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Labour Force, Nationality, Migration, Foreign Languages

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Recent immigrants 

In the year prior to April 2016, 82,346 persons arrived to live in Ireland, of which 72,419 were aged 15 or over. Just over 34 per cent (24,768) of this group were Irish nationals and 47,651 were non-Irish nationals. Among the Irish group the labour force participation rate was 76.8 per cent while among non-Irish it was almost 10 percentage points lower at 67.4 per cent.

This lower participation rate can in part be attributed to higher numbers of students among this group. Just over 10 per cent of Irish immigrants were students compared with almost 22 per cent of non-Irish immigrants. Almost 53 per cent of the Brazilians who moved to Ireland in the year before census were students, the largest number of any nationality (2,370). There were also over 500 students recorded from each of China (827), France (774), America (662), Spain (572) and India (539).

The unemployment rate for all recent immigrants was 20 per cent though there were large variations by nationality. Among Brazilians 30 per cent of those in the labour force were unemployed, while only 4.5 per cent of German national immigrants were in this category.

Table 3.1 Usually resident one year immigrants aged 15 years and over, economic status by nationality, 2016
 Number of ImmigrantsAt workUnemployed (incl looking for first regular job)StudentsLooking after home/familyOthers (incl retired)
                    of which      
Other non-Irish21,55710,7303,2035,0541,4391,131

StatBank Link EB010

Where immigrants work

Among the 82,346 recent immigrants, 41,093 were at work in April 2016. Of these almost 5,000 were working in the accommodation and food service sector, 4,070 of whom were non-Irish. The next largest sector was information and communication activities with 4,300 people at work; over 77 per cent of those were non-Irish.

Manufacturing employed 4,110 workers with 69.3 per cent being non-Irish. Two thirds of those working in the wholesale and retail trade were also non-Irish. In the sectors human health, professional and scientific, and financial services there was a more even split among Irish and non-Irish nationals. In the construction sector where 2,323 recent immigrants were working, Irish nationals dominated accounting for 66.6 per cent. 

Accommodation and food service activities8774070
Information and communication activities9753325
Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles
and motorcycles
Human health and social work activities18381799
Professional, scientific and technical activities15921589
Administrative and support service activities6101601
Financial and insurance activities929883

StatBank Link EB029

Non-Irish nationals

There were 347,233 non-Irish nationals in labour force in April 2016 with a participation rate of 73.9 per cent. EU nationals had the highest participation rate at 76.8 per cent, whereas for those from countries outside the EU, it was 64.3 per cent.

There were significant differences between male and female participation. Male participation among EU males was 82.8 per cent as opposed to 70.9 per cent for females. For those from outside the EU, the male participation rate was 71.8 per cent, compared with 56.5 for females.

The largest difference between the male and female participation rates was among Pakistani households where the male participation rate was 81.3 per cent, with 41.2 per cent for females.

Male LFPRFemale LFPR

It's a Fact

  • 12.5% - The unemployment rate among Americans living in Ireland
  • 24.5% - The unemployment rate among Ukrainians living in Ireland
  • 8.5% - The unemployment rate among Italians living in Ireland
  • 95.4% - The labour force participation rate for Croatian males

StatBank Link EB015

Change in industry by nationality

In the agriculture sector, both the number and percentage of EU nationals at work has remained broadly the same. The total number working in construction has risen by 13,876 over the past five years and within that Irish nationals accounted for 11,834 of the increase, Polish nationals for 646, other European nationals for 1343. See figure 3.3.

In the Information sector there has been an increase of 21,008 persons over the five years between 2011 to 2016 and, although the absolute number of Irish nationals has increased in this sector (66,637 up from 52,983) they made up a smaller percentage of the total (76% down from 79.5% in 2011) , with other European nationals accounting for 12.6 per cent (up from 10.1 per cent five years ago), and rest of the world nationals accounting for 5.3 per cent (4,644 persons), up from 3.9 per cent in 2011 (2,591 persons).

Rest of the worldOther EuropeanUKPolishIrish
Agriculture, forestry and fishing 20115072863846105585342
Agriculture, forestry and fishing 2016373291889096883013
Construction 201181334552147297376281
Construction 201677447982239361988115
Accommodation and food services 201188821570128261144663204
Accommodation and food services 201683721832431921097174366
Information and communication 2011259167032776162852983
Information and communication 20164644110603147220166637
Financial and insurance activities 2011156134202492158082194
Financial and insurance activities 2016172341182217132879783
Professional, scientific and technical activities 2011188329072835153981459
Professional, scientific and technical activities 2016249152213206213197481
Public administration 20119176521585291107797
Public administration 20164808171304365101067
Human health and social work activities 201114523424957692946166802
Human health and social work activities 20166616580859043451197968

Unemployment rates

Between 2011 and 2016 the number of non-Irish people at work increased by 9.6 per cent to 293,830 persons while the number of non-Irish out of work decreased by 31 per cent, from 77,460 to 53,403 persons.

Figure 3.4 presents the top and bottom nationalities by rates of unemployment. French and Swedish nationals had the lowest rate of unemployment (both 6.7%), followed by the Germans (7.8%), Italians at 8.5 per cent and Belgians at 8.7 per cent. Among Eastern Europeans, Latvians had an unemployment rate of 17.2 per cent and the Polish nationals' rate was 13.1 per cent.

