Where have all the people gone?

An tSaoi26/07/2009

An Saoi: Bus journeys in Dublin have become pleasant again. There is nearly always a seat and while there may have been a reduction in the number of buses on some routes, those of us lucky enough to be served by a number of routes are not unduly discommoded by waiting an extra minute or two.

There is also a distinct lack of non-nationals. So where have all the people gone?

While searching for answers, Vodafone helpfully announced a 46,000 or 2.4% drop in mobile phone customers in the three months to 30th June in Ireland and this confirms a trend decline noted in Comreg’s report for the first quarter. There was a total decline of 74,000 in the first quarter and based on the Vodafone figure, subscriber losses in the second quarter may be as high as 100,000. Now, the first thing every new arrival to Ireland gets - even before their PPS No. - is that essential of modern life, a mobile phone.

A number of academics who post regularly on Irish Economy have expressed fears about their graduating students being forced to emigrate, and certainly conversations overheard on buses seem to confirm that many see no future here.

The CSO also published recently the Retail Sales Index for May. The volume decline in car sales and household furniture has been well covered elsewhere, but what about food (-6.6%), or even fuel (-11.2%), let alone clothing (-17.1%)? I accept that people may have cut back to a degree on many items, but food? The decline between April & May alone was 2% but the decline in the previous three months was 4.1%, suggesting a clear pattern in the decline in the number of consumers is contributing to the decline.

The CSO was due to publish, before the end of July, migration figures for the early part of the year. Date of publication has been deferred until the end of August. Can it be that they are rechecking their figures?

Net Emigration in the 1950s was in the region of 412,000 or about 13% of the resident population at the end of the decade. In two years it exceeded 70,000. In the late 1980s, it averaged over 35,000 per annum. 2009 may yet break all records, for the wrong reasons.

“This country is too small to support all her people” as someone called Brian Lenihan once said in 1991, but is that true?

Posted in: Labour market

Tagged with: emigration


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