Migrant workers more affected by pandemic – ESRI

Study shows employment rate among migrants grew to 77 per cent in 2022

Migrant workers were more affected than Irish people during the Covid-19 pandemic, a report published jointly by the Economic and Social Research Institute and the Department of Equality has found.

The Monitoring Report on Integration 2022 also found that by early 2022 the employment rate among migrants, at 77 per cent, was higher than that of the Irish-born at 72 per cent.

The employment rate among migrants post pandemic was 6 per cent higher than levels at the start of 2020, before the Covid public health restrictions.

The Monitoring Report is the latest in a series of reports that investigate how migrants in Ireland are faring. The report uses a range of indicators to compare the outcomes of the Irish- and foreign-born population in key life domains such as employment, education, social inclusion and active citizenship.


In the labour market in early 2020 the overall unemployment rate for migrants was 5.8 per cent, rising to 9.1 per cent in early 2021 and falling 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 reported disadvantages in the labour market, the employment rate increased from 56 per cent in early 2020 to 74 per cent in early 2022. Labour force activity rates also rose from 63 per cent in early 2020 to 80 per cent in early 2022. The report noted that if this high employment persists beyond 2022, it is a sign of considerable progress by this group.

In terms of education the report found 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.

Poverty risk

In terms of poverty and housing, migrants 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 with 8 per cent of the Irish-born population.

In terms of citizenship, the total number of non-EEA nationals who acquired Irish citizenship in 2005-2021 represents about 38 per cent of the resident adult population of non-EEA origin.

According to lead author of the report Dr Frances McGinnity, the data 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, she said: “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 big current challenges in the Irish housing market are urgently needed to improve this situation.”

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist