Migrant employment harder hit by COVID restrictions but remarkable rise in employment rates by 2022

Migrant labour market outcomes were more affected by the pandemic and associated public health restrictions than those of Irish-born. However, by early 2022, the migrant employment rate (77 per cent) was higher than that of the Irish-born (72 per cent) and exceeded the migrant employment rate at the start of 2020 (71 per cent), immediately prior to the COVID pandemic.

The Monitoring Report on Integration 2022, published jointly by the ESRI and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, is the latest in a series of reports that investigates how migrants in Ireland are faring. The report uses a range of indicators, based on the most recently available data, to compare the outcomes of the Irish- and foreign-born population in key life domains: employment, education, social inclusion and active citizenship.

Key findings

Labour market

  • In Q1 2020 (pre-pandemic) the overall unemployment rate for migrants was 5.8 per cent, rising to 9.1 per cent in Q1 2021 (during COVID-19) and falling again to 5.9 per cent in 2022.
  • However, In 2022 the migrant unemployment rate was still higher than the Irish-born unemployment rate (4.6 per cent).
  • For African migrants, who have long faced disadvantages in the labour market, the employment rate increased from 56 per cent in Q1 2020 to 74 per cent in Q1 2022. Labour force activity rates also rose from 63 per cent in Q1 2020 to 80 per cent in Q1 2022. If this high employment persists beyond 2022, it is a sign of considerable progress by this group.


  • The Irish population is among the most highly educated in the EU. Even so, a greater share of the foreign-born population aged 25-34 has a third-level degree (67 per cent) than the Irish-born population (56 per cent) of that age.
  • Analysis from the Growing Up in Ireland ’98 cohort of children living in Ireland since age nine finds no difference in the proportion of migrant-origin and Irish-origin young people sitting the Leaving Certificate examination (95 per cent of both groups sat the Leaving Certificate), and no difference in the mean Leaving Certificate points between the groups.

Poverty and housing (2020/2021)

  • Migrants also had a higher ‘at-risk of poverty’ rate (at 17 per cent) than Irish-born (12 per cent).
  • Overall, migrants were much less likely to own their home (43 per cent) than the Irish-born population (77 per cent)
  • Migrants also faced more issues relating to housing affordability, with 29 per cent of migrants spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing compared to 8 per cent of the Irish-born population.


  • According to upper-bound estimates, the total number of non-EEA nationals who acquired Irish citizenship between 2005 and 2021 represents around 38 per cent of the resident adult population of non-EEA origin.

Comments and further information

Dr Frances McGinnity, lead author of the report, said:

“This report shows that migrants in Ireland have employment rates and levels of education that exceed those of the Irish-born population, with certain groups such as African migrants showing particular progress. Nevertheless, Ireland faces substantial challenges in integrating those that come to live here, particularly in areas that are currently under substantial pressure. Migrant housing and homelessness are not addressed by actions in the Migrant Integration Strategy 2017-2021, yet findings suggest housing is now a priority issue for migrant integration as migrants are disproportionately concentrated in private rented accommodation and facing affordability challenges. Measures to address major current challenges in the Irish housing market are urgently needed to improve this situation.”

Dr Stefanie Sprong, co-author of the report, further commented:

“Regular monitoring of integration outcomes forms an integral part of any integration strategy. This report provides valuable evidence on how migrants are faring and how well Ireland is set up for integration. However, there is a clear need for more and better data on migrants and their circumstances and experiences. It is, for example, crucial to gather good data on ethnicity to be able to document the extent of any discrimination and disadvantage to monitor the progress of the recently published National Action Plan Against Racism. The introduction of a standard ethnic classification system across all public services and agencies proposed by this plan is a positive development in this regard”

Minister of State for Community Development, Integration and Charities, Joe O’Brien, said:

“I welcome the publication of the Integration Monitor 2022. This research series has given invaluable insight into outcomes for migrants in Ireland over more than a decade now. Evidence-based policy making is key to ensuring the Government is addressing the most critical issues, and making changes that can have a real impact. It is likely that inward migration will continue in Ireland, and it is vital that we support the integration of migrants into Irish society.”