Irish graduates turn to Birmingham for employment


As the global recession bites, the Republic of Ireland’s economy has been one of the high-profile victims.

With unemployment at 14% and a flat housing market, many fear a bleak outlook, certainly in the short term.

Part of the economic fallout is that more and more young graduates feel they have to look elsewhere for a career.

Birmingham has long been the destination of choice for generations of Irish immigrants.

Now, a community of more than 100,000 people enjoy the third largest St Patrick’s Day parade in the world.

Over the past decade there has been a rise in the number of professionals arriving in Birmingham, compared to previous generations where many went into work in unskilled services or construction.

‘Natural choice’
Michelle Fraher, an occupational therapist, said the only place she could find work after completing her studies was in Birmingham.

“I know people that five or six years ago in occupational therapy in Ireland would have walked into a job and I know people who have done that and there would have been locum work and short-term contracts, but they’ve stopped all that now.

“I’d much rather be working in Ireland but it’s just not possible.

“I look for work every day and it’s literally just my parents buying the newspapers every day, checking the newspapers every day.

“There’s such a demand, they can put something up [on a website] today and it could be down tomorrow evening.

“I miss home every day… I just don’t think I’ll ever lose that.”

Graduate Niall McCooey studied law in Ireland and has now secured himself a position with a law firm in Birmingham.

He accepts his career choice means he will settle here in the long term.

“I have family here so it was a natural choice,” he said.

“I come from a rural area. Back home everyone leaves for the big cities like Dublin and Belfast and if they don’t get work there, they go to England or Australia.

“It’s the norm I think.”

Figures from the Irish government show that about 18,000 people emigrated from Ireland last year with about a third coming to Britain.

A spokesman for the Irish Welfare centre in Birmingham said it had seen an increase over the past 12 to 18 months in the number of people coming to them for welfare help and advice.

Prof Cillian Ryan, Dean of Social Sciences at Birmingham University, said the Irish economy was roughly the size of the West Midlands conurbation, about 4.5 million people.

‘Miss home’
However, he said because of its relatively small size, it was “natural” that people looked to go abroad to develop their opportunities, regardless of the economic climate.

In December, the Economic and Social Research Institute forecast that the Irish economy will grow by just 0.9% in 2012, downgraded from its previous prediction of 2.3%.

The Republic of Ireland’s economy shrank by almost 2% in the third quarter of 2011 and growth forecasts over this winter for Northern Ireland have been put at 0.8%.

UK growth over the same period has been put at 0.9%.

But the question now surrounding Irish emigration is, whether the economy there will ever recover in time to allow those who might wish to return in the future to do so.

You can see more about this story on Inside Out West Midlands on BBC One on Monday, 28 November at 19:30 GMT.

source: BBC © 2012

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