ONE in four Polish nationals living in Ireland is now receiving the dole, new statistics have revealed, following Judge Mary Devins's controversial remark about social welfare being a "Polish charity".
The extent of the unemployment crisis within the immigrant community in Ireland is revealed in statistics secured by the Sunday Independent, which show that 25 per cent of Polish nationals between the ages of 15 and 64 are on the dole.
The issue of unemployment levels within the immigrant community emerged when, responding to queries in Castlebar District Court about the existence of a Polish charity in Ireland, Judge Devins remarked: "A Polish charity? There is. It's called the social welfare."
The judge was forced to issue two apologies. In hermost recent one, she said: "I unreservedly and without qualification apologise for my off-the-cuff comments at a recent court case. I understand and accept the hurt these comments caused to members of the Polish community."
However, the most up-to- date statistics reveal that the Polish community, who are the largest non-national grouping in the State, are suffering even more heavily than Irish residents from the jobs crisis. Currently, 100,162 Polish immigrants of working age are resident in Ireland and 23,905, or just under a quarter of these, are receiving some form of Jobseeker's Allowance or Benefit.
Significantly, the statistics also reveal that whilst Polish citizens constitute 3.3 per cent of the population aged between 15 and 64, they account for 4.39 per cent of claimants of unemployment schemes that are open to the working population.
It is believed one of the key factors in the rate of unemployment amongst Polish workers, which is slightly higher than that of Irish workers, has been the collapse of the building and manufacturing industry in the economy.
During the height of the boom, the work ethic and skills of Polish workers meant they were actively sought by employers. However, they seem to have been effectively left high and dry.
The statistics reveal that currently 543,961 individuals in the State are getting Jobseeker's Allowance or Benefit, Back to Work Allowance, One-Parent Family Payment or other benefits.
Of the 95,646 people receiving Jobseeker's Benefit, 6,057 or 6.33 per cent of total recipients are Polish. Jobseekers Benefit is paid to individuals who have been in work and earned enough stamps via PRSI payments.
Jobseeker's Allowance, which is means tested, but is also paid to long-term employed individuals whose benefits have run out is currently being paid to 309,885 individuals, 14,051 or 4.53 per cent of which are Polish.
Polish immigrant take-up of the Back to Work Allowance Scheme, which encourages unemployed people (among others) to take up employment is particularly high at 8.7 per cent or 1,044 of the total of 11,955 applicants.
Relatively few Poles, 2.32 per cent or 2,083, are found amongst the 89,735 citizens on One-Parent Allowance, whilst the Polish take-up of other schemes such as Back to Education, Farm Assist and Pre-retirement allowance is even smaller. Currently 36,700 people are receiving such benefits, of which 670 or 1.83 per cent are Poles.
The figures indicate that whilst unemployment levels are relatively high amongst the Polish community, the overall impact on Irish unemployment figures and costs -- 23,905 or 4.39 per cent of the total -- is still peripheral.