IRISH emigrants in Australia say housing and car insurance costs are the biggest barriers to returning home. The findings are contained in a new report that also proposes ways to tackle the problems.
The independent report, commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs, looks at the challenges facing returning emigrants worldwide. It makes 30 recommendations about how to cut the red tape and make the move home easier.
As part of their research, the report’s authors, Indecon, surveyed more than 1,100 returned emigrants and emigrants living abroad – including Australia – about the barriers they faced on returning to Ireland. The biggest obstacles cited by all Irish emigrants were: buying or renting a house; getting a mortgage; car insurance costs and the paperwork needed to open a bank account or transfer savings or pensions, the survey found.
“The cost of car insurance is going to force us back to Australia,” one respondent told the researchers. Another said: “It is impossible to get a mortgage. Added to that the price of rentals and I am in a crazy living situation.”
Other major issues were finding employment – particularly with the requirement for face-to-face interviews – and the difficulty of having professional qualifications recognised.
Health insurance, childcare, access to welfare and higher education costs were also significant concerns.
“My son, who has just finished high school in Australia, cannot move home for university because he is now considered a foreign student,” another respondent said. “He was born in Ireland and has always considered himself Irish but because we, his parents, left for work, he is now not allowed to move home for university.”
Respondents living in Australia and New Zealand viewed many issues even more negatively than respondents living in other countries, or those already returned to Ireland. Perhaps this is not surprising because the report notes that people who emigrated to non-EU countries face more barriers when they try to return.
More than 80 per cent of survey respondents living in Australia or New Zealand believed buying or renting a home in Ireland, or getting a mortgage, was either difficult or very difficult. More than 50 per cent viewed opening a bank account as difficult or very difficult.
Overall, car insurance was the biggest area of concern for those returning from Australia, with 81.6 per cent rating it as very difficult.
The problem is the Irish insurance companies often do not recognise a no-claims bonus from overseas. In response to all these issues, the report has made 30 recommendations on removing unnecessary administrative or other barriers.
The numbers of returning emigrants prove there is a need for urgent action. The report found that more than 26,000 Irish emigrants returned to Ireland in 2016 – 20 per cent of those from Australia.
On the issue of bringing down the cost of car insurance for returning emigrants, Indecon has recommended promoting companies that offer noclaims discounts to returning emigrants and introducing measures to remove unjustified penalties for these motorists.
To help returning emigrants with housing, the report recommends extending eligibility for the government’s Help to Buy scheme. The scheme gives a tax rebate to first-home buyers. However, at present anyone who has lived overseas for more than four years is not eligible. The report recommends extending eligibility to people who paid tax in Ireland in the last 14 to 15 years.
In its conclusion, Indecon said some of its 30 recommendations will require significant changes but adds: “Given the extent of the barriers faced by our returning emigrants we believe these [changes] are justified.”
On a positive note, one of the key recommendations has already been implemented. A centralised Returning to Ireland website, with advice on everything from setting up home to setting up bank accounts, is now live on the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Global Irish website.
Government departments must report on their progress in implementing the rest of the 30 recommendations before summer. The full report and recommendations can be accessed at: www.dfa.ie