Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, pictured in Brussels on February 12, 2015, on Tuesday appealed to emigrants to return home
Dublin (AFP) - Ireland's government this week launched a new programme called "Global Irish" designed to attract thousands of emigrants who left during the financial crisis to return.
The new policy includes support services for Irish emigrants who have returned and practical information about moving back.
"Some of these people left hoping to return to Ireland if the economy got better and there were jobs available for them," Ireland's Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan told AFP on Wednesday.
"We hope to create the environment and the economic climate to give them an incentive to come back," he said, hinting at possible tax reform.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Tuesday appealed to emigrants to return home.
"Emigration has a devastating impact on our economy as we lose the input of talent and energy. We need these people at home. And we will welcome them," he said.
An estimated 240,000 Irish citizens left the country since the onset of the crisis in 2008 that ravaged the Irish economy, with most leaving to find work abroad.
In the past 15 months, Ireland has exited its bailout programme and its economy is forecast to be Europe's fastest-growing this year.
"I believe that, after seven years of emigration, 2016 will be the year when the number of our people coming home, will be greater than the numbers who leave," Kenny said.
- Generation Emigration -
Emigration has long been an enduring facet of Irish life, stemming from the Great Famine in the 1840s when over one million left to escape starvation.
Emigration of young people continued unabated up until the 1990s when Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy became one of the world's fastest-growing.
Since 2008, widespread emigration has returned as unemployment soared and tax hikes and spending cuts were implemented.
The most popular destinations outside the UK and US were Australia, Canada and New Zealand due to the availability of short-term visas.
The shortage of manual workers, especially in the building trades, made these countries an attractive option for the thousands left unemployed when the construction sector collapsed in 2008.
One of those who left seeking work was structural engineer Shane Mulvey, 26.
He moved to Malaysia after landing a job with an Australian engineering company in 2012.
"There were no jobs, no prospects in Ireland as all infrastructural projects dried up so I had no choice really," he told AFP.
He returned to Ireland late last year and found a job in Galway in western Ireland, although he had to take a pay cut.
"Things were picking up so I came home to see what I could get."
The company he now works for has recently employed another returning Irish emigrant, who returned from Britain last year.
"The pay isn't comparable at all but you're back, you're home. There's pros and cons," Mulvey said.
- Job fairs -
Large foreign-focused job fairs, where recruiters could meet people seeking jobs, attracted thousands regularly all across Ireland in recent years.
But recruiters are noticing a gentle shift back towards job opportunities in Ireland.
"When we started in 2011 there would have been a huge panic from people thinking they had to go abroad to get work," said Bronagh Cotter of Jobs Expo.
"I would feel that things are starting to come back. There are companies now hiring in Ireland again in large volumes."
Jobs Expo will hold its next jobs fair in Dublin this month with the focus on domestic jobs, although foreign recruiters will also be attendance.
Dublin has forecast full employment (2.1 million people in employment) by 2018 but the unemployment rate in February stood at 10.1 percent.
The latest statistics for the year ending April 2014 show 40,700 Irish people left their country in the previous 12 months.
Over the same period, 11,600 Irish emigrants returned -- the lowest return rate since records on this began in 1996.
Joe O'Brien of the Crosscare Migrant Project, which assists Irish emigrants wanting to return home, has yet to see a spike in people seeking their help to return.
"People are making hard decisions on their lives and in the same way as people were slow to leave, I think there's going to be a delayed reaction until there's hard evidence that things have improved."