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Non-Irish workers face a 'significant' wage gap, ESRI report finds

Eastern Europeans particularly affected, earning 40% less per hour than Irish counterparts.

By Alice Chambers

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NON-IRISH NATIONALS working in Ireland face a significant “migrant wage gap”, according to research published today by the ESRI and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

The data from 2011-2018 showed that non-Irish workers earned 22% less than Irish nationals or 78 cents for every €1 earned by an Irish worker.

Nationals from eastern EU countries experienced the largest wage gap and migrant women, in particular, face a “double earnings penalty” for being both female and foreign.

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Eastern Europeans earn 40% less per hour than Irish nationals overall and even when the research accounted for differences in education, occupation and workplace that gap narrowed only to 20.5%.

Non-Irish women earn 11% less than non-Irish men who themselves earn 18% less than Irish men, the report found. This means that non-Irish women earn 30% less than Irish men.

“It is clear from the report that a divide exists in the treatment of non-Irish nationals in relation to their wages and working conditions which needs to be addressed,” said Minister Roderic O’Gorman who welcomed the report.

“With many employers now preparing their Gender Pay Gap reporting,” he added in relation to the double disadvantage faced by migrant women, “it is timely to consider the outcome of this research, reflect on recruitment practices, and take action where appropriate”.

Lower quality jobs more likely

The report found that the wage gap has narrowed over the time period going from 25.5% during 2011 to 2013, to 18.7% during 2016 to 2018.

The wage gap also varied hugely according to country of origin. While Eastern Europeans fared worst, nationals from the UK earn slightly more than Irish nationals both in absolute terms and when the researchers accounted for education levels and job types. For nationals from western EU countries, North America and Oceania the gap is much smaller.

The report explored the reasons for the wage gap, concluding that job quality, trade union membership and education level are all factors.

Non-Irish nationals tend to have lower quality jobs, are less likely to work in professional occupations and are also less likely to occupy supervisory roles. Among Africans employment rates are particularly low. However, those from western Europe, America, Asia, Australia and Oceania do not fit this trend.

Migrants are less likely to belong to trade unions, the report found, which may impact their wages. It recommends that unions may need to make a greater effort to recruit non-Irish members.

Education level affects wages, too. The report found that it was the most qualified migrants who suffered the highest wage penalty. This may be because Irish employers do not recognise foreign qualifications equally with Irish ones.

“Greater efforts may be needed to improve qualification recognition among employers, and raise awareness of the Quality and Qualifications Ireland system,” said Dr James Laurence, co-author of the report.

English-language training would also help reduce the wage gap, the report found.

In addition to these factors, the report noted that in spite of robust anti-discrimination laws, discrimination both on national and ethnic grounds is another likely cause of the wage gap.

It found that laws aimed specifically at discrimination in the workplace may be needed and underlined the importance of current work by the Independent Anti-Racism Committee to develop an anti-racism strategy for Ireland, due to be published early this year.

Consultation for the successor plan to the Migrant Integration Strategy 2017-2021 is also due to begin early this year, with the report recommending that job quality and efforts to tackle the wage gap should be prioritised. It stated:

“For migrants, jobs are an important source of income, and their integration into a country’s labour market is a key indicator of their broader social integration into society.”

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