Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Irish Chamber

Australia’s Irish on jobs, swimming pools and the ‘mammy factor’

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Chamber was featured in this weekend's Irish Times, following journalist Ciara Kenny's speaking slot at our Networking Breakfast in Sydney in May. Here's a little bit of the article....



Bright early-morning sunshine glints off the water at the poolside cafe next to Sydney’s Botanic Gardens as 30 or so members of the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce gather at the harbourside venue for one of their sold-out business breakfasts.

That most of the smartly suited attendees, who are networking over flat whites and eggs Benedict, appear to be under 40 is remarkable for such a professional event. With lawyers, entrepreneurs, tech professionals and company directors among them, it would be difficult to find a stronger example of how successful some of Australia’s young Irish have become since moving over.

When recession gripped Ireland in 2008 Australia seemed to have it all, with its laid-back lifestyle, booming economy and well-paid jobs. Like those attending the breakfast, tradesmen, healthcare workers, backpackers and white-collar professionals arrived in their droves, whether to travel around or to take up jobs in the big cities and mines around Western Australia and Queensland.

Over the following six years more than 100,000 Irish people headed down under in search of a fresh start or adventure, and Australia fast became the most popular destination for Irish emigrants outside the UK.

In the past two years, however, the tide has taken a dramatic turn. The Australian economy has tightened, particularly in Western Australia. Back in Ireland unemployment has dropped (to 8.3 per cent in July, when the number at work surpassed two million for the first time since 2009). Returning to Ireland is becoming an increasingly attractive option for those Irish looking towards home.

Figures this week from the Central Statistics Office show how much things have changed, with just 6,200 people moving from Ireland to Australia in the 12 months to April this year. That’s just over a third of the total in 2012, when numbers peaked at 18,200. They also show a dramatic jump in those moving in the other direction – from Australia to Ireland – in the past year, from 2,900 to 5,500.

Moving questions

The Irish Times is at the chamber’s event in Sydney to talk about the Generation Emigration project, but most of the questions that the breakfasters ask relate to moving home.

“What is the economy really like outside Dublin?” one asks.

“What are people saying about our chances of getting a mortgage if I return with my family?” wonders another.


The Chamber’s [CEO], Barry Corr, says that such chatter is increasingly common at Irish networking events. “Unfortunately, not all the people who came over did so by choice,” he says. “It was always going to be the case that when the Irish economy was strong enough to offer them the opportunity to go home again they probably would.”

The Chamber’s membership swelled from less than 1,000 four years ago to 7,000 in 2016. But so many members are moving back to Ireland that it set up a Dublin branch this summer.

It works closely with the Irish recruitment agency CPL, which in [March] sent a delegation to Australia in a drive to bring Irish workers home, particularly those in engineering, law, project management, IT and financial services.

Although Ireland’s improving career prospects have certainly facilitated their return, Corr says that “the major family events are the biggest driver. Life events are more important than anything else: where they are getting married or having their first child, or the child going to school, or a death of a parent.”

His observations are supported by the findings of a recent Ipsos MRBI survey for The Irish Times, in which more than a third of emigrants who said they wanted to move home identified family as the trigger. Another 16 per cent identified homesickness as the main reason. Just one in five said that work or a job offer would be the main cause of their decision to return, while 12 per cent cited improvements in the economy.

The Irish surveyed in Australia and New Zealand were the most likely of Irish people abroad to say that they plan to be home within three years, at 30 per cent, compared with 19 per cent in the UK and just 2 per cent in the US.


To read the full article click here

This series of articles is supported by the Global Irish Media Fund

Irish Times
Ciara Kenny