East European workers more exposed to COVID-19 job loss and some ethnic minority groups to COVID-19 infection

Two reports are published by the ESRI and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth today (Tuesday 15/12/2020). The Monitoring report on Integration 2020 is the latest in a series of reports on how non-Irish nationals fare compared to Irish nationals, in terms of key life domains: employment, education, social inclusion and active citizenship. A separate study on COVID-19 and Non-Irish Nationals in Ireland supplements the Monitoring Report with the latest information on how the pandemic is impacting non-Irish nationals in Ireland.  

Monitoring Report on Integration 2020

Labour Market (2019)

In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, overall employment rates were slightly higher among non-Irish nationals than Irish nationals and, the unemployment rate, at just over 5 per cent, was similar and low for both groups. One important exception is for African nationals, whose unemployment rate was 12 per cent:  this pattern has persisted throughout the past decade.

Education (2019)

In 2018-2019, a higher proportion of non-Irish than Irish nationals, aged 25 to 34, had third-level educational qualifications (60 per cent non-Irish versus 53 per cent Irish). The proportion of young adults (aged 20-24) who had left school before finishing upper secondary education (early school leavers), at 4 per cent, was similar between the two groups.  

Social Inclusion (2017/2018)

In 2017/2018, 18 per cent of non-Irish nationals were living below the income poverty line (drawn at 60 per cent of median household income) compared to just under 15 per cent of Irish nationals. Consistent poverty rates (the proportion of a group that is both income poor and experiencing basic deprivation) were just over 6 per cent for both Irish and non-Irish nationals, though the consistent poverty rate was higher for non-EU nationals (at 12 per cent).

Rates of home ownership were much lower among non-Irish than Irish nationals. In 2017/2018 almost two thirds (65 per cent) of non-Irish nationals lived in private rented accommodation, compared to 11 per cent of Irish nationals.

Irish Citizenship

Some 153,000 non-Irish nationals acquired Irish citizenship through naturalisation between 2005 and 2019. We estimate that in 2019, naturalised non-EU nationals represented up to 37 per cent of the resident population of non-EU origin. Naturalisation is also rising rapidly among EEA nationals with this group accounting for around half of naturalisations in 2019; Polish and UK nationals were among the top nationalities acquiring Irish citizenship.

COVID-19 and Non-Irish Nationals in Ireland

The second report launched today explores the impact of COVID-19  on Non-Irish nationals, including employment effects, their role as key workers and their exposure to COVID-19 infection. Key findings from the study include:

Early Labour Market Impact of COVID-19:

  • Non-Irish nationals are over-represented in sectors severely affected by COVID-19 closures, including Accommodation and Food.
  • East European nationals experienced a sharper fall in employment between Q1 2020 and Q2 2020 than Irish nationals.
  • Non-EU nationals had a lower rate of employment immediately before the pandemic but the decline in employment they experienced was the same as Irish Nationals.
  • Patterns for migrants from Western Europe are very similar to those of Irish nationals.
  • Occupations with medium to high levels of working from home are associated with lower job loss. Non-EU nationals and West Europeans are actually more likely to be working in occupations with medium to high levels of working from home than Irish nationals. East European nationals are less likely than Irish nationals to hold jobs that are associated with working from home, and this partly explains their higher rate of job loss.
  • Women from Eastern Europe are particularly vulnerable to job loss and temporary lay-offs for COVID-related reasons.

Key Workers in the Pandemic:

  • Using the definition based on Level 5 restrictions from October, Irish nationals (47 per cent) are significantly more likely to be ‘key workers’ compared to non-Irish nationals (37 per cent). African (42 per cent) and Asian (42 per cent) nationals are the most likely to be employed as key workers among non-Irish national groups with rates closer to that of Irish nationals (47 per cent).
  • Irish nationals (12 per cent) are significantly more likely to be employed in health and related sectors compared to all non-Irish nationals (9 per cent). However, African (24 per cent) and Asian (26 per cent) nationals have significantly higher rates of employment in the health sector than other groups.

COVID-19 Deaths and Cases

  • Using special tabulations on cases and deaths up to 24th November provided by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) we show that those of Black/Black Irish ethnicity, those of Asian ethnicity and particularly Irish Travellers are over-represented in COVID-19 cases compared to their proportion in the population. Note these data are incomplete, as not all cases could be assigned a nationality or ethnicity, and results may change over time.
  • Based on these data, those of Asian ethnicity are 2.3 times as likely as White Irish to contract COVID-19; those of Black ethnicity around 1.9 times as likely as White Irish to contract COVID-19; Irish Travellers are 2.6 times as likely to contract COVID-19 as the White Irish population. Non-Irish nationals overall are slightly over-represented in COVID-19 cases compared to Irish nationals (12.1 per cent), relative to their proportion in the population (11.4 per cent). 
  • All Ethnic minority groups and non-Irish nationals are under-represented in deaths from COVID-19, which is likely to be linked to their younger age profile.

Report author Dr Frances McGinnity said:

"The COVID-19 pandemic has not affected all groups equally in Ireland – this is clearly shown in both the labour market impact and in the deaths and cases statistics, though as the Integration Monitor shows, these groups were in different positions going into the pandemic. The COVID-19 and non-Irish nationals report is an early snapshot of the impact of the pandemic: as public health restrictions evolve over the coming months it is important that the impact of this crisis continue to be monitored to prevent vulnerable groups being adversely affected."

Launching the reports, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Dr. Roderic O’Gorman said:

"I welcome the publication of these two reports today, produced by the ESRI and funded by my Department. Measuring integration outcomes on a regular basis is essential for us to know how different groups are faring, and where extra supports may be needed to help people to integrate successfully. The COIVD-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities here as in other countries; we clearly need to consider new approaches to tackle these persistent challenges.

"As Minister with responsibility for integration, I am currently leading two major policy initiatives that are interlinked with migrant integration. Firstly, I am preparing a new policy on accommodation and support services for international protection applicants. The new policy will mark an end to Direct Provision and replace it with a new human rights centred, not-for-profit approach. Secondly, the independent Anti-Racism Committee that was established in June 2020 under the previous Government will now report to me. This Committee is tasked with developing a new National Action Plan Against Racism for recommendation to Government in 2021."