There are 35,000 reasons why senior policymakers and politicians should hang their heads in shame each day in Ireland.
There are 35,000 questions as to why a small, open economy like Ireland cannot look after its own, and there are 35,000 reminders that all of us are not doing enough to make our country a better place.
After a short period before 2007 when net immigration was briefly a component of economic behaviour, we are back shipping them out in truckloads. The ESRI is assuming in its medium-term models that 35,000-40,000 people will emigrate each year. Over the next decade that could push 400,000 out, most of them young.
This has important social and economic ramifications. Younger consumers tend to spend more outside the home and are key components of the house formation element of any economy. They are also the producers of the next generation and help keep the average age of the population down, which helps long-term performance and competitiveness of any economy.
The social aspects are more complicated. Having younger people starting careers and establishing families must be a net positive for any society. If all of them are unemployed, however, it becomes a financial drain. Hordes of unemployed youth can have nasty consequences for social unrest, too.
There’s the rub. Amid all the hand wringing and God-love-us exhortations of politicians when challenged about emigration, they must wonder is it all a valuable safety valve that takes away the problem of disgruntled and potentially politically active cohorts in society.
It is senior civil servants and leading politicians that must divine a solution. We elected one of these groups and pay for the other. It is their responsibility to brainstorm new ideas that bring emigration to its knees. This is what their days should be made up of instead of the Punch and Judy shows that now masquerade as political discourse in Ireland.
We know the only way to stem emigration is to create jobs, so we must find ways of stimulating employment and that requires structural changes that make Ireland a haven for job creators.
In some ways we are doing that in parts. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is strong through the recession. However, noises about lifting personal tax rates, especially for higher earners, could stop that in its tracks. A key cornerstone for FDI sustainability is to ensure senior executives join their workforces in Ireland. Impeding that trend would be a dangerous step, no matter what the troika would like us to do.
So, what are the impediments to significant employment creation?
Here is a list:
*The growth of direct and indirect taxes that impede and dissuade the production of new jobs;
*The absence of any "Big Ideas" regarding core infrastructure (water, broadband, energy) that can create tens of thousands of jobs. Sorry, but the Gathering is a poor substitute;
*A defeatist culture in our political classes who prefer to sling mud instead of making grown-up decisions;
* non-existence of a profoundly new mindset about making Ireland the easiest and most efficient transport platform in Europe.
This week about 700 Irish people will board planes and boats to make their lives somewhere else. Many want to do so for personal reasons related to careers and experiences. It is the others that we all should worry about.
They will not be forgotten by friends and family but the politicians and policymakers will forget about them all too quickly.
Another 700 will go next week too. In fact, 52 giant Airbus A380s would be needed to carry these people out over the next year. It’s a shameful and enduring stain on us Irish.
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