By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Despite the Celtic Tiger image of high-flying, highly paid university graduates, a new study has found that those who emigrate end up earning twice the salaries of classmates who remain behind.
The six-year follow-up study of the class of 1992 by the Economic and Social Research Institute, found that emigrating paid off in terms of earnings even if graduates remain abroad only for a short period.
When emigrants returned from abroad to jobs at home, they ended up with about 113 percent of the salary of their classmates who had never left the country after graduating.
However, the study found that male emigrants in particular were working longer hours. About 27 percent who remained in Ireland were working more than 50 hours a week compared to over 45 percent of those still living abroad.
The ESRI looked at what had happened to 3,200 of the 22,000 graduates in 1992 and found that the vast majority had jobs — 94 percent of the men and 90 percent of the women.
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The ESRI found that the average annual salary of graduates in Ireland in 1998 — when they were six years out of college — was £23,000.
Six years after graduation, one-third had lived abroad for at least six months. About half of all migrants were still abroad in 1998, while the other half had returned home.
The majority of returned emigrants, 63 percent, spent up to two years away from home.
Part of the earning differential was due to the higher educational levels of those who left Ireland. Those who had done post-graduate diplomas and masters and doctorate degrees were more likely to have emigrated and to be still living abroad.
The most common reasons people left were social reasons (adventure, travel or to follow a spouse or partner) or job market conditions.
Women were more likely than men to emigrate for social reasons while men were more likely to go for jobs.
Emigrants who left for social reasons were more likely to come home.
The study found there is a long way to go before there is equality of earnings. Despite the women graduates investing more in education, men’s wages were higher across all educational levels.
"The discrepancy between male and female wages is such that female post-graduates still earn less than males in receipt of primary degrees," the study said. "When gross monthly wages are broken down by discipline, the male-female wage differentials remain."
Joint author of the study, Phillip O’Connell, said part of the male-female earnings discrepancy was because women were going into "lower professional occupations" and men were working longer hours than women.
The study also found that Irish people are becoming far better educated. Only 28 percent of the fathers and 20 of the mothers of the class of ’92 had attained university degrees.
The ESRI is predicting that 40 percent of the population will have a university education by 2011. This compares to 20 percent in 1991.