Migration in Ireland
Net migration into Ireland was positive in April 2022, continuing a pattern which has been in place since 2015. This means that more people have entered the country than are leaving it. Immigration has only been higher once in the past 30 years with the numbers entering the country the highest since 2008, a large number of these have arrived as refugees from Ukraine. Analysing migration trends over the past 30 years, we see a relatively high rate of emigration in 1988 and 1989, at a time of recession, which decreased slowly over the next 10 years peaking again in 2012 whereas immigration figures rise slowly from 1990, peaking in 2007.
The high levels of immigration in 2022 have highlighted the lack of school spaces providing suitable language and learning supports, the shortage of G.P.s, the severe shortage of affordable, stable accommodation and the importance of providing supports to communities and the stark differences in the response to refugees from Ukraine compared to elsewhere.
Integration is defined in current Irish policy as the ‘ability to participate to the extent that a person needs and wishes in all of the major components of society without having to relinquish his or her own cultural identity’. For the almost 13 per cent of the population who are non-Irish nationals, achieving real integration requires concerted policy responses aimed at supporting education, job activation, tackling hate speech and racism and supporting cultural awareness.
A key factor in integration is a Skills Transfer Programme. The numbers of migrants with a third level education continued to rise in 2022. Of those immigrating to Ireland, the number has increased (from 46,2002 in 2021 to 70,300 in 2022) whilst the proportion has decreased (70 per cent in 2021 to 58.2 per cent of all immigrants in 2022).
Migrants tend to be younger than the general population with just under half of both immigrants and emigrants in 2022 aged between 25 and 44. The number of emigrants with a third level education decreased slightly from 32,500 in 2021 to 30,700 in 2022. As a proportion of all emigrants, this represents 51.5 per of the total. Of those who left Ireland in 2022, 53.6 per cent were employed (a slight increase in the number, from 29,900 to 32,000). A further 21.8 per cent were students, a slight increase from 21.5 per cent in 2021.
In light of higher educational attainment levels of immigrants into Ireland, and the increasing number of Irish people returning to this country, there is a need for a skills transfer programme for returning migrants in order to ensure the skills that they have acquired whilst working abroad are recognised in Ireland. A recent study from Eurostat found that across the EU, employed non-nationals are more likely to be over-qualified than nationals for their job. In Ireland, 41.4 per cent of workers from other EU countries were over qualified.
The ESRI published a report on the wages and working conditions of Non-Irish Nationals in Ireland which found a ‘migrant wage gap’ in Ireland. Between 2011 and 2018, non-Irish nationals earned, on average, 22 per cent less per hour than Irish nationals which equates to 78 cents earned for for every €1 an Irish worker earned. Of note is the smaller wage gap for those coming from West Europe, North America, Australia and Oceania, “this is partly because they have higher educational qualifications, but they still get lower rewards for education than Irish workers.”
Given the investment made in the education of young graduates, it is essential that steps are taken to retain them and their expertise within Ireland. This is coupled with the need to provide both decent work and infrastructure to support increasing numbers of immigrants who will need to be housed and whose healthcare and childcare needs must be accommodated.
There has been criticism of Irish immigration policy and legislation specifically due to the lack of support for the integration of immigrants and a lack of adequate recognition of the permanency of immigration. For many migrants, immigration is not temporary. They will remain in Ireland and make it their home. In turn, Irish people are experiencing life in different cultural contexts around the world. Ireland is now a multi-racial and multi-cultural country and Government policies should promote and encourage the development of an inclusive and integrated society with respect for, and recognition of, diverse cultures.