Sunday, March 3, 2024

Why do young people want to emigrate from Ireland?

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I’m almost 20 years old. It’s a strange age. When I entered university, I first noticed that my peers were starting to move in a different direction. Some of us went to university, some of us worked, some of us became apprentices. We all pursued different things. But one thing I’ve noticed since this split is that most young Irish people have similar plans for the future. It means I want to leave Ireland. I understand that, but I find it frustrating in a way. I’m definitely thinking of leaving Dublin after I graduate.

I am the youngest of four siblings. My oldest brother moved to London after completing his undergraduate studies. He intended to obtain his master’s degree in London and then stay and work there. That’s exactly what he did – he still lives there. My sister moved to Melbourne in May. She had an engineering job in Dublin, but she still quit. And she plans to stay for at least a few more years. My other sister also graduated from college and has a great job. But like many other young people, she is considering leaving Ireland. This is a common picture of an Irish family whose children are now young adults. Many of us are planning to leave.

I am aware that the Irish diaspora is not new. But from what I gather, the reasons have changed. Before, it was inevitable that people would leave. My parents told me about people who quit here because they couldn’t get a job. There were few options in Ireland, so while I was in college my parents took me to New York for summer jobs to help pay for college. But the difference now is that we are making active choices about what we want our lives to be like. Of course, various employment opportunities influence all of this. However, many highly skilled young people with jobs still choose to retire. So there’s clearly more at play here.

Firstly, the price of accommodation here, especially in Dublin and Cork, is a big issue. You will be hard-pressed to pay less than 1,000 euros per month. Most of your salary goes toward rent.

And the standard of accommodation there is rarely high. Buildings are in disrepair and often have very poor finishes and cannot retain heat. That is if you can secure accommodation in the first place. So it’s no surprise that people want better.

But that’s still not the whole picture. So many young people, myself included, struggle with the lifestyle here. The only way we socialize is through alcohol. It’s not a cheap activity. It’s not particularly fulfilling either. We drink the same drinks at the same pub every weekend. Many of us spend a significant amount of time commuting each day. It takes an hour and a half each way by bus from Meath to the University in Dublin. I feel like I spend half my life commuting.

I also wonder what the work culture will be like for me when I graduate from university. The transition from full-time student to full-time employee will be a big change. When parents come home from work, they realize how little time they have at night. When my sister moved from working in Dublin to working in Melbourne, I was shocked by her work-life balance. That we live to work in Ireland was something she was glad to leave behind. And that balance is what many of us are striving for.

What drives many of us to retire is not a desire to work less. A desire to live more. More affordable or more available accommodation is key. But so too are shorter commutes, better work-life balance, and more social options. Your 20s are a rare opportunity to design the life you want. That’s what young Irish people are doing. I don’t want to spend my life commuting 3 hours a day. And we know we don’t have to, especially if we have access to better transportation.

But it makes me really sad to think of so many young people leaving Ireland. Of course, there is excitement in the adventure. But being far away from family is tough. I guess that’s what Evan Boland meant by “all the old songs” that Irish immigrants carried with them. The feeling of connection to homeland never goes away. I’m also relieved about that. Many people may leave here, but they won’t easily lose their sense of home. And hopefully many of us will come back.

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