Anne Marie McNally: Can You Afford To Come Home?

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From top: passport control at Dublin Airport arrivals; Anne Marie McNally

Over recent weeks there has been quite a bit of fanfare regarding the reversal of the brain-drain.

‘Emigrants returning home in their droves’ went the headlines and with it the underlying implication that this should underline to us that things really have turned around and Ireland Inc. is back, baby!

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe et all have, and will continue to, use this news to tell us how Fine Gael have supposedly turned things around; how they’ve got the economy back on track. Right so, Ted.

Funny then that there has not been quite as much fanfare for the other side of the story; the surveys of returning emigrants and the tales of their shock at discovering just how inhospitable Ireland Inc. has become for anyone hoping to live an average or even above average salary or two.

These stories have been covered but they didn’t attract the news heads or the ‘What it says in the papers’ slots in the same way that the good news story of the returning numbers did.

Unless you read deep into the pages of the newspapers you’d likely have missed the coverage of the results of the surveys conducted with returning emigrants or those who had considered returning.

You may not have heard how a lot of those that returned are already considering leaving again or how they have had to relocate far outside the city they intended to return to just so they can scrape together a semi-normal life.

A couple of months back Ciara Kenny in the Irish Times spoke to some returning emigrants who outlined some of the barriers to relocating here.

The fact that there is a significant waiting period to receive child benefit – 16 months in some cases; the reality that motor insurers won’t consider driving experience abroad or before you left as qualifying driving experience thus giving people exorbitant car insurance quotes; the childcare costs; the school waiting lists; the shortages of GPs; the costs of medical care and/or health insurance; but mostly they speak about housing.

They speak about the shock at finding they are expected to pay in the region of €2,000 for any kind of average one or 2 bed place in Dublin city and not much less for a similar place even with a long commute.

They make comparisons with the cities they have left and discuss how their housing costs fared relative to their take-home pay; the difference being that while abroad they were not shelling out 40-60% of their income on housing whereas that figure has become the norm here in Dublin and some other urban centres nationally.

Another piece in the Irish Times last week focused on people moving to the West of Ireland to try and arrest the current assault on their income caused by the ridiculously high cost of living in urban centres.

The feature had a mix of young professionals and older more settled families with decent incomes. They all struggled equally to manage the cost of living in Dublin and all decided – some out of total necessity rather than choice – that it was no longer sustainable.

Do we factor this into stories about the brain-drain? I suspect not.

We’ve a country that people want to live in yet increasingly many are finding that they simple can’t afford to live in it. That’s an equation that can never balance.

Dublin is now one of the 10 most expensive cities in the world to live in – mostly due to its sky-rocketing rents but many other factors are also critical components of this ranking including the cost of consumer goods.

While our inclusion on some of these ‘most expensive’ can be attributed to the strength of the Euro vis-à-vis the dollar, those of us living in Dublin know that is quite simply bloody expensive to live here.

It is imply unsustainable for a household, whatever its composition, to pay put 40-60% of its income on housing costs and then try to manage other costs such as ever-increasing utility bills, childcare costs, transport costs, etc., etc.

The cost of living in Ireland, particularly the urban centres is too high.

It’s too high for those of us who never left, it’s too high for those who are coming back and according to IBEC and the National Competitiveness Council, and it’s too high for those who want to do business here.

So Paschal et al in Fine Gael, let’s start balancing the supposed good-news fanfares with those realities eh?

Anne Marie McNally is Social Democrats Political Director and General Election candidate for Dublin Mid-West. Her column appears here every Wednesday. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

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66 thoughts on “Anne Marie McNally: Can You Afford To Come Home?

  1. millie st murderlark

    I can’t even afford to leave the country.

    I think I’ll just dig a hole and wait for the inevitable rot.

    1. JunkFace

      This is an important note to make. It costs at least 10K-15K to set yourself up in another (EU) country. Mainly to cover your rent and food while you search for a job, you could be waiting 6 to 9 months doing interviews! It can be tough on you mentally, but a bit of will power will get you through it. I did it, its done, and I am glad I did it because now I have things like healthcare and pension setup, as well as 60% or more of my wages to save every month. Things that were just not possible in Ireland. If you feel like you are just rotting away in Ireland, maybe borrow some money to leave. Its a new adventure, but you will feel the stress lift off your shoulders a few months after leaving Ireland, and begin to relax, especially with the relief of finding a good job. Never be afraid of a new challenge, you are tougher than you realise.

