Immigrants under-represented across public sector, audit finds

Just one public body in 20 has policies for integrating immigrants into workplace

An audit of Irish public-sector organisations has indicated that only one in 20 has policies for integrating immigrants into the workplace.

The absence of integration policies is most acute in the Civil Service, where just 3 per cent of the workforce are foreign-born, though non-Irish nationals are now 17 per cent of the population.

Non-Irish nationals are also under-represented in the health sector, where they make up 10.2 per cent of the workforce, and just 7 per cent in the education sector.

They are over-represented in accommodation and food services (35.8 per cent) and administrative and support services (27.3 per cent) which are overwhelmingly in the private sector.


Prof Mary Gilmartin of Maynooth University said the public sector was "absolutely critical" in the development of an integrated society yet most public bodies had a "blank slate" as far as specific policies on immigrants were concerned.

“The public sector is especially important in the integration of migrants into Irish society because it frequently has a role in relation to access to opportunities and to services,” she said.

“They should look at who they are serving. Are they serving the public in the most appropriate way?”

Integration policies

Researchers at the university identified 432 Irish public-sector organisations. More than half responded to the survey, of whom just 5 per cent had specific integration policies.

Among the few who were identified as having good practices in that regard were Dublin Bus, the Central Bank and the Prison Service.

Almost half responded by stating that they had no relevant policies. Most said they had no role in migration integration.

Prof Gilmartin said the necessity for the Irish language in some parts of the public service was a bar for those not born in Ireland.

“There are properly parts of the public sector where it is not a requirement, so that should be considered,” she said. “We have to deal with the reality of who is living in Ireland now.”

The report, Developing Integration Policy in the Public Sector, will be launched at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on Monday.

Ireland has the fourth-highest number in the European Union of residents born outside the country. Most have arrived in the last 15 years.

Prof Gilmartin said Ireland had an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of other countries.

“Ireland’s small size is an advantage in successful integration, and there is much evidence to prove that integration failure, resulting in large groups of excluded people, causes major social problems – which Ireland can avoid,” she said.

“Language, education, employment, access to services and interaction with Irish citizens are fundamental enablers of full participation in society.”

The report also highlighted disparities in home ownership between Irish and non-Irish nationals. Just 13 per cent of households headed by Irish nationals are in the private rental sector, compared with with 73 per cent of households headed by Polish nationals.

Poles are the largest ethnic minority group in Ireland, with a population of 112,515 (2.5 per cent of the population), according to the 2016 census figures.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times