Among my trove of letters from Irish relatives is a January 1921 correspondence to my uncle in Pittsburgh from his father in Ballylongford. With news of home and developments in the fight for independence, it acknowledges receipt of a postal order for 3 English pounds.
The amount was equivalent to about $12 at the time, or roughly my uncle’s weekly wage as a streetcar motorman. With 92 years inflation, that $12 is worth about $150 today, or 114 Euro.
“Your prosperity in America is a great consolation to me, your generosity and kindness since you left home,” the father wrote from North Kerry.
Such remittances are back in the news. Citing figures from the World Bank, The Irish Times reports that Irish emigrants sent home 610 million Euro in 2012, or 160 Euro more than in 2009 and double the figure of a decade ago.
A London-based hedge fund manger had this to say in a September story in The Telegraph:
“The new norm for Ireland and others across Europe will be quite literally living on reduced means and relying on a quite different economic model from their recent pasts. Quite different but not, we must add, altogether new. Having not depended on remittances for many decades, Ireland, like Portugal, will come to rely on these once more.”
The 2012 remittance figure is about 0.5 percent of Ireland’s gross national income, or half the percentage as in the 1980s, according to the Times. Remittances accounted for 3 percent of GNI in the 1960s.
I haven’t located the percentage for the 1920s as the very poor Free State emerged from the struggle for independence and civil war. Appreciate any sources of such information or hearing stories about remittances to Ireland.