      1. dan

        I worked abroad three times and each time I got the job BEFORE I left Ireland. Why on earth would you move somewhere without a job and waste 10-15k in the process? Get a few interviews and take a few days off and travel.

        Agree that more people should leave Ireland and work. I did at 25, bought a flat, sold it and came back to Dublin ten years later and could afford a house with no mortgage. There are countless opportunities abroad. Loads of Irish have about as much imagination as a tea towel. Get out there, see the world, save some money and come home if/when you want.

        1. Rob_G

          I agree with you re: the leaving Ireland thing; but I would point out that Ireland is the country with the highest proportion of its citizens living abroad, so in relative terms, we are quite adventurous in this regard.

        2. JunkFace

          The nature of my work was more difficult to get the job beforehand, that would have been ideal, so I had to freelance first. I did try so hard before leaving but the interviews required me to be there a lot, so the amount of trips would have been too much. It was tricky.
          The great thing is that in a lot of European cities there are always Irish communities, no matter how small, already there, and they are very helpful with advice, which makes you feel at home more.

  2. Col

    This is doing damage to the economy. If the government doesn’t do something to address spiralling rents and house prices (regardless of how high they were in 2007), Ireland will lose any competitiveness in terms of wages and thousands of jobs will go elsewhere.

  3. BS

    Ireland is a kip. earning 3 grand a month, expected to pay 2 grand a month for a home to live in, private health insurance, because the public system is so broken, and also because you are financially penalised if you DONT have private health insurance. need to live outside Dublin and commute? motor tax, ridiculous insurance prices, 78% tax on a tank of petrol. want to take the bus? flip a coin as to whether it will turn up and if you’ll get a seat when it does.

    Whats left to live on?

    the best little country to do business in…and to be a politician in….

      1. BS

        good point! so after paying over 50% tax, 20% band and 40% band, and the cumulative 7% USC you pay when you earn over 50k, which is about 3 grand a month, you need to put another at least 5% of your wage a month away for a pension.

        If you had 500e for living costs after all that you’d be lucky…

        what a depressing hole of a country this is

          1. BS

            yeah cause I’m the problem here…i should be leaving cause the country is in a heap…its my fault for wanting to be able to afford a home to live in, without having to share with strangers in a bunk bed. you’re totally right, i should leave the country and make room for people who would be happy to live with 4 other people in a double room. I’m sorry for being so selfish and expecting that the government would try to create a stable society where the basic human rights are seen as what they should be and not a privilege for people who have parents that can afford to give them a deposit and get a 100% mortgage on their gaff.

            The rest of us should just leave

          2. Rob_G

            Ireland has a housing crisis, so rents are madness, this is true. And its true that private health insurance here is also very expensive (just go public?)

            But I think if you moved somewhere else, you might find that the grass isn’t always greener: most of the other countries in Europe have a lot of the same problems you are describing, if you think that taxes are high in Ireland, try living in Sweden or Belgium.

          3. JunkFace

            Yes Rob G Taxes are higher in Northern and central EU countries, but what you get is, everything else is cheaper Rent, Healthcare, insurance, child care, and more than likely a reliable transport system, which gets rid of the car ownership needs. You save a lot more in the long run. Ireland, well Dublin, is a money pit. It will take everything you have.

          4. johnny

            There’s very few irish illegal immigrants these days in NY/LA thankfully,living in the shadows affected peoples mental health and the lack of status was often the driving force to returning.Most the Irish I interact with are very happy to have emigrated and have no interest in returning ‘home’.If your a high earner and the ‘best and brightest’,then I highly recommend leaving and quickly:)
            I love Ireland and the people,visit often and looked into doing some business there, just didn’t ‘connect’ with the people I’d have had work with, so…..
            For any aspiring New Yorkers I highly recommend it but only if you’ve got skills to pay the bills.

          5. Ian C

            Dumbest comment of the week.

            So anyone who makes reasonable complaints about the state of so much should leave, yes?

            Grow up.

