A new study from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has revealed a strong demand for work permits among international protection applicants but also finds that challenges remain for those seeking employment.

The problems encountered include the remote location of direct provision centres, scarcity of jobs, access to childcare, discrimination and the underemployment of applicants in jobs that did not match their qualifications.

Ireland granted international protection applicants the right to work in mid-2018 and between then and the end of last year, more than 12,000 applicants were granted labour market access.

The ESRI research shows that 80% of first-time labour market access applications were granted and 94% of applications for renewal were granted.

Most of the workers took up low skilled, lower paid jobs such as general operatives, healthcare assistants, kitchen porters and cleaners.

The study found 135 young people, aged 16 and 17, obtained work permissions between mid-2018 and 2022.

The procedure to gain access to the labour market was viewed as relatively simple by those interviewed by researchers, but the ESRI found that some applicants cannot access certain employment supports due to not meeting eligibility requirements.

The study also found that there is no tailored labour market integration strategy to address the particular needs of this group.

"NGOs play an important role in supporting labour market integration for applicants, running a number of small-scale projects across the country," the study found.

"However, these initiatives rely on short-term funding, which undermines their sustainability," according to the ESRI.

Researchers found that while progress has been made on issues such as access to driving licences and bank accounts, international protection applicants still face challenges in gaining employment in practice.

"The introduction of labour market access in Ireland in 2018 was a positive development in the reception of international protection applicants in Ireland," said Emily Cunniffe, co-author of the report.

"Our research shows a sizeable number of applicants have sought to work in Ireland.

"There nonetheless remain key barriers that can hinder access entirely or can result in applicants working in jobs that do not match their qualifications."

The research was part of an EU-wide study conducted by the European Migration Network (EMN), which is funded in Ireland by the European Commission and the Department of Justice.