C: Gript

What do PPS numbers tell us about a changing Ireland?

In response to our piece last week on the fact that almost 77% of new Personal Public Service (PPS) numbers issued in the first five months of 2022 went to people of “other than Irish nationality,” some queries have been raised regarding the reasons why people have come to live here.

The Ukrainian war is a, presumably, unique event which has increased the numbers of people coming here from overseas, but has not radically impacted upon the overall trend that the majority of new PPS numbers over the past ten years have gone to people who were not born in Ireland.

The ratio of non-Irish PPS issues to those issued to people born here has steadily increased, with the singular blip caused by the Covid lockdown in 2020. Even in 2020 the ratio was 52:48.

The most recent full year was 2021, and the statistics for PPS issues in comparison to other metrics throw up some interesting findings.

In 2021, 174,525 new PPS numbers were issued. Of these, 103,703 (59.4%) went to persons of “other than Irish nationality.”

Of these, 39,223 were issued to people who came to Ireland from other EU states. Most of these are people who come here to work, as well as family dependents.

A total of 16,275 work permits were issued to people coming here to work from outside of the EU and EEA region. They and any family dependents were also issued with a PPS number.

According to the Central Statistics Office, there was an increase of 48,700 in the number of people working between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. The numbers of people coming here from overseas to work correlates fairly closely then to the number of PPS numbers issued.

Not everyone who does come to Ireland of course is coming here to work. There are very high rates of social welfare and other state dependency among some groups. People from Romania accounted for 14,036 – 36% – of the new PPS numbers issued to citizens of other EU countries in 2021.

That compares to 3,943 to people from Poland, which is a reflection of the declining but still substantial number of Poles who come to Ireland to work. Many of those who come here as Romanian citizens are part of the Roma community, and the level of social welfare dependency among Roma is extremely high.

It is difficult to get exact statistics but one study carried out in 2016 found that 90% of the Roma surveyed were unemployed. It is also hard to know how many Roma people are actually living here. Pavee Point estimated that it was somewhere around 5,000, and there were a total of 29,186 people who were enumerated as Romanian in the 2016 Census, which was up by almost 70% on the 2011 Census.

The other main category of people who came to Ireland and who were issued with a PPSN were the 2,649 who applied here during the course of 2021 for asylum through the International Protection Office.

A comparison of PPS issues and work permits and applications for asylum produce what appear to be some interesting anomalies. For example, people who came here from Afghanistan were issued with 732 PPS numbers in 2021, but with just 11 work permits. A total of 202 people from Afghanistan were registered with the International Protection Office.

International students who come to Ireland are also given a PPS number. This is particularly evident in the allocation to countries like Brazil and Italy.

“There were 2,692 PPS numbers issued to Brazilians in 2021, but just 1,078 work permits. Most of the remainder are students although questions have been raised regarding the authenticity of some of the courses they are signed in to, and the fact that many who come here as students work in various under-regulated sectors.”

The comparison between all of the official statistics, in combination with the still unknown number of people who are here illegally and presumably do not have any official status and therefore no PPS number, illustrates that the Irish state has a fairly unreliable basis for evaluating the rapidly changing demographics.

It is unlikely that the recent Census will produce any more clarity on that level. Which of course means that the state is basing its projections for the provision of housing, employment, school places and public services in general on pretty tenuous bases.

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