            This is a genuine crisis and that sort of attitude is part of the problem.

          6. Rob_G

            @ Ian

            You are right, I was being a bit churlish. Sorry, BS.

            Unfortunately, a lot of the things Ireland are the way they are because that is the way that the electorate want them to be.

            Lack of housing? This is down to people objecting to any development over two storeys being built near them. Lots of people only want to live in semi-detached houses; having miles and miles of cookie-cutter suburbs is the main reason we have such crappy public transport. Plenty of people are happy to have the govt fund motorways, so that they can drive into the centre from their housing estate on the outskirts of Dublin, but are not prepared to stomach the billions it would cost ot build a metro.

          7. BS

            you’re not wrong Rob, planning is absolutely to blame, there’s no central joined up thinking when it comes to planning, add in the corruption that is systemic in every single county planning board and you have one of the reasons we are in this situation.

            IMO the only way the housing crisis will be solved is government built houses and apartments. not private build having a % of social housing, but government owned, rent controlled apartments, priced at a reasonable price based on size and location.

            If you want to buy or rent a privately owned luxury apartment and can afford it, go ahead, if you want a comfortable, safe, well maintained apartment that you can afford, that should be available to you, it shouldn’t put you on the bread line to put a roof over your head.

            Social housing in this country is aimed a low or no income families and single people, and of course they should be housed, but earning 50K these days doesn’t mean you can afford an apartment, as i said above, so a serious shift in thinking as to who affordable and social housing is catered towards is needed.

          8. JunkFace

            Social housing needs to be aimed at the Middle class/working class now in Ireland. Which is crazy, but yes people with jobs need help in finding a home they can afford. Leaving the building up to the Housing market is crazy too. You need the Government to step in when your country is in a severe crisis, but you need transparency. Can Ireland do both?

    1. Cian

      Petrol? In Ireland its in 9th place in the Euro.

      Netherlands € 1.797        
      Italy € 1.680        
      Greece € 1.669        
      Portugal € 1.664        
      France € 1.552        
      Finland € 1.536        
      Belgium € 1.528        
      Germany € 1.519        
      Ireland € 1.459       
      UK € 1,436 [£1,298 ]

      also higher than Ireland:
      Norway € 1,752 [17,060 NOK]
      Denmark €1,729 [12,890 DKK]
      Sweden €1,571 [16,560 SEK]

      http://www.fuel-prices-europe.info/index.php?sort=4

      1. BS

        I was in Germany last week. It was €1.50.9 for 98 octane petrol. that is considerably better quality than the 95 octane we get here. similar petrol to ours was €1.43.9. I just filled my car up today at €1.48.9 for 95 octane.

        May sound like nit picking but if you have a car with any sort of power, and enjoy driving (which is one of the little pleasures left when owning a car here) then you really notice the difference

        1. Cian

          @BS
          Interesting, I was in Germany last week too, and my (boring) 95 octane was €1.53/l

          Next time I’ll try the 98 and see if I notice the difference.

        2. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

          What difference? I always get the cheaper petrol as I’m tight but do you notice a physical difference driving with different strength (is that the word?) petrol?

          1. BS

            you wouldnt feel a difference in a ford fiesta, but you would feel a difference in a 2.0L audi or bmw, or any of the big german performance saloons you see in abundance in germany. you get closer to the advertised BHP with higher octane fuel, plus it lubricates the engine more. so even if you only put a full tank of it through your engine a few times a year it will help.

          2. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            Right. I’ll give it a whirl so. I actually have a decent car although it’s getting old now.

  4. Ollie Cromwell

    One more time.
    Rents are high because of limited demand.
    Demand is limited because of immigration and not enough houses being built to accommodate those arriving.
    Eventually you’ll understand.

    1. George

      You are in over your head. You literally don’t know what you are talking about. Demand is high. Supply is limited.

      If you were capable of rational thought you’d realise more people have left Ireland than have immigrated here so clamping down on migration would make the situation worse.

  5. garthicus

    We moved back from Canada 5 years ago, I’m glad it was then and not now as I don’t think we could have survived ‘starting up’ costs in 2018. Things like our car insurance has just returned to norm compared to when we moved back first, we also got child benefit fairly quickly at the time.

