SPORTING groups are not doing enough to encourage immigrants to take part in sporting activities, a new report on integration reveals.
Participation in sport is "significantly lower among non-EU nationals than Irish nationals", according to the 2011 Annual Monitoring Report on Integration, published today by The Integration Centre.
Despite efforts by the GAA and the FAI to appoint intercultural officers to reach out to non-Irish nationals, "figures indicate that there is still a lot of work to be done, especially amongst other sporting bodies", said The Integration Centre's CEO Killian Forde.
"Internationally, sport is a telling indicator of migrant integration. Whilst many would hesitate to call a lack of participation in sport a serious social problem, it does flag a number of concerns for the future," he said.
"If immigrants are not participating in sport because they feel marginalised and excluded, then Irish society is far more segregated than many would care to believe.
"Community identity is intrinsically linked to sport and national pride is never more evident than during competition.
"If immigrants feel excluded from this sphere, not only is Ireland losing out on possible talent but shared cultural identities," he said.
The report, written by researchers at The Integration Centre and the Economic and Social Research Institute, is the second in a series of reports examining the employment, education, social inclusion and citizenship of immigrants.
Overall, the study found that immigrants have been harder hit by the recession than Irish nationals, with total employment of immigrants declining by 40pc between 2008 and 2011 compared with 10pc for Irish nationals.
The study also revealed that the consistent poverty rate in which immigrants on low incomes struggle to buy food, clothes or heat their homes, is almost double that of the native Irish population, at close to 10pc.
The report also found while the children of immigrants are generally highly motivated to perform well in school, children from non-English speaking backgrounds tend to perform worse in English literacy than their Irish counterparts.
Report author Frances McGinnity said: "These findings show that overall non-Irish nationals have been harder hit by the recession than Irish nationals in terms of both employment and unemployment."