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Employment Rights for Migrant Workers in Ireland: Towards A Human Rights Framework

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This paper considers the right to work for migrant workers in Ireland. The right to work, as recognised in international human rights instruments, encompasses a range of interrelated rights. However, economic and labour market developments at local and global levels play a key role in defining the right to work. Diverse views in relation to conceptions of the right to work and the obligations of states highlight the complexity and controversial nature of these issues. A human rights framework recognises the indivisibility of the right to work from other fundamental human rights where the standards set out in international human rights instruments are reflected in national policies and practices, and ensures that national remedies are in place to address violations. States have the power and responsibility to make legislative and policy choices to protect, promote and fulfil human rights. Legislative and policy choices in Ireland have resulted in a two-dimensional system based on nationality and skill/qualification level. The result is that non-European Economic Area (EEA)/Swiss migrants, especially Black and minority ethnic migrants, and migrants in low-skilled employment areas are particularly vulnerable. In terms of moving towards a human rights framework in Ireland, legislative and policy choices should ensure the development of an employment permit system that is underpinned by the principle of permanence and prevents exploitation, strengthen anti-racism and anti-discrimination strategies, and support integration. However, legislative and policy choices need to be made within a human rights framework which considers state obligations in the context of greater dialogue between those engaged with labour rights, human rights and economic theory and in the context of domestic and global concerns.

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  1. EEA nationals include citizens from the European Union (EU), including the accession states, and citizens from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.


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Correspondence to Deirdre Toomey.

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Toomey, D. Employment Rights for Migrant Workers in Ireland: Towards A Human Rights Framework. Int. Migration & Integration 16, 249–263 (2015).

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