Of the 1,009 Congolese in Ireland in April 2016, 527 persons were in the labour force and 333 were unemployed giving them an unemployment rate of 63.2 per cent, the highest of any group.

Unemployment rate
Saudi Arabian45.4

Higher employment for those with better English

Over 470,500 people aged 15 and over spoke a language other than English or Irish at home in April 2016 and of these 84 per cent indicated they had good or very good English. The unemployment rate among this group was 13.3 per cent. This compares with a rate of 25.6 per cent for those whose English ability was in the category ‘not well’ or ‘not at all’.  The census national unemployment rate was 12.9 per cent overall in 2016.

Very well16.32905820295311.3094276016532
Not well31.055756269675324.8179042765451
Not at all38.088918380889233.903934593766
Not Stated22.689611217335915.5780267832741

StatBank Link EB020

Almost 33,900 people who did not speak English well or at all were at work in April 2016. Nearly one in ten (9.2%) of these worked in restaurants, with another 8.3 per cent in building and services. A new entrant to the top ten industries in 2016 was those working in Residential care and social work with 1.8 per cent of workers.

The occupation with the largest numbers for this same group is cleaners, with 4,024 (11.9%) in this category, followed by food, drink or tobacco operatives, with 2,379 persons (7%). Elementary construction workers complete the top ten with 599 workers (1.8%) in this category.

StatBank Link EB047

Food, drink, tobacco operatives2379
Catering Assistants1901
Sales Assistants1139
Fishing workers885
Storage Occupations672
Warehouse Workers603
Table 3.2 Persons at work who spoke English 'not well' or 'not at all' by industry (nace rev2), 2016
IndustryAt Work% of total at work
Building services2,8078.3
Meat processing2,3997.1
Food, beverage, tobacco wholesale1,7365.1
Growing Crops1,0783.2
Building Projects1,0473.1
Retail in non-specialised stores9532.8
Motor vehicle repair7832.3
Residential care and social work6101.8

StatBank Link EB067

It's a Fact

  • 2,587 - The number of people at work who did not speak English at all

Participation and fertility

The question on number of children born to women allows a separate analysis of the labour force participation rates for women who have given birth, and those who have never given birth.

The participation rate for women who had not given birth peaked between the ages of 30-34 at 92.1 per cent, while for women in the same age group who had given birth the rate was significantly lower at 75.6 per cent. In the older age group of 35-39 those who had never given birth had a participation rate of 91.1 per cent, compared with 76.5 per cent for those who had. The gap in participation rates persisted for women into throughout their 50's (as well illustrated in Figure 3.7) although it had narrowed slightly for the older age groups.

Has given BirthHas not given birth
65 and over5.668157802691416.13067688747469

Third level qualifications

The average rate of unemployment for the State overall was 12.9 per cent while for those with a third level qualification the rate was 5.7 per cent.

Looking at those Field of Study categories with a minimum of 1,000 people the highest level of unemployment was among those who studied fine arts (888 people or 14.0% unemployed). This was followed by the category audio-visual techniques and media production (1,991 people or 12.0% unemployed) and the category textiles, clothes, footwear and leather (78 people or 11.5% unemployed).

Conversely, low unemployment rates were found among those with a qualification in the Field of Study ‘protection of persons and property’ (including Garda and fire service training) and ‘medical, diagnostic treatment technology’ (both having an unemployment rate of 1.8%). Those with a qualification in nursing and caring had an unemployment rate of 2 per cent (1,045 people).

Unemployment percentage
Protection of persons and property1.79455445544554
Medical diagnostic and treatment technology1.80349932705249
Nursing and caring1.97695756635578
Teacher training and education science (broad programmes)2.32932787534663
Training for teachers at basic levels2.54381306425916
Crop and livestock production2.85420833558571
Dental studies3.21610365571495
Training for teachers with subject specialisation3.79746835443038
Accounting and taxation3.83622914157922
Finance, banking, insurance3.94281414597442
Military and defence3.98126463700234
Teaching and training4.2

Second level qualifications

The overall rate of unemployment for those with at most a leaving cert or vocational level of education was 14.2 per cent though this varied greatly by category of study.

Using the same 1,000 person minimum those with a qualification in the Field of Study category fine arts had the highest level of unemployment at 25.6 per cent (representing 248 people). This was followed by the category humanities with 23.4 per cent or 82 people and horticulture (22.9% or 383 people).

The lowest levels of unemployment was found among those with qualification in ‘crop and livestock production’ (573 people or 3.7% unemployed), followed by ‘finance, banking and insurance’ (199 people or 5.4% unemployed) and ‘pharmacy’ (72 people or 7.6% unemployed).

Unemployment percentage
Crop and livestock production3.6627461007415
Finance, banking, insurance5.40173724212812
Management and administration7.875281260045
Training for teachers at basic levels8.33333333333333
Secretarial and office work8.35325619202448
Marketing and advertising8.58558062740781
Accounting and taxation9.36029505277884
Nursing and caring9.49049304469504
Health (broad programmes)9.50878774222623
Travel, tourism and leisure9.91835500453583
Motor vehicles, ships and aircraft9.98258850841555
Food processing10.0225733634312
Electronics and automation10.6965995378013