Downturn hits foreign workers hardest
Published 06/02/2010 | 05:00
FOREIGN workers are being hit hardest by job lay-offs, with a disproportionate number now joining dole queues.
One in three people signing on last month was an immigrant worker.
Sectors employing a high number of foreign nationals such as retail, construction, manufacturing and catering are suffering losses, leading them to axe staff. This accounts for the disproportionate figures.
An extra 3,876 foreigners joined the live register in January compared with 9,465 Irish people, the new Central Statistics Office figures show.
Some 18.6pc of the 437,000 on the live register are now non-Irish nationals, a total of 81,395, though they comprise just 14.7pc of the workforce.
CSO figures show, for example, that nearly 7,000 foreign workers lost their jobs in the hotel and restaurant sector last year, compared with 2,000 lay-offs of Irish workers.
While the effects of unemployment have been devastating for everyone in the economy, foreign nationals face particular challenges as it can impact on their residency and citizenship rights, the Immigrant Council of Ireland said.
"We know of people who are not availing of social welfare because they fear that could result in their claims for citizenship being turned down even though they might have been here for years. That, in turn, can result in poverty and even homelessness," said spokeswoman Ruth Evans.
People from the newer EU member states in Eastern Europe have been hit hardest by job losses, with 45,652 of them now on the dole compared with just over 4,000 workers from France, Germany and other, older EU member states.
There have been reports of immigrant workers being asked to jump through hoops to prove they are habitual residents when trying to sign on, even though their work record should be enough to prove that, said the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU). "We have heard from our local affiliates of things being made unnecessarily difficult.
"It is very important for everyone -- both Irish and non-Irish -- to get good information and services aimed at helping them assess where future opportunities might lie," said INOU spokesperson Brid O'Brien.