Ireland: emigration masks the unemployment crisis

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There are many ways to judge the health of a society. The speculators in the European Bond Markets judge the health of nations by the state of their public finances; socialists and trade unionists point to the way that old people and children are treated and especially the position of women in society. Economists look at the volume of imports and exports and at the rate of economic growth.  One measure looks at the scale of inequality within society.

But Ireland has its own measure of the health of society. For generations, when unemployment has blighted Ireland emigration has represented an escape valve for young Irish men and women who would otherwise face years on the scrap heap at home. The Irish Independent recently reported that 70 thousand young Irish people have emigrated in the last year.

The Central Statistical Office has announced a fall in the numbers on the live register of 2,295 over the last year. This is a mere drop in the ocean anyway when there are 434,784 people on the live register, but the truth is that without emigration the unemployment crisis in the state would be dramatically worse.  This is dramatically underlined by the statistic that unemployment among the under 25’s fell by 8.5% while for the over 25’s it rose slightly. Long term unemployment has increased by 83,000 in the past year and the rate of unemployment is predicted to remain above 14%.

The figures are also affected by an upturn in the numbers staying on in education. Like emigration, education represents an attempt to change the situation for the better. However, under capitalism, particularly capitalism in crisis there is a limit to what can be achieved even on the basis of travelling to the other side of the world or studying to the highest level possible.

By any stretch of the imagination the state is in a very unhealthy situation. The economy is highly dependent on exports and while there may be some improvement relative to the situation in 2008 and 2009 the prospects for the world economy are bleak with a strong likelihood of a new world recession. The situation in the eurozone is particularly volatile which means that Ireland could be tossed around in the economic storm or caught in the crossfire of the crisis of the euro.

Without a sustained boom in the world economy the whole of Europe and the advanced capitalist countries face years of austerity. For the working class in Ireland and internationally there is no way out on the basis of capitalism. For those leaving for Britain, the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand emigration represents a partial solution, But there is nowhere on the planet that is unaffected by the economic situation, the international crisis require an international solution. That’s why we are fighting for a Socialist United Ireland and a Socialist world.