The Demographic and Socio-Economic Characteristics of Migrants, 1986 – 1996

Migration has long been a major feature of Irish demography. The most dramatic illustration of this is provided by the statistic that over two and a half million persons emigrated from the island of Ireland in the twenty-year period following the Famine of 1846/47 (The Commission on Emigration, 1948-1954). In the present century migration has also featured strongly, albeit at a less spectacular level.  During the 1950s net emigration from the Republic of Ireland averaged over 40,000 per annum while in more recent times, in the latter half of the 1980s, the average net outflow was 27,000. It is this recent period since 1986 that we turn to in the present paper. Net outward migration, which was over 40,000 in each of the twelve-month periods to mid-April 1988 and 1989, declined to a level of just 2,000 by 1991.  Following a four-year period when net migration fluctuated around zero the evidence for the period since 1995 points to increasing net inward migration. In the paper we draw on the following data sources: the censuses of 1986, 1991 and 1996 and the annual Labour Force Surveys (LFSs) for 1987 to 1997.  Data from the annual series of population and migration releases  are also used. The paper commences with a consideration of some of the technical issues relating to the migration questions used in the above data sources. Section 3 deals with the stock of persons usually resident in this country who were either born abroad or who lived outside the country for a period of one year or more. The characteristics of the Irish-born and foreign-born persons who make up this group are compared with those of persons who never emigrated.  To-date the only information published on the two categories of migrants is the basic demographic information published in the census reports.  Section 4 examines the annual gross inflow data derivable from the censuses and labour force surveys while section 5 sets out the available information on the characteristics of the households from which persons have emigrated. The main findings of the paper are summarised in the final section and a number of topics for further study are suggested.

Author(s):Aidan Punch and Catherine Finneran
Publisher:Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland
Publication Date:13 May 1999
Geographic Focus:Ireland
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