Shared Island unit & ESRI set out new research areas for 2022

Second year of the joint research programme focuses on childcare and early education, all-island energy infrastructure and supports, migrant integration, and productivity levels North and South

Research findings to be published later this year

The Shared Island unit in the Department of the Taoiseach and the Economic and Social Research Institute have published four scoping papers outlining the areas of research to be undertaken in 2022 as part of the joint research programme examining The Economic and Social Opportunities from Increased Cooperation on the Shared Island.

This is the second year of the joint research programme between the Department of the Taoiseach’s Shared Island unit and the ESRI, and areas of research in 2022 will examine:

  • Childcare and early years education in Ireland and Northern Ireland
  • All-island energy infrastructure and renewable energy supports
  • Migrant integration on the island
  • Productivity levels North and South

Full reports will be published before the end of the year.

Speaking following the publication of the scoping papers, Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD said, “The partnership between the Shared Island unit in my Department and the Economic and Social Research Institute is providing new, considered analysis and research across a range of areas, helping inform political and civic discussions on how we can better work together on this island.

“The research topics for 2022 cover a broad range of areas – from childcare to renewable energy – issues that impact people’s lives on both sides of the border.  These issues can, and should be examined and addressed more collaboratively on an island-wide basis, and this research will inform Government on how we can work through all-island partnerships to create a more sustainable, connected and prosperous island for all.”

Director of the Economic and Social Research Institute Professor Alan Barrett added, “The topics to be covered in this second year of our joint research programme with the Shared Island unit - childcare, migrant integration, productivity and renewable energy - have been at the centre of the ESRI’s research agenda in recent years. However, the all-island perspective will allow us to generate new and interesting insights. By comparing approaches, experiences and outcomes, we hope to learn lessons for policy which can be implemented in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, with benefits for people throughout the island.”

Chair of the joint research programme Anne Barrington concluded, “This research aims to add to our understanding of current and potential linkages across the island of Ireland in a range of social, economic and environmental domains. With robust data and evidence, and rigorous, non-partisan analysis on needs, opportunities, benefits and costs, the research is intended to inform civic dialogue, political interaction and policy development. It is also intended to lead to greater beneficial cooperation on key practical issues and concerns for all those living on the island of Ireland.”


This paper outlines the work to be undertaken by each research project under the Shared Island unit’s research partnership with the Economic and Social Research Institute in 2022.  The scoping papers outline the context and focus of the work, what questions the research is seeking to answer, and the approach and methodology of each study.  The work will contribute to new knowledge, analysis and understanding about how we share the island today in key areas, and will inform public and political discourse on the opportunities of increased cooperation in the years ahead, underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement

For more information on the research programme go to

Children’s care and early education in Ireland North and South

This study will provide new insights into the main policy challenges around early education and care provision in Northern Ireland and Ireland, providing an evidence base for policy development in an area which has been subject to significant reform in recent years. It will examine differences in access to and participation in early education and childcare North and South, compare the supports available to parents in both jurisdictions, such as family leave policies, and identify the scale of social inequality in child outcomes in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Migrant Integration in Ireland, North and South

This project will examine processes of migrant integration, and the experiences of migrants, in Ireland and Northern Ireland, using high-quality survey data and engagement with migrant groups. This includes:

  • Exploring adult migrants’ patterns of labour market participation, housing conditions and health;
  • Investigating migrant children’s educational and mental wellbeing outcomes;
  • Studying attitudes of anxiety and openness towards immigration among the ethnic majority group in both jurisdictions;
  • Exploring the implications of post-Brexit border changes at the UK level on migrants’ rights and ease of cross-border access for health, education, work and recreation purposes.

Modelling Productivity Levels in Ireland and Northern Ireland

This research study will use detailed sectoral data to compare and contrast productivity levels, measured by gross value added per worker, in both jurisdictions. The study will formally model productivity in both areas using a range of explanatory variables including levels of foreign direct investment, export intensity, research and development expenditure as well as a range of human capital variables.  

The study will use the estimated models to simulate a number of alternative scenarios for productivity in both jurisdictions and attempt to understand the main factors explaining any North / South productivity gap. A detailed policy discussion will be carried out based on the empirical findings of the study.

 Calculating the benefit of all-island coordination of energy infrastructure and renewable energy supports

Renewable energy supports are determined independently by each jurisdiction on the island but have been broadly aligned to date. This research project will quantify the impact of continued alignment, considering both impacts on electricity consumers and the electricity transmission network.