The economic crisis currently affecting Ireland has produced a lot of talk about emigration. For example, these two recent posts, here and here, from the ‘ireland after nama’ blog and further posts, here, at the ‘Irish economy’ blog (including an estimate for net outward migration of 34,500 for 2010).
The talk reveals the enormous degree of anxiety Irish people feel about emigration.
In New Zealand we have quite a lot of internal migration and migration to Australia. I don’t think emigration disturbs New Zealanders to the same degree. One-time Prime Minister of New Zealand Robert Muldoon quipped that each New Zealander who emigrates to Australia raises the average IQ of both countries. What strikes me most about the quip is that it is surprising that he trusted the mathematical skills of his audience enough to make it. It also sounds a bit like bravado; putting on a brave face to cover something actually a little bit disturbing. On the other hand, I once read a NZ government position paper on emigration and the so-called ‘brain drain’ that held that New Zealand really experiences a brain swap, because although we lose many young and talented New Zealanders we gain a lot of talent from overseas too. (I suppose they can only claim this if there is little or no net emigration, so presumably the same argument cannot apply to Ireland).
Why is emigration such a difficult subject here?