According to Section 53(a) IPA, beneficiaries of international protection are entitled to seek and enter employment, to engage in any business, trade or profession and to have access to education and training in the State in the like manner and to the like extent in all respects as an Irish citizen. There are few schemes specifically devised and tailored for beneficiaries of international protection to access employment within the Department of Social Protection but they can avail of the support provided to Irish citizens. The ESRI have reported that refugees in Ireland can face many challenges in navigating the system of mainstream service provision. Information barriers can make it difficult for beneficiaries to navigate the system to access employment support and the support available varies from region to region.
An example of the tailored schemes available is Employment for People from Immigrant Communities (EPIC), a project run by the Business Community of Ireland and is a labour market programme aimed at assisting migrants including beneficiaries of international protection to enter the labour market. EPIC was launched in 2014, since then this initiative has helped over 3,000 people from 101 nationalities. Over 68% of the people involved in the programme have found jobs, entered training or are volunteering. The programme is part supported by the Department of Justice and Equality and the European Social Fund (ESF) as part of the Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) 2014-2020. As regards recognition of qualifications, the Irish National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC Ireland) facilitates the recognition of foreign qualifications in Ireland by advising clients on how these qualifications compare to the Irish qualifications on the National Framework of Qualifications. The Irish Refugee Council also has employment programmes for women in the protection process and refugees.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in significant loss of employment across a wide variety of sectors. According to research published by the Economic and Social Research Institute, migrant workers are over-represented in sectors severely affected by COVID-19 closures, including accommodation and food provision. For those who lost their job as a result of COVID-19, a social welfare payment known as Pandemic Unemployment Payment, was made available. Under s. 53(b) IPA, beneficiaries of international protection are entitled to access this payment on the same basis as Irish citizens.