Non-Irish workers in Ireland face a significant “migrant wage gap”, according to research published last week 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 equating to 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.
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”.
The report also indicates that non-Irish nationals are generally more likely to be found in lower quality jobs. For example, they are less likely to work in professional/managerial occupations (33 per cent compared to 44 per cent of Irish nationals). Non-Irish nationals are also much less likely to be members of trade unions or staff associations (13 per cent compared to 34 per cent for Irish nationals), which could make them more vulnerable to issues arising at work.
For non-Irish groups not from eastern EU countries, the wage gap is smaller - especially for those from West Europe, North America, Australia and Oceania. This is partly because they have higher educational qualifications. However, these workers still get lower rewards for education than Irish workers. For African nationals their employment rates are very low and when in work, they earn on average 14 per cent less than Irish nationals after accounting for background and job characteristics.
The ESRI research suggests that several possible changes could help reduce the migrant wage gap. The wage premium found among members of trade unions alongside the very low level of membership of such bodies among non-Irish nationals suggests that greater trade union membership would benefit migrant wages. Previous research has also shown that English language skills are clearly related to job quality so effective English language training for those who need it is also likely to reduce the wage gap.
While Ireland has robust anti-discrimination legislation, specific measures to combat labour market discrimination may be required. In this respect, the current development of an anti-racism strategy in Ireland is very important (Anti-Racism Committee, 2021). Job quality, including wages, should be a priority for migrant integration policy and should be incorporated into the successor to the Migrant Integration Strategy 2017-2021.