Head-to-Head: Are Young Irish People Better Off Emigrating?

With the worst of Ireland’s financial crisis in the rearview, Kevin O’Leary argues that emigration is still a major option for students, while Kevin Worrall argues for staying in Ireland.PRO - Kevin O'Leary:The word 'emigration' stirs up intense feeling in the Irish psyche, but it is worth examining this further from the perspective of the prospective Irish emigrant. Gone are the days when emigration meant boarding a steamship with a flatcap in one's hand and a wistful eye cast towards the land that would never be seen again. Emigration is no longer an escape from misery and destitution in our own country, but a mark of ambition on behalf of those who are willing to depart for foreign shores to further their own personal development and realise their full potential. There are many compelling reasons for young people to leave Ireland’s shores.Regardless of the economic situation in Ireland, the state remains a relatively small entity with a population of little more than 4 million. As such, a distinct lack of opportunities exists when the pool of jobs is going to be so limited. This is most notable in the area of nursing, where many graduates emigrate each year, but a similar reality is found in all professions. While multinational corporations may set up regional bases here, the high-level executive positions remain in the US or mainland Europe, and for an Irish employee to reach the highest level of their particular industry, leaving this country is in many cases the best option for advancement in their career.Despite the success of the IFSC, Ireland still lacks a major commercial financial centre that would be similar in nature to London's Canary Wharf or Paris' La Défense (albeit on a smaller scale). Until this occurs, the country's business and finance graduates will still be drawn to the opportunities found in the metropoles of our nearest neighbours.Though the economic climate remains far from satisfactory, emigrating could be a good option for more reasons than purely what you have in your pocket. The opportunity to work and travel in another country will open a graduate's eyes to the world beyond the classrooms, lecture theatres and offices to which they have grown accustomed. The experience of another lifestyle, culture and even language equips the graduate with additional life skills as well as a wider variety of attributes to present to a prospective employer.We need to get beyond the sentimentality that portrays emigration as a fundamentally sad and emotional experience that one can only engage in with reluctance. The distance from Los Angeles to New York is twice the distance of that which lies between Dublin and Berlin, yet if a graduate made the move from one US city to another, it would be seen as a progressive step in that person's path to their personal and occupational fulfilment, not a backwards move that one is forced into out of necessity. People are not leaving this country because they have to, they are leaving because they see opportunities in terms of their careers and their overall lives that are beyond them if they remain in Ireland.With a volatile recovery and an open economy highly susceptible to external economic circumstances, Ireland's employment situation remains unpredictable, and long term prospects for graduates are unclear. Following the 2008 crash, Ireland's unemployment rate went from 4 per cent to 15 per cent in just four years, a rise higher than 22 other EU countries in this period. This rise coincided with the emigration of about 250,000 workers from these shores, whose presence in Ireland would have likely pushed the unemployment rate much further than it actually went. Even in the depths of the recession in the US, the American unemployment rate barely touched double figures. Apart from the short period between the late 1990s and 2008, Ireland's unemployment rate has been stubbornly among the highest in the European Union.The CAO figures for 2016 show a considerable rise in demand for third-level courses in areas such as construction, engineering and architecture, with economic prospects currently looking positive for these sectors. But who can be sure of their prospects after a four-year course? For those on the brink of graduating from these degrees, opportunities appear to exist, but how far will a graduate get in these careers before the economic situation turns again? The figures would suggest that beginning a career in another country is far more likely to provide the sort of job security that workers crave in the modern jobs environment.The argument for emigration does not imply that Ireland is an undesirable place to live and work. It does, however, acknowledge that it is quite possibly more beneficial for a graduate to move to a country that provides better opportunities for employment and personal development, as well as greater job security than is currently provided in our native land.REBUTTAL:The argument brought in favour of remaining in Ireland was at times heart-warming and indeed inspiring. The mentioning of our generally charitable and friendly nature was a point with which one couldn't but agree.It did inadvertently highlight a key problem for graduates however. Arguably one of the strongest reasons for staying put is our community roots, and the cohesive nature of our society. This is not something which provides long-term security for Ireland's graduates, and these social values are found in many other cultures worldwide.Our long list of successful entertainers and sports stars is certainly quite impressive, but many of these achieved success after departing Ireland. Roy Keane moved to England to reach the highest levels of soccer, U2 gained worldwide recognition after recording and releasing The Joshua Tree in the US, while athletes like Sonia