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Many non-Irish nationals are as likely to be employed and as educated as Irish people

Research published by the ESRI this morning examines how well migrants are settling into Ireland.

MANY NON-IRISH nationals are at least as likely to be employed and as highly educated as Irish people, according to a new report. 

The research published by the ESRI examines how well migrants are settling into Ireland, now one of the most diverse countries in the EU, with 17% of the population born in another country. 

The study has found that non-Irish nationals are matching Irish nationals on a number of key economic and social factors, such as employment and education. 

However, it found that some groups remain disadvantaged. 

Employment and education

With regards to employment, the report found that 4% of western European nationals (excluding the UK) were unemployed in 2017. This is compared to 7% of Irish nationals and 16% of African nationals. 

Employment rates were slightly higher for non-Irish nationals (70%) than Irish nationals (66%). 

However, employment rates varied across national groups and the employment rate was very low for African nationals, at around 45%. 

Turning to look at education statistics, the report found that 35% of Irish people of working age had third-level education in 2017. The percentage was higher across almost all non-Irish groups. 

Western European nationals (again, excluding the UK) were most likely to have third-level education, at 74%. Eastern European nationals were the least likely, but the figure remained high at 35%. 

When it comes to English reading skills, 15-year-old immigrants from non-English speaking backgrounds had lower English reading scores, on average, than their Irish peers. 

However, on average there was no difference between Irish and non-Irish 15-year-olds in either science or mathematics scores. 

Poverty and deprivation

As noted above, it became evident in the report that some groups of non-Irish nationals remained disadvantaged. 

For example, in 2016, some 23% of non-Irish nationals were living below the income poverty line (drawn at 60% of median household income), compared to just under 16% of Irish nationals. 

Consistent poverty rates were at 13% for non-Irish nationals as a whole, compared to 8% for Irish nationals. The report noted that this rate was high for non-EU nationals, at 29%. 


Ireland is now one of the most diverse countries in the European Union, with around 17% of residents born in another country. 

In 2017, more than 8,000 immigrants became Irish citizens, many of whom were Polish, Romanian or Indian. 

However, this figure is 68% lower than the 2012 peak, when 25,100 naturalisation certificates were issued. 

The report also looked into Census data surrounding Muslims in Ireland. 

It found that the Muslim population has increased from less than 20,000 in 2002 to just over 62,000 in 2016. 

Just under 30% of Muslims in Ireland were born in the country. 

Compared to the total population, Muslims are highly educated, however, they are also more likely to be unemployed. 

Regarding the flow of Muslim immigrants in recent years, the researchers observed a shift in their origin, with more arriving from South Asia and fewer from Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Commenting on the report, Minister for State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton said: “In working to support integration and diversity, across the public, private and voluntary sectors, access to detailed information in order to inform and guide our work is vital. 

“This [report] provides essential evidence on outcomes for migrant groups in Ireland and shows how these compare with outcomes for the rest of the population. Understanding and using this evidence will help us to design and target effective interventions to support integration and remove barriers.”

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