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Integration Issues | Ireland |

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Integration Issues

Emma Quinn

/ 4 Minuten zu lesen

Clearly Ireland's population has undergone very significant change in the last 15 years yet integration policy remains at a very early stage of development.

Until 2007 the only official integration policy related to recognition of refugees and there was a general perception that migrant workers would eventually go home. In 2007 the Office of the Minister for Integration (OMI) was set up with responsibility for the development of integration policy. There is also more acknowledgment at policy making level that some migrants may remain in Ireland (for example the proposed introduction for the first time of a new statutory long-term residency status in the draft Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill).

Despite the rapid nature of the recent changes and absence of integration policy Ireland has not yet faced serious tension between the Irish and migrant population. However, emerging research does point to inequalities that could quickly destabilise this situation if not addressed. For example Barrett et al. showed that in general Ireland´s immigrants are a highly-educated group compared to Irish nationals but that not all immigrants are employed in occupations that fully reflect these high education levels. Possible reasons for this disparity are proposed: recently arrived immigrants may lack local labour market knowledge and so accept jobs below those appropriate to their skill levels while they search for better jobs. The fact that UK and US immigrants suffer no occupational disadvantage prompts a suspicion that the occupation gap may be related to English language skills. McGinnity et al. found almost two-thirds of work permit holders reported that they are overqualified for their current job.

Barrett and Duffy suggested that immigrants who arrived before 2004, many of whom were not EU nationals and did not have full right to work, may have been working illegally and that it has proved difficult for them to break out of a weak labour market situation. Research has also been undertaken into labour market outcomes measured in terms of wages. Barrett and McCarthy found that immigrants were earning 15 per cent less than comparable Irish workers in 2005. For immigrants from non-English speaking countries, the wage disadvantage was 20 per cent and for immigrants from the EU's New Member States the disadvantage was 32 per cent.

The first statement on the future direction of integration policy in Ireland was published by the Office of the Minister for Integration in May 2008. Developments arising from this policy statement have been limited to date and major new developments in the context of widespread budget cuts across government departments are unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Ireland has relatively robust anti-discrimination legislation that prohibits discrimination on grounds of marital status, family status , sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race or membership of the Traveller community. However, research has shown that despite these safeguards immigrants do face discrimination in Ireland. Russell et al. found that 31 per cent of those of Black, Asian or Other ethnicity had experienced some form of discrimination in the past two years compared to 12 per cent of the entire population. O'Connell and McGinnity found that non-Irish nationals were three times more likely to report experience of discrimination while looking for work than Irish nationals, even after controlling for differences in gender, age and education between the groups, and are twice as likely to report experience of discrimination in the workplace. Black respondents reported more difficulties looking for work than all other respondents from other ethnic groups. McGinnity et al showed that around one third of migrants had experienced harassment in a public place or in the workplace in the past two years. A recent field experiment study by McGinnity et al has shown that employers are twice as likely to invite a candidate with an Irish name to interview as an equivalent candidate with a distinctively non-Irish name.

Unlike many other European countries Ireland grants exceptionally wide access to local political participation and has been cited as achieving best practice in the area. All resident non-Irish nationals may vote in local elections in Ireland (including those on work permits or visas, asylum seekers and students) provided that they were usually resident in the country on 1st September of the year preceding the election. Local elections take place every five years and the most recent one was in 2009. In those elections all but one of the parties (Sinn Fein) had selected a number of immigrant candidates to represent them in the local elections. In Dublin City Council area 4 per cent of the total number of persons entitled to vote in the local government elections were non-Irish (excluding UK nationals). Resident EU citizens may also vote in European elections.



  1. See Barrett et al. (2006).

  2. See McGinnity et al. (2006).

  3. See Barrett and Duffy (2008).

  4. See Barrett and McCarthy (2007).

  5. 'Family status' concerns being pregnant or caring for a child. 'Marital status' concerns legal marriage status only and may not necessarily involve children. See Externer Link: or Externer Link: for further information.

  6. A traditionally nomadic Irish population group, comparable to Sinti and Roma in other countries.

  7. Russell et al. (2008).

  8. See O'Connell and McGinnity (2008).

  9. See McGinnity et al. (2006).

  10. See Niessen et al. (2007).

  11. See Fanning, O'Boyle and Shaw (2009).

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