Immigrants earn €5 less an hour than Irish workers
Recession widens wages gap
THE recession has hit immigrants much more severely than native Irish workers, new research has shown.
One-in-five immigrants lost their jobs at the peak of the recession compared to just 7pc of Irish workers.
And the wage gap between Irish and foreign workers widened from 10pc before the recession to 29pc afterwards, said Professor Alan Barrett of the Economic and Social Research Institute.
His study showed that average immigrant earnings fell from €19.50 an hour in 2006 to just under €18 in 2009, whereas Irish workers saw wages increase from €21.50 to €23.
The wage gap between Irish workers and those from new EU member states in eastern Europe was even more striking as they earned less than €13 an hour in 2009 – meaning Irish workers were paid 79pc more on average.
Prof Barrett said that while the wage gaps were striking, it was not because foreign workers were paid less for the same jobs but was more related to the kinds of jobs they did.
Lower-paid workers had been most affected by job losses, and there were now proportionately fewer immigrants with degrees and in better-paid jobs compared to Irish workers.
The wage gap had actually fallen slightly when the changing composition of the immigrant workforce was taken into account, he said.
The wage gap between immigrants and natives had always been wider at the higher end of the income scale, which was partly related to language barriers and difficulties having skills recognised.
However, immigrants from the older EU states such as France and Germany fare better, earning almost as much as Irish workers, while British workers actually earn slightly more.
The staggering scale of job losses during the recession had been of Depression-era proportions with employment among immigrants falling by 20pc between 2008 and 2009 alone, nearly three times the rate of losses seen among Irish workers.
There had been no evidence of "welfare tourism" involving immigrants coming to Ireland to seek benefits as the number of foreign claimants on the Live Register had tapered off quickly as people exhausted their benefit entitlements.
And while it might have been expected that foreign workers would have been the first to leave during the recession, in fact emigration figures showed more than half of those leaving in recent years have been Irish.
The value of remittances sent home by Irish emigrants overseas soared to €570m last year, up 27pc since 2007, said Frank Laczko of the International Organisation for Migration.