Migrants more likely to be in work than Irish

Migrants to Ireland are more likely to have a third-level education and to be in work than Irish workers, a new report shows. However they are also more likely to suffer poverty.

The analysis by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) shows employment rates at 70% for foreigners compared to 66% for Irish nationals.

However, within the migrant population there are wide disparities, with Africans experiencing low employment rates of 45%.

Almost all non-Irish groups have higher education levels than the Irish as a whole. Top place goes to western European nationals (excluding the UK), 74% of whom have a third level qualification.

Eastern Europeans are the least likely to have further education — just 35% have been to third level. However, that is only marginally below the Irish rate of 37%.

The research, the latest for a series of Integration Monitoring Reports, was carried out to examine how well migrants are settling into Ireland, which now has one of the most diverse populations in the EU, with 17% of people living here having been born abroad.

The numbers taking on Irish citizenship has fallen, however. More than 8,000 became Irish citizens last year, 68% fewer than the 25,100 who did so at the peak in 2012. Poles, Romanians, and Indian-born people were the nationalities most likely to become citizens.

Frances McGinnity, lead author of the report, said the findings raised important issues for integration policy.

With both high rates of employment and educational attainment, immigrants from Europe and North America are performing very well in the Irish labour market,” she said. “However, more concerning findings emerge for other groups, including African nationals.

The report finds that, among 15-year-olds, immigrants from non-English speaking backgrounds have, not surprisingly, lower scores in reading English, but there is no difference between them and their Irish peers when it comes to ability and performance in science and maths.

A marked difference appears, however, when poverty levels are examined. Almost a quarter (23%) of foreigners were living below the income poverty line in 2016, compared with just under 16% of Irish nationals, while consistent poverty rates were 13% for foreigners compared to 8% for Irish. The rate was higher for non-EU nationals, at 29%.

The report includes a special focus on Muslims in Ireland. It finds that the Muslim population more than trebled in the 14 years after 2002, standing at more than 62,000 in 2016.

While the group is diverse in terms of nationality, language, and faith, they do share common characteristics. Just under 30% were born in Ireland, they are twice as likely as the rest of the population to be students, and while they are generally more highly educated, they are also more likely to be unemployed.

The study was commissioned by the Department of Justice and Equality.

Minister of state for equality, immigration, and integration David Stanton said detailed information was vital to the department in working to support integration and diversity.

“Understanding and using this evidence will help us to design and target effective interventions to support integration and remove barriers,” he said.

By Caroline O'Doherty
Senior Reporter

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