Immigrants less likely to be getting social welfare

Wage gap between natives and immigrants has changed little, conference told

Unemployed immigrants in Ireland are less likely to be getting social welfare assistance than unemployed natives, an international conference on migration has heard.

Unemployed immigrants in Ireland are less likely to be getting social welfare assistance than unemployed natives, an international conference on migration has heard.

Fri, Jun 14, 2013, 15:41

Unemployed immigrants in Ireland are less likely to be getting social welfare assistance than unemployed natives, an international conference on migration during and after the economic crisis was told.

Professor Alan Barrett, head of the economic analysis division of the Economic and Social Research Institute, told the conference in Dublin immigrants suffered a much higher employment loss than natives during the recession. The rate of growth in claims for job-seekers benefits and assistance by immigrants surged at the start of the crisis compared to natives, but then dipped much more rapidly.

“The way we interpreted that was the job losses were heavy amongst them, but at a certain point though they were entitled to unemployment benefits they were not then being given unemployment assistance,” he said.

“When the more discretionary element of the system kicked in things changed a little bit.”

He said the test used by the Department of Social Welfare to assess entitlement to assistance included a “centre of interest test” under which an applicant had to demonstrate Ireland was his or her centre of interest.

“This provides a degree of discretion to people making decisions on welfare as to whether or not someone is entitled,” he said.

There was evidence to suggest one reason people might have been disqualified was, for example, if a man was in Ireland and his wife and family were in his native country he could have difficulty demonstrating his centre of interest was here.

Though the effect of the recession on employment on immigrants was far greater than on natives -down 20 per cent between 2008 and 2009 for the former compared to 7 per cent drop for the latter - the wage gap has changed little.

Prof Barrett said the wage gap between migrant workers and native workers was 10 per cent 2006 and in 2009, when adjusted for factors including education, the gap fell slightly.

“Normally in society the wages of an immigrant should converge over time; there was a small rate of closure,” he said.

Also speaking at the conference, organised by the European Migration Network, Frank Laczko of the International Organisation for Migration addressed the issue of north-south migration.

He said migration from Ireland to Africa more than doubled between 2008 and 2009 and in 2011, 3,242 migrated from Ireland to Africa, according to Eurostat figures. Migration from Ireland to Nigeria grew by over 162 per cent between 2008 and 2010, and to South Africa by 173 per cent. He also said the Irish living abroad sent €570 million home in 2012, an increase of almost 27 per cent since 2007.