Many migrant groups in Ireland face higher unemployment levels than people born in Ireland, despite having better educational attainment, according to a study.

Migrants of working age are more likely to hold a third-level qualification than people born in Ireland, for whom the figure is around 40%.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) study analysed data on first-generation migrants – those born abroad in more than 100 countries.

It compares differences in educational qualifications, English language skills, unemployment and job quality, using data from the Irish Census.

These findings underscore the importance of English language skills and of recognising foreign qualifications for migrants in the Irish labour market

Frances McGinnity

Within broad regional groups like Europe, Asia and Africa, the study found wide differences.

Among Asian migrants, those from Taiwan, South Korea and India are the most likely to hold a third-level degree, while those from Afghanistan, Thailand and Vietnam are the least likely.

Meanwhile, many first-generation migrant groups from Africa have higher unemployment rates than people born in Ireland.

The report said the difference is linked to the fact people of black ethnicity have a higher unemployment rate than those of white ethnicity, but the disadvantage for those born in many African countries remains even within ethnic groups.

When employed, migrants from many Asian countries, as well as those from North America, are more likely to work in a professional or managerial job than those who are Irish born, the report found.

It said migrants from countries with a high rate of asylum applications to Ireland tend to have worse labour market outcomes, even after accounting for their education, English language skills, age, gender, ethnicity, nationality and duration of residence in Ireland.

“This could be because of factors related to the trauma and disruption experienced by protection applicants prior to and during migration, or time spent in the protection system, particularly if prolonged,” the report continued.

Migrants born in EU countries have lower rates of unemployment than other migrants, but among those who are working, EU migrants are less likely to work in high-skilled jobs.

The report said part of this difference is likely to be due to differences in entry routes from different countries: non-EU migrants who enter through the work permit system come to work in high-skilled jobs, but EU migrants have unrestricted access and do not need to be highly skilled.

Migrants with higher educational qualifications and better English language skills are less likely to be unemployed and more likely to be working in professional or managerial jobs.

Among non-EU migrants, being an Irish citizen is associated with lower unemployment rates, accounting for other factors.

The report’s author Frances McGinnity said: “These findings underscore the importance of English language skills and of recognising foreign qualifications for migrants in the Irish labour market.

“They also suggest that those who have come through the protection system may need additional supports to integrate into the labour market. Measures to address ethnic discrimination in the labour market are also important.”