As I write this, it's March 17 -- St. Patrick's Day - - and as a member of the Irish diaspora, I'm wearing green and playing the CD Murphy's Irish Pub as I work. This is the one day of the year that I immerse myself in my ancestry.
I’m an American first and foremost, but who I am as an individual stems largely from my Irish ancestors, who emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland in the 1700s. They left Ireland for many reasons, including survival during the Potato Famine. They saw not only an opportunity for survival, but also for prosperity in America, as evidenced by these lyrics from an Irish ballad, “The Green Fields of America”:
So pack up your sea-stores, consider no longer,
Ten dollars a week is not very bad pay,
With no taxes or tithes to devour up your wages,
When you're on the green fields of Americay.
Ten dollars a week in 1776 equates to roughly $536.00 using the 2009 unskilled wage computation. How many unskilled workers in the U.S. are making that much now, particularly after taxes devour up their wages? How many unskilled and skilled unemployed workers would like to find jobs that pay even half that amount weekly? It appears that the green fields of America are not as green as they once were, but I guess that all depends on your perspective.
Ireland’s unemployment rate eased slightly last month to 12.6 percent from January’s 12.7, largely because seasonal factors increased the size of its work force. Analysts said rising emigration also contributed to the decline.
"Arthur Morgan, a legislator from the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, accused the government of doing too little to get teenagers and 20-somethings into jobs. 'The exit strategy (from the welfare rolls) for these young people is emigration, not employment,' he said. Ireland experienced strong immigration for the first time during its Celtic Tiger boom of 1994-2007, but has returned to net emigration, with Canada and Australia favored destinations."
Canada’s unemployment rate stands at 8.2 percent; Australia’s is 5.3. The U.S. unemployment rate is 9.7. If you look at how green the U.S. is in terms of these numbers, we’re a little pale in comparison and clearly less attractive to our friends from the Emerald Isle.
How green do we look to ourselves, the sons and daughters of emigrants from Ireland and other countries? If you’re near retirement age -- or the age at which you hoped to retire -- the U.S. might not look so green. Many retirees head to Mexico and Panama, in part because of economic reasons. The numbers doing so are expected to rise as baby boomers age.
Quoted in the article "America’s Emigrants: US Retirement Migration to Mexico and Panama," one U.S. citizen who retired to Panama said, "I could come to Panama and retire, or stay in Florida and work." Others U.S. retirees in Panama indicated that "moving abroad was a way to maintain, as retirees, the quality of life they had enjoyed in their working years, or to enhance that lifestyle."
Retirees also emigrated because "they could no longer afford health care or were not eligible for health insurance in the U.S. In addition to the cost of medical treatments and doctor's visits, retirees in both countries explained that the availability of inexpensive in-home care made a move abroad an alternative to purchasing insurance for long-term care or paying for expensive care in the United States."
This article was written four years ago. Much has happened since then, not all of it positive for retirees nor for those with years to go in the work force. Lots of money has been thrown at various sectors, including green energy, to try and fertilize the land of opportunity. Let’s hope some of it sticks, causing the U.S. to grow and become as green as it can be.
Just for fun, an Irish riddle: Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many are left? [Answer: 5; Why? Because there’s a difference between deciding and doing.]
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