  6. Harry Molloy

    This column is about coming home to Ireland but refers to the horror of moving outside “the city”

    Ireland is not the city, which is presumably Dublin. Dublin is the economic centre and keeps everything going no doubt but such focus on it as being the only viable living option and the only place that can attract industry is why it is such a difficult place to live, and why the rest of the country is in decline.

    The same series of articles Anne refers to has recently published a positive account of moving from Dublin: https://www.google.ie/amp/s/www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/goodbye-to-dublin-i-had-preconceptions-about-people-in-the-west-before-i-moved-here-1.3604315%3fmode=amp

    it might be more appropriate for all parties to promote the rest of the country as being something other than a place where your grandparents might live. Even if you don’t think they vote right.

    Not every town can have a Facebook but every province should have an attractive urban centre of industry and feeder towns to supply it.

    1. Rob_G

      That’s what I missed from that entire thing.

      ‘Hey Anne Marie, what about taking a 2-acre site in the centre of Dublin and turning it into a hotel and apartments?’

      ‘No, we want that to left an empty monument to misery’.

    2. Joe Small

      If Broadsheet is going to continuously give a platform to an unelected Social Democrat, they can at least propose proper solutions. I think most Irish adults know what the problems are. We don’t need Anne Marie to restate the obvious.

        1. Cian

          If Anne Marie doesn’t have a proposal, then the current “solution” by elected folks are, by default, the best solutions.

  7. diddy

    Problem is ammo… Stats are facts whinge pieces in the Irish Times are anecdotal… Despite the state of the place people ARE coming home. Perhaps they are wishful thinkers..

    Can you write a piece about non EU immigration exacerbating the housing crisis please? Because no one seems to want to talk about it.

    1. George

      The thing is a lot of Irish people have emigrated to non-EU countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UAE, and soon the UK.

      So if these people have to come home the housing crisis would be worse. So you can now either stop peddling your anti-immigrant views or just be openly racist. Stop affecting “economic anxiety”.

      1. diddy

        Anti Immigrant views? As a citizen of the state im entitled to question the wisdom of allowing 60 or more language schools in Dublin to import thousands of non EU students into Dublin without anythought given to how this affects the the already crushed housing stock? Yes some come in a some go out.. Yes they are fine young people … yes they are conturbutiing to the economy by doing minimum wage jobs.. but they need housing at a time when Irish people and our EU citizens are being squeezed out. I repeat there are no limits to to visas, no quotas, nothing.. This cohort of students is not insignifact . It has to be looked at in terms of planning. no doubt. I repeat i am not anti immigrant.

    2. Rob_G

      @ diddy –

      What you are saying is correct, but doesn’t really add anything to the conversation:

      Non-EU migrants are exacerbating the housing crisis.
      EU migrants are exacerbating the housing crisis.
      Returning Irish migrants are exacerbating the housing crisis.
      Irish people who have never left are exacerbating the housing crisis.

      The housing crisis is a problem of a lack of homes, all the other stuff is just optics.

      1. Brother Barnabas

        that (“irish people who have never left are exacerbating the housing crisis”) is an interesting angle

        I’ve just mentally compiled a list of people I know who are especially guilty of this

        fuppers (or phuckers, rather – that’s allowed now, eh, bodger?)

        1. Cian

          Perhaps we should re-introduce the Australian transportations?

          Ship all the ne’er-do-wells out of the country and free up all that property.

      2. diddy

        But its a controllable… FG keep talking about bread tomorrow when it comes to housing… in the meantime dublin is a pile on.. murphy could easily curtail the numbers of language students coming in. Most of whom are never going to afford the 300 euro a week palaces being built around town. I would be very interested to see the number of GNIB cards issued in the last 12 months. An examination and possible curtailment of this industry is all im saying not.. a ban on non EU immigration outright.

        1. Cian

          At last – a proposed solution to the rental crisis.

          You are happy to destroy the language schools, to reduce the demand on renting in Dublin.

          Do you have any proposals on compensation for the school owners? Or redundancy payments for the staff? or retraining/new jobs for the staff? Or do they just “take one for the team”?

          1. Rob_G

            Ah now – if the schools lost all of their pupils in these circumstances, that would be their problem, they have done quite well out of their nod-and-wink English classes for long enough.

