Sunday, March 11, 2012

11/3/2012: Records-busting emigration thingy

A person on twitter asked me about the quick off-hand comment I made stating that we are witnessing 'record emigration'. Here are some numbers from the official CSO counts.

A note of caution: official stats (link here) cover data only from 1987 through April 2011, so all data is annual estimates through April of that year or, rather, year on year comparatives for the month of April. All of the data is based on 2006 census, preliminary numbers, so subject to revisions and implying that 2007-2011 data are themselves preliminary estimates. Births and Deaths are actual recorded. Emigration data is based on QNHS responses (rather lack of responses, signifying exit from the state) and thus subject, in my view, to significant biases. On the net, I would suspect the estimate of emigration figures is biased to the downside - primarily due to surveying methods used (undercounting emigration amongst the foreign nationals).

All said, we don't have any better data than that. So let's crunch through the numbers.

Let's start with the components of population change:

Per chart below, as per my claim on twitter, emigration (gross outflow of people from Ireland) has hit a historical high in overall terms in 2011 at 76,400 against the previous high of 70,600 in 1989. Emigration has surpassed number of births (75,100) in 2011 for the first time since 1990 (emigration of 56,300 vs births at 51,900). Now, number of births, like emigration is taken to population overall, so this comparative is pretty damning.

Now, here's an interesting thing to think about. Higher number of births (record in 2011, incidentally) might be actually keeping emigration numbers down and having double that effect on net emigration. How? Ok, imagine a family with a new-born. One of the parents is receiving maternity benefits and retaining the job. If the other spouse migrates, it is more likely that the mother and the child will remain in the state, if possible, as no destination state of their choice would be covering maternity benefit for new migrants. In addition, both spouses are likely to remain in the state until the maternity runs out. So there is at least some lag possible in terms of those families interested in exiting Ireland and their maternity benefits duration. The effect is unlikely to be huge, in my view, however.

Net effects are plotted in the chart below.

Net migration (immigrants less emigrants) is not at its historic high. In fact in 2011 it slightly improved due to high number of births. Note that higher numbers of births are correlated with conditions that also drive emigration. In 2011, there were total net emigration of 34,100 from Ireland against 34,500 in 2010. These are second and first highest rates of net emigration since 1990. The only two years when net outflow of people from this country was higher were 1988 (41,900) and 1989 (43,900).

It is worth noting, however, that due to higher birth rates, overall population did not decline in any year since 1991 and that 2011 growth in overall population (13,600) was slightly ahead of that in 2010 (11,400).

Let's mention some comparatives to averages:

Again, above summarizes very poor stats for 2010-2011. Natural population increases are running at 50% higher levels than pre-crisis averages. Yet overall population change is running at about 1/5-1/6th rate of pre-crisis average. Immigration numbers are off substantially, but it is the swing in emigration numbers that is driving the entire population change.

Chart below shows net migration trends by nationality:

Prior to 2009, Irish nationals contributed between 5% and 10.3% of the total net migration numbers. In 2009 it was 0%. In 2010 and 2011 Irish national accounted for 41.7% and 67.7% of total net migration  flows. Meanwhile, the largest driver of net migration prior to the crisis - EU12 states nationals - were the source of largest absolute numbers outflows (net) in 2009, but their share of net outflows has fallen to 38.6% and 12.8% in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Lastly, let's perform a simple exercise. Suppose that over 2008-2011 the trend established since 2000 was present and that we performed on average the same as in 2000-2006 in terms of net outflows. What would have happened then?

As chart above shows, in 2011 76,400 people emigrated from Ireland. This was 47,900 in excess of 2000-2006 average, implying net ex-average emigration of 34,100. Over the years of the crisis so far, between 2008-2011, total number of people who emigrated from Ireland was 252,100, which is 138,000 over the level of 'natural' emigration (average). Taking account of the averages, excess net emigration over and above pre-crisis trend now stands at around 203,400 people.

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