A Social Portrait of Travellers in Ireland was written by senior researchers at the economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and compares data taken from censuses in 2006 and 2011, and indicates that even among younger Travellers there is a much smaller percentage of people who have completed second- level education.
One of the authors of the report, ESRI associate research professor Dorothy Watson, said the findings indicated the need for a new approach to raise education levels among the Travelling community, particularly as issues involving nomadism seem to be less of a factor than in previous decades.
Instead the report found that Travellers are mainly experiencing the same difficulties as citizens from disadvantaged backgrounds.
According to the analysis, only 8% of working-age Travellers have completed the Leaving Certificate, compared to 73% of non-Travellers. While levels of education have been increasing for Travellers and non-Travellers, 86% of non-Travellers aged 25 to 34 have completed second-level education, whereas just 9% of Travellers in the same age group have done so.
According to the report: “The lower employment rate of Travellers aged 25-64 compared to non-Travellers (11% versus 66%) was mainly driven by their higher rate of unemployment (82% vs 17%) rather than by a lower rate of labour market participation.
“Differences in education are very important in accounting for the employment gap between Travellers and non-Travellers. The employment rate of non-Travellers is about six times higher than that of Travellers.”
The report also highlights how the chance of being in a job improves markedly as the level of education increases for Travellers.
Comparing Travellers who are similar to non-Travellers in other respects, the Traveller employment rate is just 9% among those with primary level education, 15% for those with lower second level education (Junior Certificate), 27% for those with Leaving Certificate and 57% for the very small number with further or higher education.
The study also shows most Travellers lived in standard housing and 12% lived in a caravan or mobile home in 2011.
The report also found higher levels of poor health among Travellers and a steeper increase with age in self-reported poor health for Travellers than for non-Travellers.
Prof Watson said other research existed that indicated that Travellers did face obstacles to completing their education, including prejudice.
“There certainly is a need for something new, something different, and something targeted,” she said.