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Ireland is now one of the most diverse countries in the EU

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Shoppers on Grafton Street, one of Dublin’s main thoroughfares. Pic: PA

Ireland is one of the most diverse countries in the European Union, with approximately 17% of its resident population born in another country, according to new research.

The research, conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), found that many non-Irish nationals living in Ireland are at least as likely to be employed and highly educated as Irish people.

Data compiled by the EU earlier this year revealed that only Luxembourg, Cyprus, Austria, and Sweden had a higher proportion of foreign nationals than Ireland.

At 70%, the employment rate of non-Irish nationals is actually higher than the 66% employment rate for Irish nationals. Employment rates among sub-groups vary significantly, however: just 45% of African nationals living in Ireland are employed.

Some 37% of Irish people of working age had a third-level qualification in 2017, a figure that is higher across almost all non-Irish groups. Around 74% of people from Western European countries other than the UK living in Ireland had such a qualification, while around 35% of Eastern European nationals did.

Over 8,000 immigrants became Irish citizens in 2017, a figure down from the 2012 peak of 25,100. Many of those issued with naturalisation certificates in 2017 were Polish, Romanian, or Indian, according to the research.

Some 23% of non-Irish nationals were living below the income poverty line in 2016, compared to just under 16% of Irish nationals.

Meanwhile, the research notes that the Muslim population in Ireland increased three-fold, from less than 20,000 in 2002, to over 62,000 in 2016. Just under 30% of this group were born in Ireland. While Muslims living in Ireland are typically highly educated, they are also more likely to be unemployed, young and urban-based, and twice as likely as the entire population to be students.

In recent years, more Muslim people have arrived to Ireland from South Asia, and fewer from Sub-Saharan Africa, than in the past, the research found.

In a statement, Dr Frances McGinnity, the lead author of the research, noted the “high rates of employment and educational attainment” of immigrants, but also pointed to the “concerning findings” and their implications for some sub-groups, such as African nationals.

Ireland’s minister for equality, immigration and integration said that the research would help the Irish government “design and target effective interventions to support integration and remove barriers.”