Emigration: The Student Perspective

 
 

Third year biochemistry student, Niall Vaughan remains reluctant to look to foreign fields for future employment despite the fact that the once vibrant bio-chemistry industry has dried up in Ireland in the recent years.

If jobs should become unavailable in his sector in Ireland, Vaughan admitted he would contemplate emigrating, but stated that this would only be an option if he could foresee no employment in Ireland. “[Emigration] would depend really on whether I had a job, or what my girlfriend was doing.”

This raises the question whether this generation, when faced with the prospect of unemployment, would consult relationship factors before considering moving away, and in doing so, possibly jeopardise their chances of employment.

However, Vaughan emphasises that he aspires to continue his studies in Ireland, which could tide him over until the employment climate cures itself.“I want to go on and study Medicine so I plan on staying here anyway, unless something very bad happens with the economy I don’t think I’ll be leaving any time soon.”

However, there are those who don’t necessarily want to look abroad for opportunity. This view was been expressed by a number of the students interviewed, who view Ireland as their only home and could not consider living anywhere else. Vaughan said that he had not considered the prospect of emigration before now, stating, “I’ve never thought about it”.

Vaughan is not alone in this regard, as David Casey mentioned that increasingly, students are studying to a higher level, for example for a Masters or PhD, in the hopes of better qualifying themselves and ensuring a job in their area of interest.

Consequently, many students are focusing on their studies in preparation for the possible hard times to come, believing that the higher grade or qualification will exemplify them from facing emigration.
First year physiotherapy student, Megan Cleary is acutely aware of the lack of jobs her chosen sphere.

Physiotherapy is a course facing much competition, even for postgraduate positions, as these recent years have seen an increase in numbers of physiotherapy students emerging from university.

A commonly expressed opinion is that this economic glitch will right itself in time

In Ireland, this has been largely blamed on UCD allowing places for students in physiotherapy and University of Limerick introducing a course on the subject.

Cleary has a pessimistic outlook on the opportunities that await her after finishing in UCD. “There are no jobs for physiotherapists in Dublin. A lot of students in this course do worry about the lack of opportunities.”

However, students in Cleary’s year take comfort in the common idea that the socio-economic issue facing Ireland today will be much improved by the time these Freshers graduate. “[The recession] cannot be a long term thing because people have to retire, so there has to be jobs somewhere!”

Of the students interviewed, a commonly expressed opinion is that this economic glitch will right itself in time and students will be safe in their academic bubble until the time comes to leave it, by which time the global economy may be more stable.

Cleary said of the economic situation, “It doesn’t worry me now that there are no jobs, but there has to be jobs in four years time”, revealing the insecurities of many students face with this situation.

As a developed country the percentage of people in Ireland who fit into the older age bracket is greater than that of the younger age bracket. This suggests that there are more people of retiring age in the population than of graduating age. These jobs may become slightly more plentiful as time goes on, which would mean that emigration may not be a decision forced on college students en masse.

When asked whether she herself would consider expatriation if faced with unemployment, Cleary commented that emigration would definitely appeal to her. “I would definitely, straight away, go to Australia. It’s the place to go… I could imagine myself over there!” which fits in with the opinions commonly expressed by students.

A higher grade or qualification will exemplify them from facing emigration

In emigration patterns, Australia appears to have a magnetic pull for Irish students. Australia admitted 171,000 immigrants in the year 07-08 and before the global economic downturn had plans to admit 203,000 during the year 08-09, making it one of the world’s largest recipient of foreign nationals.

Australia has a great tradition as a cultural melting pot, with many Irish people having family or friends down under, this coupled with the good weather and easy-going mentality makes it a popular choice with the student population- with or with out economic worries.

Although Australia is well known for its somewhat lax immigrant policies as they pertain to skilled workers, this by no means ensures a comfortable lifestyle on arrival. The current financial issue is not a national one, but is being experiences world-wide and even the island continent is having to tighten its purse strings and think of its infrastructure, meaning that many students are beginning to consider alternatives as their destination du jour.

Third year economics student, David Candon considered the possibility of emigration to get a PhD and to find a job.

Whilst Ireland’s postgraduate population appears on the surface to be booming, Candon feels that he may be compelled to emigrate in order to chase education possibilities.

“Well, I’d consider emigration to do a PhD,” Candon comments. “I would like to be a university lecturer and if I couldn’t secure a job in this field in Ireland, I would consider moving to another country such as America or the UK to work.”

Candon presented a laid back attitude to the prospect of moving away from home both for further study and long term work. In an era when travel is quick and easily accessed, the world is becoming a smaller place.

Students are increasingly considering the prospect of moving far from their place of origin in search of further studies or a country in a more stable economic position than their own, possibly a naïve view considering the global ramifications of this financial crisis.

“I don’t speak any other languages; I suppose this would limit me to exclusively English speaking countries in his search for work.” Candon reveals.

There is no doubt that students with more than one language will find jobs in a greater number of countries than their monolingual counterparts, so America, Canada, the UK and Australia have a natural attractive force for English-speaking emigrants.

In the unstable economic climate of recent times matters such as these have huge significance particularly in light of the fact that this situation is not national but global. If so many countries are having economic problems, questions must be raised about whether about traditional host countries are still viable for educated immigrants or if they may be subject to greater competition amongst other graduate workers for its jobs.

When asked if he was worried about finding a job in Ireland, acknowledging the fact that he is studying economics as a single honor degree Candon replied, “No not really to be honest. I’m pretty good at what I do.”

Despite his willingness to potentially emigrate, Candon seemed confident about his future career in Ireland which seemed in accordance with Casey’s belief that the well educated sector of Irish society will most likely still fall on their feet in times of economic crisis.

When an employer is forced to hire less people due to economic problems they are more likely to hire those with better qualifications, i.e. those who have continued on to fourth level education and Candon hopes to fall into this category.

Candon represents the views of many students who feel that academia and the job market have become a numbers game, with the best game players being those who have an alphabet after their names. This increasingly competitive atmosphere is being expressed through an increasing number of fourth level students in the Irish education system.

While education plays a huge part in students’ success within the rat race, the fact is that there must be jobs to be won. The ever-looming possibilities of a crashed market and high unemployment rates, are not lost on the average students, as seen by the numbers of people who, have at least once, considered emigration.

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