What Indians here think of Ireland: ‘It’s very merit based. If you work hard enough, you will get the job’

Indians, now the State’s third biggest immigrant group, share what attracts them to Ireland in increasing numbers

When Sangeeta Khatri told friends and family she was moving to Ireland, many were confused by her decision. She had worked as an intensive care nurse for 17 years in New Delhi, where she lived with her husband and son.

However, after nearly two years working through the Covid pandemic, Khatri was exhausted and wanted a fresh start.

“For me, the main reason for leaving was a better lifestyle. I had a good job in India, I was manager of the ICU, but the hospital in Delhi was so busy and we didn’t have the same resources as here.”

“I’m a farmer’s daughter and I’d heard Ireland was a green farming country. It was more a natural inclination to a place connected to nature that brought me here. New Delhi is so busy, I want to come somewhere quieter.”


After completing an English-language proficiency test, Khatri secured a job at the Mater hospital in Dublin through a recruitment company. She arrived in Dublin alone in February 2022 and moved into a two-bedroom house in Santry with three other Indian nurses.

She eventually found her own apartment and brought her son over in June 2023. Her husband, a university professor in mechanical engineering, continued to visit every few months.

“The decision to move abroad with a teenage son was tricky. But India is struggling with resources and career options. It’s job opportunities and salary difference – that’s why most Indians are moving here.”

Khatri is one of the 45,449 Indian citizens living in Ireland, an increase of 296 per cent on the number of Indians who lived in Ireland in 2016 (11,465), according to census figures.

Some 10,593 of these Indian nationals (nearly a quarter of the total number living here) arrived in Ireland during the 12 months before the census took place in April 2022. Indians are now the third biggest foreign national group in Ireland, following Polish and UK citizens.

In 2022, the vast majority of Indians were living in counties Dublin and Meath, but, significant numbers also lived in counties Cork, Limerick and Galway.

‘My son has friends all over Europe’

Parul Aggarwal, who moved here in August 2021 after her husband was offered a job with a multinational technology company, says the family came for two reasons: “international career opportunities and global exposure for our son”.

“We were well settled in India. We’d just bought our own house. But we can always go back to that house. The opportunity to move abroad doesn’t happen often and I wanted to explore new places with my husband.”

Aggarwal, who ran a small travel agency before the Covid-19 pandemic, has noticed the number of Indians in Ireland increase rapidly since her arrival, particularly in her local community of Dún Laoghaire, south Co Dublin. Ireland is a far more multicultural society than India, she adds. “My son has friends from China, Ukraine, Ireland and all over Europe. He’s learning a lot about other cultures.”

It took Aggarwal more than a year to settle into Irish life, and she misses India. However, she’s happy the family made the move. “Definitely later in life we’ll go back to our homes but right now we are at the age when we feel we can explore as much as possible.”

‘People here are really welcoming’

Like Aggarwal, Sreenath Kallum Kunnath moved to Ireland last August because of his partner. A qualified emergency care nurse with experience in oncology, Kunnath had been working in Britain for two years when his wife – also a nurse who was still working in India at the time – found a job in Ireland.

“We’re from Kerala and there’s a huge Keralan community here, I think almost 800 families now,” says Kunnath.

“I moved to the UK in 2021 and had almost settled there but lots of our classmates from Kerala had moved to Ireland and all said positive things about this country. And we’ve experienced that now. People here are really welcoming.”

Keralan nurses are attracted to Ireland because of better living standards but also career development, says Kunnath.

“I know the cost of living in Ireland is increasing but for now it’s manageable. Work is less stressful here and we feel more supported by management.”

The couple are also looking forward to the arrival of their first child in June. “We feel more secure here and are fully supported by the healthcare system. There are also lots of help schemes for children and study. It’s not the same in India.”

The number of Indian citizens who secured work permits for Ireland grew by 144 per cent between 2021 and 2022, increasing from 6,157 in 2021 to 15,043 in 2022.

The Government issued fewer work permits to Indians last year – 11,396 – however, this figure remains significantly higher than permits awarded to other nationalities. In 2023, 2,634 work permits were issued to Filipinos, 2,632 to Brazilians, 1,533 to Pakistanis, 1,488 to Chinese people and 1,020 to people from the United States.

Healthcare is the biggest factor bringing Indians to Irish shores. In 2023, 15,060 Indian nurses and midwives were registered to work in Irish healthcare settings, up from 11,957 in 2022, according to data provided by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI). This means, 17 per cent of all nurses and midwives registered to work last year were Indian citizens. Some 54,144 were Irish, 6,348 were Filipino, 3,296 were from the UK and 779 were Nigerian.

NMBI data also reveals Indians represented the biggest number of new registrants for nurses and midwives in 2023 – some 2,364 Indian nurses registered compared to 1,555 Irish nurses.

‘India and Ireland have a natural affinity’

Ambassador Akhilesh Mishra, who was appointed to the Indian embassy in Dublin in October 2021, has agrees the number of Indian healthcare workers is rising but says many Indians also come to work in technology or to study for a master’s degree or PhD.

The simple explanation for this rise in new arrivals is word of mouth, says Mishra. “For every nurse or every tech professional that moves to Ireland, they create a visibility and understanding about Ireland for a minimum 30-40 people back home. Each contact creates a story and that has a multiplier effect.

“The people of India and Ireland have a tremendous natural affinity – we value personal connections and family traditions and people bring that story back home.”

