Irish report says immigration vital to economic success

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An Irish report on immigration finds that, even after the crash, immigrants are playing a vital role in the Irish economy. For Ireland to prosper, it must continue to be open to inward migration.

The report, Migrants and the Irish Economy, was written by economist Jim Power for The Integration Centre, an Irish not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting integration. Killian Forde, of The Integration Centre, said 'without a liberal visa regime, no multinationals would base themselves in Ireland.'

The report found that the view, commonly held in Ireland, that migrants were a benefit during the boom years, particularly from 2004 to 2008, but are now a burden on the economy, was wrong. Migrants remain vital to the economy. Because of continuing shortages in Ireland of both linguists and skilled IT professionals, immigrants are vital to the recovery too.

Foreign born workers in Ireland work at all levels of the economy, the report found. Most work in lowly paid, service and administrative jobs. In some trades they make up one third of the workforce. The highest number of migrants came from Poland and then from the UK, both EU countries. Because Ireland is part of the EU, workers from most other the European Economic Area have the right to move to Ireland in order to work.

11% of migrants to Ireland came from Africa and Asia. Since 2007, there have been strict immigration controls on non-European Economic Area migrants. Ireland, like the UK, does still accept highly skilled migrants from outside the EEA. Consequently, non-EEA immigrants to Ireland are more likely to have a degree than native Irish people or immigrants from within the EU.

The report also said that the level of entrepreneurship among immigrants is much lower than it is among immigrants in the UK or the US, where immigrants are more likely than native citizens to establish businesses.

The report says that immigration was vital to the Irish economy in the boom years when the unemployment rate fell below 4%. It was commonly agreed that immigration was necessary. However, after the crash in 2008, there were elements in Ireland who said that immigration was unaffordable.

The report says that there is little evidence to support this. It states that immigrants are retraining. There is no evidence of benefits tourism being a motivation for immigration into Ireland. 'The non-Irish population is highly skilled with qualification levels exceeding that of the foreign population in other EU countries. The overall majority hold professional or trade qualifications. The variety of language skills they hold is vital to the Irish economy…, in short, the immigrant population has been and remains a key asset to the Irish economy.'

The report recommends various measures to encourage immigrants to stay.
• An improvement to the employment permit system to facilitate the recruitment of non-EU workers
• Improved English training for immigrants
• A more streamlined system for recognising foreign qualifications
• Greater efforts to attract immigrant entrepreneurs
• The enactment of a statutory right to family re-unification for immigrants
• Improved anti-racism measures in workplaces
• Greater commitment from the police to tackling racist incidents
• Keeping personal tax levels low to avoid scaring off immigrant workers.

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