THOUSANDS of foreign workers are deserting Ireland as the number of employment visas being issued has plummeted, figures from the Department of Enterprise show.
Just 12,733 work permits have been issued this year, little more than half of the 2007 rate of 23,536.
In the average year, around two-thirds of foreign workers seek a renewal of their visa so that they can stay on in Ireland for another year.
This year however, only a third have applied for an extension after either losing their job or deciding to return to their home country.
The Department of Enterprise said: "A total of 12,733 employment permits have been issued up to 21 November 2008; 7,902 of these are new and 4,831 are renewals."
Almost a quarter of all the work visas issued this year were to Indian nationals, many of whom have gone to work in the computer industry.
A further 2,085 permits and renewals were given to Filipinos, the majority of whom work in the healthcare industry.
A total of 804 permits were issued to people from the US, a sharp decline according to figures for previous years.
A significant number of visas and renewals have also been issued to workers from South Africa, China, Brazil and Malaysia.