The Irish Working Holiday Maker

As the economy in Ireland recovers after the global financial crisis, there’s reports of a growing number of Irish people in Australia who are considering moving home, and worryingly, a number of would-be backpackers who aren’t even be coming.

The number of Irish backpackers travelling to Australia has reached its lowest point in more than a decade according to The Age and applications from temporary skilled workers have dropped to pre-2008 levels.

According to figures from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 40,000 Irish people made Australia their home in 2011 and 2012 and 5,000 people settled here permanently.

Ireland went into recession in 2008 and one year later the economy shrank by seven per cent. Thousands of workers lost their jobs as the unemployment rate jumped from under five per cent to over 14 per cent. It wasn’t just that the recession and the lack of jobs for young people in Ireland, over time Australia had become an exciting rite of passage for those wanting to try their luck in the land down under.

Australia was “the lucky country” which welcomed the Irish with open arms and promised them a good time and the chance for a better future. There were so many of them here that in some places (i.e. Bondi), it felt like a home away from home.

But things have started to shift.

There were nearly 12,000 working holidaymakers from Ireland given 417 visas in 2012-13, however that number dropped by 56% to just over 5000 people last financial year. The number of Irish people on skilled working visas has fallen more than 70% over four years from an all-time high of 10,300 to just 3000.

So is it the improving Irish economy or is Australia no longer the dream? In January this year we suggested that they were all going to Canada where the time-zones for football are better! And, on a more serious note, where the working conditions were better.

The slump in Irish workers could pose a problem for Australia’s hospitality and agriculture industries, which rely heavily on working holiday makers for bar, cafe and fruit picking jobs.

Jordan Brooke-Barnett, spokesman for industry body AUSVEG, said the total number of backpackers had dropped 3% for the past two consecutive years.

On the upside (for us) the lack of affordable rental housing in Ireland and the lower wages since the recession is still keeping them coming – but is it enough?

Are we doing enough to attract the Irish down under? Have your say.

Source: The Age