Immigrant children diet 'healthier'

Young immigrant children are more likely to be living in poorer households but have healthier diets than Irish youngsters, a study has found.

The latest report on integration looked for the first time at the experience of three-year-olds born to migrant mothers and found that many get by without an extended family to make working and caring easier.

Think-tank the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) revealed that in spite of a generally higher level of education than Irish mothers, immigrant mothers are on average less likely to be in work.

On the whole, immigrants have been hit harder by the recession, the study showed.

It found that financial strain, which increased with the economic crisis, tended to be higher among migrant families, particularly those from Africa, who had the highest unemployment rate, and EU states in eastern Europe, and Asia.

Immigrant families are also much less likely to have bought a home.

Non-Irish nationals had a higher unemployment rate – 18% in 2012 and for young immigrants aged 15-24 it is as high as 33%.

The ESRI warned that there is little evidence to suggest immigrants are benefiting from the first stirrings of recovery in the labour market.

The study found small differences in the overall health and diet between Irish and immigrant children but it noted that three-year-olds born to migrant mothers from mainland Europe have healthier diets than the Irish youngsters.

The report revealed that from 2005 to the end of 2012, almost 54,700 adults from the European economic area became Irish citizens – 20,200 in 2012 alone.

Report author Dr Frances McGinnity said: “Citizenship does not necessarily imply a full sense of belonging, but the very significant increase in the numbers applying for, and gaining, citizenship indicates progress towards the fuller integration of immigrants in Ireland.

“Notwithstanding the considerable progress made, challenges remain for Ireland in integrating its large numbers of new immigrants.”

The ESRI study was the last in a series of four on the integration experiences of immigrant families in Ireland.

Killian Forde, chief executive of The Integration Centre, said due to funds its office will no longer be able to examine the issues.

“It is a crucial piece of work as, without an analysis of the statistics around integration, targeted, evidenced-based policy strategies cannot be put in place,” he said.

“In several European countries, the government supports the monitoring of integration, which is why The Integration Centre undertook the responsibility in recent years. However, due to funding cuts this will no longer be possible.

“We can only hope that the State will prove its commitment to promoting a socially cohesive society via providing funding in this area in the future.”

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Immigrant children diet 'healthier'
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