Why Are So Few Africans at Work in Ireland? Immigration Policy and Labour Market Disadvantage

Tue, 13 Nov 2018 13:00:00 GMT

Philip J. O’Connell, Geary Institute for Public Policy

Location: UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy Seminar Room


This paper sets out to explore why African immigrants have poor labour market outcomes in Ireland, with very low employment and exceptionally high unemployment rates. The analysis draws on data from the 2011 Census of Population to examine underlying differences of experience and of composition between different groups of immigrants. Controlling for individual characteristics of immigrants suggests that the labour market disadvantages suffered by Africans cannot be attributed to compositional differences: on average, Africans in Ireland are a relatively well-educated group concentrated in the prime working-age groups. The paper investigates an alternative explanation that suggests that some of the African disadvantage may be due to the policy of excluding asylum seekers from the labour market in the Direct Provision system. I create a novel measure of the risk of being exposed to the Irish asylum system by expressing the number of asylum seekers in the years prior to the 2011 Census as a proportion of the resident population from each country. This asylum risk variable is found to influence labour market outcomes, reducing employment chances and increasing unemployment odds. Moreover, its inclusion in the models also reduces the effects of belonging to the African group. Even controlling for individual characteristics and the risk of exposure to the asylum system, there remains a substantial residual African disadvantage in both employment and unemployment, which may be due to discriminatory practices by employers