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News : Irish Economy Last Updated: Jun 30, 2014 - 3:10 PM

In 2012 20,200 adults from ex-European Economic Area became Irish citizens
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Jun 30, 2014 - 11:50 AM

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During 2012, almost 20,200 adults from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) became Irish citizens. The number of non-EEA adults who acquired citizenship through naturalisation almost doubled between 2010 and 2011 and more than doubled again between 2011 and 2012.

Between 2005 (when records began) and end-2012, almost 54,700 non-EEA adults acquired Irish citizenship. Assuming these citizens haven't left Ireland, this represents 31% of the estimated adult immigrant population of non-EEA origin resident in Ireland at end-2012.

This data comes from a report 'Annual Monitoring Report on Integration 2013' that was prepared by the ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) and launched Monday morning by Frances Fitzgerald, minister for justice and equality. The Monitor presents a range of indicators to measure different aspects of immigrant inclusion in Irish society, using the most recently available data.

The European Economic Area (EEA) unites the EU Member States and the three EEA EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) into an Internal Market governed by the same basic rules. These rules aim to enable goods, services, capital, and persons to move freely about the EEA in an open and competitive environment, a concept referred to as the four freedoms.

The report says that at the start of 2013 the unemployment rate was around 18% among non-Irish nationals, compared to just over 13% for Irish nationals. Immigrants were hit harder during the economic crisis and there is little evidence to suggest that they have benefited from the first stirrings of recovery in the Irish labour market.

The youth unemployment rate (those aged 15-24 years) is very high in Ireland, and in early 2013 it was higher for non-Irish nationals (33%) than for Irish nationals (25%) in this age group. The unemployment rate for workers aged over 25 is also higher among non-Irish nationals than Irish nationals.

Data from the Programme International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2012 show that, in English reading, 15-year-old immigrants from non-English speaking backgrounds had lower achievement scores, on average, than their Irish peers, although the gap between the groups had narrowed since 2009.

There was no significant difference in PISA mathematics tests between immigrant students and Irish students while income poverty rates, measured as the percentage of a group falling below 60% of median equalised income, were similar for Irish and non-Irish nationals in 2011. However basic deprivation (enforced lack of 2 or more items relating to food, clothing, heating and family/social life) was higher for non-Irish nationals, and was particularly high for Africans (44% compared to 24% for Irish nationals).

The report also says that in spite of their generally higher level of education, immigrant mothers of 3 year olds are, on average, less likely to be employed than Irish mothers. Related to this, immigrant children are less likely to be in non-parental childcare for eight hours or more per week.

The exception to this pattern is mothers from Western Europe. Their employment rates are the same as those of Irish mothers (55%), the proportion of their children in non-parental childcare is very similar.

Where immigrant children are in non-parental childcare, they are much more likely to be in crèche-based care than in the care of a relative. The lack of an extended family living in Ireland may make it more difficult for immigrant mothers to combine work and caring.

Experience of financial strain, which increased with the economic crisis, tends to be higher among immigrant families, particularly those of African origin, but also those of EU Eastern European and Asian origin.

There are small differences in terms of overall health and diet between Irish and immigrant children. In fact, immigrant 3 year olds, whose mothers are from Western Europe or EU Eastern Europe, have somewhat healthier diets than Irish 3 year olds.

Dr Frances McGinnity the author of the report said: “The past three years has seen significant improvements in the processing of citizenship applications, and the immigrant population now comprises a large group of immigrants with Irish citizenship who share the same rights and responsibilities as Irish citizens by birth or descent. Citizenship does not necessarily imply a full sense of belonging, but the very significant increase in the numbers applying for, and gaining, citizenship indicates progress towards the fuller integration of immigrants in Ireland. Notwithstanding the considerable progress made, challenges remain for Ireland in integrating its large numbers of new immigrants.”

Killian Forde, CEO of The Integration Centre said: “This is the last Integration Monitor in a series of four which will be published by The Integration Centre. It is a crucial piece of work as, without an analysis of the statistics around integration, targeted, evidenced-based policy strategies cannot be put in place.

In several European countries, the government supports the monitoring of integration, which is why The Integration Centre undertook the responsibility in recent years. However, due to funding cuts this will no longer be possible. We can only hope that the State will prove its commitment to promoting a socially cohesive society via providing funding in this area in the future.”

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