Collective efforts needed to help non-EU migrants access employment in Ireland

ESRI EMN Ireland event for Migrant integration: policy and place

Emma Quinn (EMN Ireland and ESRI), Helen Russell (ESRI),  Úna Ní Dhubhghaill (Principal Officer, Department of Justice and Equality), David Stanton (Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration), Frances McGinnity (ESRI) and Éamonn Fahey (ESRI) at an event on 26 June 2019 to launch two new research reports examining migrant integration in Ireland. 

New ESRI research examines policies and practices designed to help non-EU migrants access employment in Ireland. Employment is a crucial part of integrating into the economic and social life of Ireland, offering stability and opportunities to engage with others in the community.

The research is part of an EU-wide study conducted by the European Migration Network, which is funded by the European Commission and the Department of Justice and Equality.

Migrant integration has received more attention in Ireland in recent years, with the publication of the Migrant Integration Strategy 2017-2020 and several waves of targeted funding.

The study finds that the success of delivering on actions contained in the Strategy depends on the ability of government departments and agencies to implement them. Currently, the bodies with responsibility have differed in the level of priority given to the Strategy. Despite a requirement for local authorities to develop their own migrant integration strategy, few have done so.

In 2017, 26,000 non-EU workers lived in Ireland. The number of employment permits issued to non-EU migrants doubled between 2013 and 2018, to reach 11,300. In 2017, 45 per cent of these were Critical Skills Employment Permits (CSEP), which are designed to increase Ireland’s attractiveness to skilled workers. CSEP holders are entitled to immediate family reunification and after two years, they are free to work without a permit. As of March 2019, their spouses and partners no longer need to hold an employment permit to work in Ireland.

However, family members of other non-EU workers are issued a Stamp 3 residence permission, which does not allow them to work. NGOs have argued that both the employment permit system, which can limit labour market mobility for employment permit holders, and government policy on labour market access for family members, can be problematic for integration.

Poor recognition of qualifications is a key challenge highlighted by stakeholders, who welcomed an action on promoting the Quality and Qualifications Ireland system, which provides guidance on recognising foreign qualifications. However, they called for further efforts including from Irish professional bodies to make progress in this area.

Lack of targeted measures to develop skills is another obstacle to labour market integration. The research highlights the need to develop skills within the resident population in Ireland. Research shows that English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programmes have developed in the absence of a national strategy, with individual Education and Training Boards developing programmes in response to demand at local level.

Emma Quinn, an author of the report, commented, “Successful integration means that migrants can make a vital contribution and help to meet the labour market demands of a growing economy. While migrant integration has moved up the policy agenda in recent years, it is not clear if it has been given sufficient priority by all relevant parties.”