The Social Entrepreneurship Index

Barriers and Opportunities in Ireland

Migrant Integration through
Social Entrepreneurship

Case: Ireland 🇮🇪

Migrant integration is a critical aspect of social cohesion and economic development in host countries. Ireland has experienced a significant increase in migration in recent years, leading to the need for effective integration strategies. Social entrepreneurship has emerged as a promising approach to address the challenges of migrant integration. This policy brief aims to explore the potential of social entrepreneurship as a means of promoting migrant integration in Ireland.

Ireland has witnessed a rise in migrant populations, presenting both opportunities and challenges for integration. While the government and civil society organizations have implemented integration policies, there is still a need for innovative approaches to promote successful and sustainable integration. Social entrepreneurship offers a unique avenue to address the barriers faced by migrants and facilitate their inclusion in Irish society.


The desk research and focus groups on migrant integration in Ireland have gathered several data points, which after the analysis crystallized into the following conclusions:

Social Enterprises

Social entrepreneurship combines entrepreneurial principles with a social mission, making it well-suited to address the complex needs of migrants. By fostering economic empowerment, social inclusion, and community development, social enterprises can provide tangible benefits for both migrants and the host society. The inclusive and innovative nature of social entrepreneurship aligns with the goals of migrant integration.

The Social Enterprise sector in Ireland contributes to the economy with 25,000 – 35,000 jobs and €1.4 billion in economic activity, while also addressing various challenges faced by Irish society. It is estimated that around 1,400 Social Enterprises are currently operating in communities throughout Ireland.

Third-Country Nationals

Migrant groups in Ireland exhibit higher levels of education, although some face elevated unemployment rates compared to individuals born in the country. In 2019, a combined total of 137,207 visas, encompassing both long and short stays, were issued. Employment permits issued during the same year amounted to 16,383, with India being the most represented nationality, accounting for 5,373 permits. Between 2005 and 2019, over 153,000 non-Irish nationals acquired Irish citizenship through naturalization (ERSI, 2020). Notably, in the 2019 local elections, 56 migrant candidates participated, nearly doubling the number of candidates compared to 2014, representing approximately 3% of the total candidates.

Migrant communities in Ireland encounter numerous obstacles when attempting to access health and social services. Additionally, they face discrimination and negative attitudes towards them.

Main Figures

non-Irish nationals

lived in Ireland in 2019
(12.7% of the total population).

1 %
of immigrants aged 15+

had a 3rd level qualification in 2019.

third-country nationals

that migrated to Ireland in 2019 were female.


Important Findings from the Focus Group in Erfurt

I often struggle with turning ideas into action – knowing “how to”. I feel that this module is very useful for those who are interested in becoming a social entrepreneur as it could potential put them on the correct pathway to establishing their own sustainable business.

Tinu A.

Although it can improve the lives of those living in a community, I fear that there can be a lot of fraudulent activity around social entrepreneurship. There are lots of grants available for community groups, however, sometimes you hear that the money was not spent on what it should have been spent on. When it does prove to be successful, the benefits are clear and obvious.

Irene K.

It is a relatively new area of activity in Ireland and has been growing in popularity – it is a very active part of the economy and society and there are more and more opportunities in terms of funding to support the development of social entrepreneurship.

Mary E.

Benefits of Social Entrepreneurship for Migrant Integration

Social entrepreneurship plays a crucial role in migrant integration within the Irish economy.

It drives economic growth, promotes innovation, fosters social inclusion, facilitates skill development and knowledge transfer, diversifies the economy, and opens up international networks and trade opportunities. By recognizing and supporting the potential of social entrepreneurship, Ireland can harness the economic benefits of migrant integration, leading to a more inclusive and prosperous society.

Social entrepreneurship by migrants can contribute to economic growth by creating new businesses and job opportunities. Migrant entrepreneurs often possess unique skills, experiences, and cultural insights that enable them to identify market gaps and address unmet needs. By establishing social enterprises, migrants can generate employment for themselves and others, stimulate local economies, and contribute to overall economic prosperity.

Social entrepreneurship encourages innovation and entrepreneurial spirit among migrants. By introducing new ideas, products, and services, migrant entrepreneurs can drive innovation and contribute to a dynamic business ecosystem. Their diverse backgrounds and experiences bring fresh perspectives, which can lead to the development of innovative solutions to societal challenges. This fosters an environment of creativity and entrepreneurship that benefits the Irish economy as a whole.

Social entrepreneurship promotes social inclusion by providing opportunities for migrants to actively participate in the economy. By establishing their own businesses and generating income, migrants can become self-reliant and reduce their dependency on social welfare systems. This not only benefits the individual migrants but also reduces the economic burden on the state, leading to a more sustainable and inclusive society.

Social entrepreneurship offers avenues for skill development and knowledge transfer among migrants. By engaging in entrepreneurial activities, migrants can acquire new business and management skills, enhancing their employability and contribution to the Irish labor market. Furthermore, successful migrant entrepreneurs can serve as role models and mentors for other migrants, inspiring and guiding them on their entrepreneurial journey. This knowledge transfer benefits the broader migrant community and fosters economic empowerment.

Social entrepreneurship by migrants contributes to economic diversification. Migrant entrepreneurs often introduce products, services, and cultural experiences that are unique to their backgrounds. This diversification of economic offerings adds value to the Irish economy, attracting both domestic and international customers. It enhances Ireland’s reputation as a diverse and inclusive destination for business, tourism, and investment, thereby boosting economic competitiveness.

Social entrepreneurship can facilitate the development of international networks and trade opportunities. Migrant entrepreneurs often have transnational connections, enabling them to establish links with their home countries and other global markets. This can lead to the expansion of Irish businesses abroad, the attraction of foreign investment, and increased trade partnerships. Such international collaborations contribute to economic growth, knowledge exchange, and the overall development of the Irish economy.

Policy Recommendations

Think Social consortium advice for policymakers in Ireland.

Supportive Ecosystem

The government should establish an enabling environment for social entrepreneurship by providing funding, incubation programs, and mentoring schemes specifically targeted at migrant-led social enterprises. This support will encourage the growth and sustainability of social entrepreneurship initiatives.

Collaboration and Partnership

Collaboration among relevant stakeholders, including government agencies, migrant organizations, business networks, and academia, is crucial. By fostering partnerships, knowledge sharing, and networking opportunities, Ireland can leverage collective expertise and resources to promote migrant integration through social entrepreneurship.

Access to Finance

Access to finance is vital for the establishment and growth of social enterprises. The government should establish financial mechanisms, such as grants, loans, and social investment funds, tailored to the needs of migrant-led social enterprises. This will facilitate access to capital and promote sustainable growth.

Awareness and Training

Enhancing awareness and understanding of social entrepreneurship among migrants and the wider community is important. The government should provide training programs and capacity-building initiatives to equip migrants with the necessary entrepreneurial and business skills, fostering their engagement in social entrepreneurship.