ultimately what I wanted to do,” Keane explained. “I think the opportunity of finding a job in broadcast, specifically television, in New York is higher than in Ireland right now.”
Reports by the Central Statistics Office also include the impact migration has had on Ireland’s baby boom, as so many young women have left.
The number of Irish women emigrating rose from 17,500 to 20,600, while the number of Irish men leaving rose from 24,500 to 26,000.
Lisa Taylor, 27, from Mayo Ireland, emigrated to Chicago in February and is currently living with her brother who is has been living in the city for some years.
“I had just finished being qualified as a layer at home, so I decided to get a job and settle into it here in America,” Taylor said. “I came here for employment and under my visa I have three months to find a job.”
“It hasn’t been that bad searching for jobs. I find that people are very helpful here, much more so than at home. I’ve got a lot of contacts and leads, more so than when I was back at home,” Taylor explained.
Analysts say that people migrating is keeping unemployment lower than it could be, but at the same time a high unemployment rate at 14.8 percent is encouraging people to leave.
Alan McQuaid, Merrion Capital Economist, has observed the impacts Ireland’s unemployment rate has had on immigration and emigration through the years.
“The data is clear that the level of distrust with the economy is the main reason residents are emigrating,” McQuaid said.
The situation in Ireland, which was mandated to seek an €85 billion bail-out in 2010, stands in a desolate contrast to the “Celtic Tiger” years, the period from the mid-1990s when the economy boomed and many migrants returned.
It added that plans by the Irish government to cut spending by €3.5 million in the previous December budget could indicate further job losses by 30,000.
“There’s no work here,” McQuiad said, “people will go looking for employment elsewhere; bringing on the large population who are emigrating to places like the U.S.”
With warnings of further job losses to come in Ireland, more residents are seeking employment opportunities abroad like Keane did.
“I’m hoping that here I will find paid work and it will give me that amount of experience that employers are seeking in Ireland so I will get work when I return home,” Keane said.
Originally published in The Immigrant Magazine.