Migrant women in Ireland may face a ‘double disadvantage’

14 Sep 2022

Research shows that non-EU migrant women in Ireland may face a ‘double disadvantage’, which relates to being both a woman and a migrant. Additional challenges include accessing health care, labour market barriers and gender-based violence. New EMN Ireland/ESRI research looks at the situation of non-EU migrant women in Ireland and policy responses towards this group. The research is part of an EU-wide study conducted by the European Migration Network (EMN), which is funded in Ireland by the European Union and the Department of Justice.


In 2020 there were almost 89,000 non-EU women and girls living in Ireland, representing 3.5% of the resident female population. Non-EU migrant women can face challenges to their labour market integration, with higher rates of unemployment and lower activity rates than both Irish women and men, and migrant men. Other challenges may include difficulties balancing caring duties, a lack of skills recognition and the risk of underemployment.

Research also indicates that non-EU migrant women are more likely to live in overcrowded conditions compared to Irish women and have a higher frequency of perinatal deaths than other groups. Previous research and stakeholders consulted for the study pointed to additional integration challenges such as increased risk of gender-based and domestic violence, discrimination, homelessness, and the vulnerability of women living within the Direct Provision system of accommodation. Non-EU migrant women are also at more risk of trafficking in human beings than other groups. The recently published EU-wide EMN study shows that migrant women face similar challenges in almost all EU states.

Policy responses

A review of existing policies in Ireland found limited crossover between migrant integration strategy and gender equality strategy. Migrant women were not specifically addressed in the national Migrant Integration Strategy 2017 to 2021, nor did it adopt a gender mainstreaming approach, which would incorporate a gender dimension into each stage of policy-making and implementation. While integration funding mechanisms generally do not specifically refer to migrant women, several relevant projects have been funded under different streams that support the implementation of the Migrant Integration Strategy. There is no specific mention of migrant women in the National Strategy for Women and Girls, or in most sectoral policies reviewed in the study. The EU-wide study shows similarly weak linkages between integration strategies and gender equality frameworks in many European countries.

Significantly, the recently published Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (2022–2026) commits to an intersectional approach to ensure the inclusion of socially excluded groups. Migrants, refugees and international protection applicants as well as undocumented migrants are among those highlighted as potentially needing additional inclusion measures.

The Migrant Integration Strategy, the National Strategy for Women and Girls and the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy ended in 2021. The development of successor strategies may present an opportunity for increased focus on the specific integration needs of migrant women.

Michał Polakowski, co-author of the study notes that ‘While research shows that non-EU migrant women may face certain disadvantages, they are often very well educated, and potentially a great asset to the Irish society and economy. Our study shows the important role of Non-Governmental Organisations, not only in the provision of integration measures, but also in representing migrant women’s voices. The overall positive social attitudes towards migrant integration in Ireland, the rise of pro-equality social movements as well as the publication of the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence which explicitly deals with migrant-specific issues may signal increased attention to the integration needs of migrant women going forward’.

The report can be read here.