Purging Ourselves of Our Young – A Follow-Up

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Oh, the trouble one gets into by pointing out the obvious.  There have been comments on the post, Purging Ourselves of Our Young, claiming that my factual reporting of the population fall in the youth age category of 15-24 was, to quote one commentator, ‘awful’ because I implied it was down to emigration.  I didn’t, and I didn’t mean to.  But I can see how it was read that way.  So let’s clarify.  Because no matter how you turn this thing upside down or right-side up, the extent and tragedy of youth emigration stares us in the face.

Basic numbers:  the previous post charted the rise of emigration in the 15-24 year age group.  This year, to April, it was 34,000. The post went on to show that there was a substantial fall in the age category of 15-29 – 224,000 or 21 percent.  I should have tied-off the post by relating the emigration with the demographic fall because that is where the confusion arose.

Eurostat gives a more relevant age breakdown but only goes up to 2011 so we’ll have to extrapolate for the last two years.  From the CSO we can assume that 48.3 percent of emigration since 2007 was recession-related for the age-group 15-29 (this is ascertained by comparing the percentage difference between emigration in the last five year with the previous five years for the age group 15-24)).  Using the Eurostat data we can find the following.


Between 2008 and 2013, there was, according to Eurostat, with some extrapolation based on CSO:

  • a population decline of 207,900 in the age cohort of 15-29 years
  • In this same period, 281,800 in this age group emigrated
  • If we assume that 48.3 percent of this emigration was recession-related, then the recession-related emigration figure is 136,100

So nearly two-thirds (65.5 percent) of the decline in the key age cohort is due to recession-related emigration.

Even without the recession there would be emigration and even without the recession-related emigration, this age cohort would have declined owing to demographic factors.  But we can see the major driving force in the population decline is not demographic, it is emigration; substantially so.  It amounts to nearly 14 percent of this age group.

An additional advantage of using Eurostat is that we can compare our own emigration figures with that of other countries.


Ireland is, unsurprising, at the top of the league.  Over 5 percent of 15-29 year-olds emigrated in 2011.  This is nearly five times the average of other EU-15 countries (no data for Netherlands).  Interestingly, we are far, far ahead of other peripheral countries – Greece, Portugal and Spain with their very high levels of youth unemployment.  The above is just the gross, not the net figures, but they tell the story.  And given that the CSO shows that most of that above category maintained the high level of emigration in 2012 and 2013, we will see that 5 percent emigration level continued.  How many years can this be sustained until we cop-on that this could result in serious demographic problems?

This should help tie-off this issue – something I should have done this in the original post.  However, there may still be some who will claim that this demographic fall is not driven by recession-related emigration. If so, hopefully they will come forward with their own numbers.

For there would appear to be no doubt – emigration is hollowing out a key age demographic, a process if continued will have considerable negative impacts for our economy and society.

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