Ireland and immigration

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The topic of immigration continues to elicit discussion in today's modern world, regardless of which country is concerned. In these "standard" days, immigration tends to provoke a wide spectrum of reactions from diverse sectors of society. Nonetheless, at ‘abnormal' moments, polarization continues to escalate significantly based on the conditions (Power & Szlovak 2012, p.20). In general, the beneficial effects of immigrants are often overlooked or overlooked. As a result, there is a desire to blame refugees for a multitude of social and economic issues that concern particular countries. This tendency to blame immigrants for the general downturn of either the economy or other social downfalls is dangerous both from a social and economic perspective (Barrett 2011, p.15). This perspective holds true even for Ireland as a nation. The same influence that immigration tends to have on other countries is the same even for Ireland. This analysis aims to critically analyze the question of immigration with a particular focus on the benefits it has on the Irish economy, the impact of immigration on immigrants and the disadvantages of immigration on Ireland.

Migration, as controversial an issue as it is, the fact is migration of people has been, is, and will continue to be a global fact of life. According to United Nations estimates, migrants account for about three percent of the entire world’s population. Three percent of the world’s population is about two hundred million people (Barrett 2008, p.597). Historically, the over-all trend of migration sees people moving from countries that are poor to richer countries. Nonetheless, this general outlook is not all encompassing, it is not always the people from poorer countries who move to the richer countries. The reason for this is that the decision to migrate can be a costly one and significant research is also required to make a more informed decision on the same. Consequently, individuals from poorer nations who usually make the decision to migrate are those with a high level of education and skills that often make the decision to emigrate (Barrett 2006, p.1).

Ireland’s economic boom can be traced back to the years spanning the mid-1990s up until 2007. This period is which came to be known as the ‘Celtic Tiger’ which had numerous impacts. One of the most notable impacts was a turnaround in Ireland’s experience of migration (Marc Einri 2001, p.19). Prior to the Celtic Tiger period, Ireland had been experiencing significant population outflows for most of the twentieth century. However, in the mid-1990s, Ireland began experiencing positive net inflows which later on accelerated. In the years between 2004 and 2007, the net inward migration amounted to more than two hundred and twenty five thousand which is over five percent of the resident population (Barrett 2002, p.670). Since this shift in net inward immigration, numerous research questions have since been formulated. One of the questions that has continued to dominate public discourse is the impact that immigration has had on the Irish economy.

Benefits of immigration on the Irish economy

We live in a world that is ever more interconnected. As a result, the ability and desire for people to migrate is only likely to increase in the future. Since there are different types of immigration, it is impossible to make generalized statements of immigration. The reason for this is that different types of migration have different characteristics. As one of the countries in the higher echelons of countries with the strongest economies, the likely impacts of immigration are likely to be varied. Ireland has had a lot of benefits accruing to the immigration. The economy is likely to benefit in that individuals who are intelligent, skilled and ambitious bring their skills to Ireland (Loyal 2011, p.28). Dissatisfied with the opportunities in their own countries, skilled individuals will migrate and at times even relocate to another country entirely.

In such a case, Ireland’s growth potential will no doubt increase as a result of the impact on the supply of labor. Furthermore, since the labor is skilled, the productivity and potential for enhancement will also be high. As such, the potential for growth of Ireland’s economy will be high because of the availability of skilled labor, capital and know-how. The influx of skilled labor coupled with technological advancements has the potential to have positive knock-on effects that are only likely to lead to further improvement in the Irish economy. While inward flow of immigrants increases the size of the available labor, the influx of highly skilled labor is the most preferable since it would impact the economy positively by affecting the potential output and by extension the living standards (Barrett 2002, p.670).

On the other hand, people are likely to view the entry of immigrants who are lowly-skilled as a negative. However, immigrants who are lowly skilled would take up roles and important jobs that domestic citizens might not be interested in carrying out any longer as a result of increased affluence (Loyal 2011, p.30). This certainly holds true in Ireland as witnessed during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years. During this time, immigrants were brought into the country to take up roles that the domestic citizens were no longer prepared to perform. In so doing, they also contribute positively to the economy’s growth.

Impact of immigration on immigrants

As explained earlier, immigration involves the movement of people from their home country to another country to which they are not native. There are many reasons as to why an individual would choose to move from their home country to another such as economic issues, political issues, as well as disasters. For the immigrant, there are numerous benefits which accrue to moving from their home country. For instance, if an individual seeks a move away from their home country for economic reasons, one of the major impacts from a general perspective is an increased quality of life. This improvement in the quality of life might come as a result of higher living standards, better wage rates, and more educational opportunities (Power & Szlovak 2012, p.24). Another impact is increased welfare owing to better healthcare incase an individual emigrates from a country with poor infrastructure.

In Ireland’s case for example, the impact that immigration has had on immigrants is evident with the kind of policies that have been enacted to either encourage or discourage immigration. For instance, during the years of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ in the mid-1990s, the policies enacted were aimed at encouraging immigrants and people from other countries to come to Ireland expecting the chances of a better life and more opportunities. However, in the recent past, especially since the global economic downturn, Ireland has taken on anti-immigrant policies in a bid to discourage the influx of immigrants

Disadvantages of immigration on Ireland

Immigration has the potential to bear both advantages and disadvantages to Ireland. In cases whereby the rate of immigration is high, there are certain disadvantages that are likely to accrue in such a case. For instance, in cases where the influx of immigrants into Ireland is high, the country would have to contend with population surges which would effectively place unwanted strains on infrastructure and different services. Furthermore, immigration poses the challenge of assimilation, whereby it becomes a challenge for the country to adequately support the immigrants in the transition process while at the same time increasing dependence (Barrett 2006, p.1). In addition to this, excessive immigration has the potential to be a security threat. The contemporary world in which we live today is rife with new threats such as terrorism and illegal immigration which might be effectively exacerbated by uncontrolled immigration. As such, this is a challenge that Ireland would have to contend with.


Barrett, A. and Duffy, D., 2008. Are Ireland's immigrants integrating into its labor market? International Migration Review, 42(3), pp.597-619.

Barrett, A., Bergin, A. and Duffy, D., 2006. The labour market characteristics and labour market impacts of immigrants in Ireland. Economic and Social Review, 37(1), p.1.

Barrett, A., Bergin, A. and Kelly, E., 2011. Estimating the impact of immigration on wages in Ireland. The Economic and Social Review, 42(1), pp.1-26.

Barrett, A., FitzGerald, J. and Nolan, B., 2002. Earnings inequality, returns to education and immigration into Ireland. Labour Economics, 9(5), pp.665-680.

Loyal, S., 2011. Understanding immigration in Ireland: state, capital and labour in a global age. Manchester University Press.

Mac Éinrí, P., 2001. Immigration into Ireland: trends, policy responses, outlook. first part of a research project for EU Commission Contract VS/2000/0312, Governance models and new migration patterns: Local strategies to foster social cohesion in a changing labour market, Irish Centre for Migration Studies, Cork.

Power, J. and Szlovak, P., 2012. Migrants and the Irish economy. Dublin: The Integration Centre.

October 25, 2022


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