The Irish Live Register for April 2009 recorded a record of 384,448 individuals, an increase of 188,850, or 97%, since April 2008, according to data from the Central Statistics Office. All immigrant groups have been hit hard but those who immigrated to Ireland from the states that joined the European Union in May 2004 have been hit especially severely.
There are 349,300 non-Irish nationals in the labour force. They comprise 15% of the 2.2 million Irish labour force. The April Live Register includes 77,850 non-Irish nationals – 22% of the total on the Live Register.
Some 44,727 are from those states that joined the EU in May 2004 – Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia (collectively known as the Accession states EU15 to EU 27). These immigrants account for a labour force of 167,800, of whom 26.6% are now on the Live Register. They were attracted to Ireland by a minimum wage of €8,65 ($11.57) per hour from 1 July 2007 that is guaranteed under the Irish National Minimum Wage Act 2000. The corresponding figure in the UK is £5.52 (€6.21 or $8.31).
The Live Register is not a direct measure of unemployment. It also includes part-time workers who work up to 3 days each week, seasonal and casual workers eligible for a Job Seekers Allowance or Benefit.
However, overall unemployment in Ireland has also risen sharply from 93,400 in February 2007 to 170,600 November 2008 and 40,500 or these are defined as long-term unemployed. The number of unemployed from the Accession states is 16,900, a rate of over 10% and an increase in the number unemployed of 7,500, of 80% more in twelve months.
It is estimated that 210,000 people from Accession states arrived in Ireland since 2005. Three quarters of those who found work were employed in construction, manufacturing and service sectors, such as retail and hospitality. The total number employed in the public sector, education and health is low in comparison. The largest immigrant cohort is from Poland, but there are significant numbers from Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Estonia. Lithuania and Latvia are currently recording the highest levels of unemployment in the EU. Unemployment in Lithuania increased from 4.3% to 15.5% in the 12-months to 30 April 2009 while unemployment in Latvia increased from 6.1% to 16.1% over the same period. Unemployment levels in Poland has remained relatively stable moving from 7.4% to 7.7%.
This group comprise people predominantly aged in their twenties and thirties and tend to be male with the gender disparity most pronounced among the younger age group. There are relatively few children, or elderly people, among this immigrant group. Despite their relative youth, 42% are married compared to the 46% marriage rate of the native Irish. But almost 20% of the married non-nationals are not living in Ireland with their spouses. Their spouses have typically remained in their native land and this replicates the emigration pattern from Ireland over the decades before economic self-sufficiency. The majority of the immigrants from the Accession states have a secondary school education and slightly over a quarter have a third-level qualification.
The largest decline in employment in Ireland has been in the construction sector and the professions that serve it –(- 45,900) jobs lost in one year. But there have also been significant job losses in wholesale and retail (-18,200), financial and business services (-11,600), hotels and restaurants (-10,500).
Non-Irish nationals are obliged to be habitually resident in Ireland to qualify for social assistance payments in Ireland. The term ‘habitually resident’ is not defined by either Irish or EU law. However, it is intended to convey a degree of permanence – a regular physical presence enduring for some time beginning at a time usually in the past and intended to continue for a period into the foreseeable future. Length and continuity of residence are vital considerations
Non-Irish nationals resident in Ireland can qualify for social insurance payments (e.g. state pension, jobseekers benefit), means tested payments (e.g. jobseekers allowance) and universal payments (e.g. child benefit). 300 extra staff have been transferred from within the civil service to the Department of Social & Family Affairs to deal with the extra welfare claims.
Research published by the Economic and Social Research Institute indicate that non-Irish nationals are facing discrimination when responding to job advertisements with similar creden tials as an Irish native.
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