How Brazilians Studying English Transform a $1.2 Billion Market in Ireland

Immigrants from Brazil form the largest community of English learners in the European country and represent new business opportunities

Ireland
July 24, 2022 | 04:15 PM

Bloomberg Línea — It was just before the pandemic that Cindhy Tello, 26, decided to transform her life by changing city, country, and continent to study English for a year in Dublin, Ireland.

A graduate in international trade from a college in southern Brazil, she targeted the course exactly where she knew she would have more chances of getting a work visa in the future.

“I bought the student package, but in my case, it was because it allows me to work. A smaller workload, but better than nothing,” she said.

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Tello was just one of the 27,192 Brazilians living in Ireland in 2019, according to the Irish Department of Statistics. The number of residents is so significant that the country ranks first among foreign ex-pats in Dublin.

The ease of obtaining a student visa and the possibility of working while studying, reasons cited by the Brazilian, are added to the community of young immigrants who share accommodation, tips, and an intense social life on the green island.

The English language courses sector funnels around 1.2 billion euros ($1.2 billion) annually to the Irish economy, employs over 3,000 full-time workers, and, between 2016 and 2020, recorded over 250,000 international students in the country, according to a survey by the specialist education company Ruban Company.

Of that total, 75% were Brazilians. Mexicans came in second place, with 10%.

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The report also points out that the market showed a strong growth trend before the pandemic and, although strongly impacted by the Covid restrictions, it recovered quickly in the following months.

From study to work

Of the Brazilians who come to Ireland initially for language study, most are female (62%) and between 28 and 37 years old (53%), according to Ruban Company.

Tiago Mascarenhas is the Brazilian founder of Seda College, an English school for non-natives in the Irish capital. Born in the interior of São Paulo, he immigrated to Ireland to study the language and, in 2009, opened the company that now has offices in nine European countries.

In an interview with Bloomberg Linea, the entrepreneur said that, by receiving thousands of foreign students who have passed through his school’s classrooms over the years, he realized another business opportunity: providing financial advice to those who arrive as students and tend to stay as permanent residents.

“Many of these people do not speak the language of the bank where they are trying to open an account and end up facing many difficulties with approval because they are immigrants. I noticed a demand, I Googled ‘how to open a digital bank?’ and started the process,” he said.

According to him, traditional banks in Europe take a “conservative stance” when it comes to immigrants. For this reason, young foreigners have a hard time opening an account to move money out of the country or close it hassle-free when returning to their home countries.

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The digital bank linked to Mascarenhas’ school should open the first 200 test accounts at the end of August, with an expectation of reaching 10,000 accounts by the end of the year. According to him, the goal is to serve mainly Brazilians who come to Europe to study and that may, in the future, continue with the financial institution when choosing to stay looking for work.

Receiving money abroad

According to RemessaOnline, with data obtained exclusively by Bloomberg Línea, remittances originating from the European continent to Brazil increased by 276% from the first half of 2021 to the same period of 2022. The volume of customers gained by the company grew by a similar percentage, while the amounts moved in reais rose by 48%.

The figures refer only to the operations of Brazilians living in Europe with economic ties to the country.

The growing demand for this type of service has proven to be a business opportunity for different fintechs and companies. Besides RemessaOnline, platforms such as Wise, Western Union, and Cloudbreak operate in this segment.

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Another way to make transfers is through some digital banks, with a bank transfer, or through the Post Office - where the student or worker goes to a branch to receive or, if abroad, send physical money to Brazil.

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Ireland has one of the highest minimum wages in Europe, above countries like Portugal and Spain. The value is at least 10.50 euros, or about R$ 55, per hour worked.

With the changes in the work regime due to the pandemic and the devaluation of the real against currencies such as the dollar and the euro, remittances from Brazilians living abroad have broken records. In May, US$ 345 million of personal transfer income was recorded, according to Central Bank data. In February 2019, transfers totaled $193 million.

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