Brexit also plays a role in Indian migration to Ireland, says the ambassador. “Traditionally the UK has been the point of engagement for Indians. But once the UK left Europe, Ireland’s attractiveness grew significantly. Also, post-Brexit Ireland is the only English-speaking country in the European Union.”

Both nations have the “affinity of being colonised and fighting for independence and then trying to transform their socio-economic situation ... Ireland does not have any colonial legacy. So Irish and Indian people relate to each other in a very seamless, harmonious manner.”

“While most of the developed OECD countries are facing shrinkage of the workforce, India is growing and will continue to grow over the next 50 years. By 2030 India will account for one quarter of the entire world’s youth graduate output.”

‘Ireland is an interesting country ’

Adarsh Chekodu was working in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) when his girlfriend moved to Ireland during the pandemic to study for a master’s in electronics. He followed in 2022 to study for a master of science in social data analytics at UCD and is now working as a data analyst in Dublin.

“I was searching for better opportunities and when I got this job, I thought: why not stay in Ireland?” he says.

“We will go home at some point – my family is there – but there are a lot of employment issues in India. Ireland is also an interesting country and there’s no language barrier. The UK has a bad rep in India now. People hear about the racism there and Ireland isn’t known for that.

Chekodu has read about the rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in Ireland but has not experienced it first-hand.

“I think it’s just a bubble. Most people are not like that. Ireland is seen as a more accessible country and less hostile towards foreigners. I think people choose a country based on how they’re treated.”

‘I immediately fell in love with Dublin’

Sumyrah Afreen Khan, who came to Ireland in 2021 to study for a master’s in international relations, knew very little about the country before moving here aside from what she saw in the TV show Normal People.

“I knew people spoke English, that it was European and that it’s right beside the UK. Then I moved here and immediately fell in love with Dublin. It was so warm and welcoming.”

Khan, who was brought up in the city of Chennai, initially planned on leaving after completing her masters but now works as youth and equality officer for the Labour Party. “The first day of my job I went to Leinster House and got to meet all these TDs and senators, it felt surreal. I seem to be the only immigrant working there and feel like I can be their voice in the building.

“Ireland seems more open than other countries and it’s very merit based. If you work hard enough, you will get the job here.”

Ireland is also increasingly viewed by Indians as an equal-opportunities work destination, following reports that Indian women working here have overcome the gender pay gap. CSO data published last year reveals Indian women were among the highest median weekly earners in Ireland, earning four per cent more than Indian men and 45 per cent more than Irish women. Men earn more than woman among every other nationality group, including Irish people.

‘Immigration is necessary in Europe’

When Sohini De moved to Ireland 23 years ago, it was a very different country. She struggled to find ingredients to cook Indian food and “could hardly find anyone who was non-Irish”.

A chartered financial analyst from Kolkata, De only planned on spending six months in Ireland but stayed because she believed the country offered more opportunities for her son.

“I found the work-life balance here good and it was a safe country,” says De, who founded the Empeal digital health company in 2018.

She believes education is bringing more Indian students to Ireland where they stay and find work through the State’s graduate visa programme.

“Indian students are very strong in Stem,” she says. “They tend to come here with experience, get a masters and then start-ups like mine employ them because they provide good talent. Indians also do their homework before they come here, they know what Ireland is, so they integrate well.

Immigration is necessary in Europe; we have an ageing population. Ireland is probably the youngest country but there is a talent issue here. The world has become a very small and connected place, so there will be movement of people everywhere”.

‘It’s the complete package’

Supriya Singh, who moved to Dublin from London in 2016 and is running as a Fine Gael candidate in the upcoming local elections, struggled to meet other Indians when she first arrived but now sees “Indian faces everywhere”.

She and her husband recently bought a house in Dublin and the majority of residents in their estate are Indian tech professionals or nurses.

“There’s been a surge in people coming here since 2022 and I think it’s about better job opportunities, better education and the all-round quality of life here, especially for those raising a family,” she says.

“It offers favourable immigration policies for Indians along with a thriving job market. It’s the complete package.”

‘People are looking at alternatives’

Punam Rane, a Fine Gael councillor in Blanchardstown-Mulhuddart who moved to Ireland in the mid-1990s, says Irish universities are trying to attract Indian students to study here.

“Irish institutions put a lot of effort into visiting Indian universities and inviting students to come here. People are looking at alternatives to the US and so they’re promoting the Irish education system,” she says.

Similarly, Irish nurses have been recruited to work in Irish hospitals in recent years. “A lot of these nurses used to go to the Middle East, where the salary was good,” says Rane. “But the freedom to live a good life here is attractive.”

The number of second-generation Indian doctors is growing, she adds.

“Every second child of Indian parents in this country is studying medicine and they’re going to start graduating in a year or two. My fear is we won’t be able to retain this talent, that they’ll move to the US for bigger opportunities. The Indian economy is growing and I think a time will come when they arrive, study and then leave again.”

After two years working in Irish healthcare, Sangeeta Khatri is now considering returning to India. She works at Santry sports clinic and also plays GAA with a local women’s team in Whitehall but her son has returned to India to live with his father.

“I’ve never regretted my decision to come here for work, but when I look back, I realise a child needs both their parents. But working here is always a privilege for me. I’ll take a break to spend time with my family and then come back here again for my work. I have to balance both, family as well as my own value here, to exist.”

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