  8. anne

    It’s Et Al. Just saying. Al. is an abbreviation. But anyway yeah, you’d want to be fairly successful to move back here.

  9. diddy

    Anti Immigrant views? As a citizen of the state im entitled to question the wisdom of allowing 60 or more language schools in Dublin to import thousands of non EU students into Dublin without anythought given to how this affects the the already crushed housing stock? Yes some come in a some go out.. Yes they are fine young people … yes they are conturbutiing to the economy by doing minimum wage jobs.. but they need housing at a time when Irish people and our EU citizens are being squeezed out. I repeat there are no limits to to visas, no quotas, nothing.. This cohort of students is not insignifact . It has to be looked at in terms of planning. no doubt. I repeat i am not anti immigrant.

    1. postmanpat

      didn’t you hear? We live in binary world now. You need to see all immigrants as equal. Whether they are honest and hardworking or criminals or opportunists or refugees or low skilled or highly skilled, planning to milk the system or work hard and contribute. You must assume they are all on the positive end of the scale and any questioning of immigration polity makes you a out and out racist. But in all seriousness, they could all be coming in to drain on the system (they’re not) but it wouldn’t be a drop in the ocean of what we let the transnational corporations and banks get away with. Also we could all learn something from these immigrants , do you think they waste there time bickering on message boards trying to out “progressiveness” ach other. no, they just get on with it, they consort with eachother , and live on top of each other for years and during that time, despite all the fat Irish baby boomers in suits that rip them off at every single turn, STILL manage …and this is the secret……save…..save money, save like misers , scrimp and save , live frugally ,co opting with each other , until one day a group of them walk into a show house and offer to pay in cash , then continue to work and save only this time they aren’t getting rode by a fat miserable Irish landlord and they can save 5 times faster, no banks, no mortgage, and continue the cycle .. meanwhile all the complaining soft Irish people look on and assume the government made things easier for these once poor immigrants and now they are in the upper middle class. But they worked for it and got no help.

  10. Ian C

    @Rob_G

    No need for an apology and sorry if I was a bit snappy! But yes, I have to admit that a lot of what you say in your follow up post is absolutely spot on.

    1. Rob_G

      ;)

      The apology was more for BS, but your point was well-made, sir; I should have taken more time to write out a proper response to the poster explaining a bit my reasoning rather than a one line comment that could come off as overly-glib.

      1. Cian

        Stop that you too. This is BS. None of this apologising and accepting of apologies!!

        At the very least it should be a dual at dawn…

  11. DaithiG

    My wife and I have looked into moving back from Florida. We would both earn really good money, but looking at the cost in Dublin, we would definitely prefer another city, but it wouldn’t be just cost of living that makes outside the Pale a better option, I think the quality of life is better too.

    However, we have a special needs child and the services are dreadful, even with private health insurance. If we were to move away from the Trumpocalypse it would likely be another EU country.

  12. andy

    I have lots of friends in the US who will be moving back in the next 2 years.
    They will be moving back on high salaries and most will have large cash deposits or have already acquired properties prior to their return.
    Kids daycares/nannies will or have all been pre-arranged and schools have been subscribed too.
    Health & car insurance prices are known. In some cases jobs will cover insurance plans or provide access to group plans.

    The fact people are shocked by the cost of returning to Dublin is on them. All it takes is a bit of leg work to get yourself fully informed.

  13. andy

    I have lots of friends in the US who will be moving back in the next 2 years.
    They will be moving back on high salaries and most will have large cash deposits or have already acquired properties prior to their return.
    Kids daycares/nannies will or have already been pre-arranged and schools have been subscribed too.
    Health & car insurance prices are known. In some cases jobs will cover insurance or provide access to group plans.

    The fact people are shocked by the cost of returning to Dublin is on them. All it takes is a bit of leg work to get yourself fully informed.

    Not to detract from the overall theme of this. Dublin is way to expensive for what you get. Accommodation is crappy, health care is a pain in the &ole, utilities & public transport are both awful & expensive. But groceries are cheap and good quality, there’s tons of parks and people (apart from constant moaners) are good fun, there’s lots of new restaurants to choose from and there’s all of Europe to explore on long weekends with Ryanair.

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