O'Sullivan and Jim Stynes went to Australia to further their careers.Outside of these fields, other high-profile Irish figures such as the US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, a Dublin native, would not have reached the positions they have if emigration had not been part of their story.Ireland is unquestionably an attractive country to grow up and live in, but unfortunately it has consistently failed to provide the opportunities and security that its citizens are entitled to demand and experience, and until this changes, emigration remains a very real consideration. CON - Kevin Worrall:It took a lot of work to think of an argument as to why young people should stay in Ireland after graduation. Four years ago, you wouldn’t be blamed for wanting to leave. Unemployment was nearly 15 per cent, and the cost of living was and continues to be expensive. With the retirement age continuously being increased, there is little shift or staff turnover in many corporations, meaning most of us are left knocking on company doors, while they hold senior employees captive. It can be difficult to find a reason to stay, especially when you’re a 20 year old student. The likelihood of making it anywhere can seem relatively slim.For final year students, the same conversations can be heard habitually across the university: what will happen after graduation? Some already have their master’s planned, or are playing the nepotism game and have their foot in an entry-level position in an insurance agency. For many, they plan on moving overseas as soon as they have saved up enough money working their minimum wage, 16 hour-a-week contracts jobs in Penneys or Nando’s.We’re all so conditioned into accepting we’ll need to leave that hardly any of us would consider looking for employment here. And the harsh truth is that even if Ireland was the homeland of a special soil which made money grow on trees, a lot of us would still consider leaving. Emigration is seen as the easy option. When anxiety rears its head about finding a job, it is eased slightly by the knowledge that we can relocate. Therefore, trying to argue that people should stay in Ireland from the “economy is improving ever so slightly” angle is primitive.Ireland is firmly situating itself firmly alongside the rest of the modern world, having become the first country in the world to bring in equal marriage by popular vote. We’ve shaken the grip of the Catholic Church and welcome many technological advances, holding the Web Summit in the RDS since its inception (it’s moving to Lisbon next year) which showcases compelling debates about many social issues. And due to our low incorporation tax at 12.5 per cent, 8 out of 10 global information and technological firms chose Ireland as their European base, creating jobs and revenue.Irish people need to reaffirm their loyalty to their homeland. We’ve got a reputation for giving up when the going gets tough. Ireland treats patriotism like their politically incorrect aunt; tolerating her at Christmas because they know they’ll get a twenty euro note out of it. We love to complain about our homeland. We hate the weather, we hate the government, we hate Dublin Bus and we hate the cyclists who almost hit us as we jay-walked.We are known for claiming victimhood. And look at our history. Who could blame us? Anyone can see we are rooted in deep insecurities. We were raised to be humble, to not take compliments. Our achievements are consistently overshadowed by world media, claiming Irish talent to be British or American for instance.One of the recent trends on Twitter was #BeingIrishMeans. A lot of these trends were sarcastic. However, there were a few tweets which spoke about the beauty Ireland has to offer. Have you ever met another Irish person abroad? Think of the great craic that is had. How the person offers to buy you drinks, how they know your friend Matthew, and worked with your Aunt Mona. The conversation you have as you share a taxi ride back to your accommodation about the deep issues in life. They too enjoy two sugars in their tea, and prefer Barry’s over Lyons. Imagine getting to live in a whole country filled with people like that. Oh wait…We’ve created Oscar winning actors, won gold in the Olympics, produced musicians, sportsmen, playwrights, filmmakers, broke barriers in scientific research, and are considered one of the best places in the world to do business.It should be a deep shame that we are seen as not having any pride. Having a firm affiliation with your country, being proud at what it has achieved and wanting to contribute to its legacy, is the real reason for young people to stay in Ireland now. REBUTTAL:The other argument very much echoes the anxieties which I willingly admitted to in my own argument concerning high unemployment rates as an incitement to leave. However, as stated here, there is an attitude which has permeated across society that emigration should be a rescue remedy to everyone. The attitude towards simply emigrating from Ireland after college has become as easy as wearing Penneys tracksuit bottoms – it’s dangerous and unnecessary.My main point is that emigration will always be the answer in someone’s world. Even if Ireland struck oil tomorrow and we became the most viable economy in the world, there will be someone who doesn’t like working in an oil rig. Someone will always just have the dream of living in Barcelona, or LA, and there isn’t anything that we can, or should do, to stop them from living out that fantasy.This is in regards to the people who are emigrating strictly as a final resort. Postgraduates need to put a stronger emphasis on entering the workforce – big businesses need to give us the opportunity just as much as we need to show it. Only then can we prove our intellect earned by our degrees, and push Ireland towards better days.