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Who experiences discrimination in Ireland?

November 9th 2017

Human Rights and Equality Commission/ESRI Publish Discrimination Findings

Almost one in eight people in Ireland report that they have experienced discrimination over the preceding two years. A new study which draws on a large, nationally representative survey taken from CSO data of responses from 15,000 adults has found that discrimination is felt acutely among specific groups, as outlined below.

New research entitled “Who experiences discrimination in Ireland? Evidence from the QNHS Equality Modules” published jointly by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) examines people’s experiences of discrimination at work, in recruitment and in accessing public services (education, transport, health, other public services) and private services (housing, banks/insurance companies, shops/pubs/restaurants).

Key Equality Findings

Disability: Persons with Disabilities are more than twice as likely as those without a disability to experience discrimination in all areas - at work, in recruitment and in accessing public and private services.

Race/Ethnic Origin: Compared to White Irish respondents, Black respondents are three times more likely to experience discrimination in the workplace and in access to public services, and over four times more likely to experience discrimination in access to private services. White non-Irish do not differ from White Irish respondents in reported discrimination in any domain; the workplace, seeking work, or in relation to public services. Irish Travellers are almost ten times more likely than the White Irish group to experience discrimination in seeking work, and over twenty-two times more likely to experience discrimination in access to private services.

Gender: Women are almost twice as likely as men to experience discrimination at work, with issues of pay and promotion frequently raised, though there are no gender differences in other areas.

Age: The 45-64-year-old group is more likely to experience discrimination seeking work than younger workers but in private services older adults, especially those over 65, are much less likely to experience discrimination.

Family status: Never-married lone parents are more likely to experience discrimination in public and private services than single childless adults.

Change over Time

Experiences of discrimination have changed through economic boom, recession and early recovery – The study compares the latest 2014 data to those from identical surveys conducted in 2004 and 2010, and has found that while overall reported discrimination has remained stable, there have been significant diverging trends which include:

  • Discrimination experienced by people while seeking work has risen significantly from 5.8% in 2004 and 5.9% in 2010 to 7.4% in 2014.
  • Discrimination in relation to the provision of private services has decreased significantly from 6.8% in 2004 to 4.7% in 2014. The biggest fall was in experience of financial institutions, though there was no fall in housing discrimination.
  • Persons with disabilities reported a much higher experience of workplace discrimination in 2004 compared to those without a disability; this gap narrowed during the recession in 2010 but then rose again in 2014 as recovery began.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:
“Access to and use of good quality data and empirical research are of crucial importance in identifying the barriers to the full enjoyment of human rights and equality that persist in our society, as well as the people whom these barriers most affect.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s core statutory role is to promote and protect human rights and equality in Ireland. As such, it is a strategic priority of the Commission, working with specialists such as the ESRI, to make a contribution to the knowledge base necessary for better understanding, and therefore challenging gaps in human rights and equality protection.”

Lead author of the report, Frances McGinnity of the ESRI stated:
“Discrimination can be damaging to the individuals who experience it, in terms of their self-esteem, well-being and for their material outcomes such as their income and access to valued positions and services.

There are also costs at a societal level. Discrimination in the labour market may be economically inefficient, as the skills of individuals are not effectively used. Discrimination can also undermine social cohesion. Monitoring and tackling discrimination is therefore an important issue for Irish society.”

For more information and to read the report, please access the IHREC website.