- Changes to address immediate labour shortages in key sectors such as hospitality, construction, health and road haulage.
- All chef grades now eligible for an employment permit.
- All nurses can now qualify for a Critical Skills Employment Permit.
- The changes are evidence-based and follow the second review of the employment permits system in 2019.
- Reviews happen twice a year to ensure the system remains flexible and responsive.
Wednesday 18 December, Minister Heather Humphreys, T.D., Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation has today announced changes to the employment permits system for workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) following a comprehensive review.
Ireland operates a managed employment permit system through occupation lists, namely the Critical Skills and Ineligible Lists of Occupations, which are reviewed twice a year. This is an evidence-based process that takes account of labour market conditions and submissions from sectors and other stakeholders together with contextual factors. The purpose of the system is to maximise the benefits of economic migration while minimising the risk of disrupting the Irish labour market.
The changes, which will come into effect from 1st January 2020, will address immediate labour shortages in key sectors such as hospitality, construction, health and road haulage. The changes mean that:
- All chef grades are now eligible for an employment permit and the occupation will no longer be subject to quotas.
- All nurses can now qualify for a Critical Skills Employment Permit, which brings immediate family reunification, broad access to the Irish labour market for family members and a fast track to long term residency after 2 years.
- Most professional occupations in the construction sector can now qualify for a Critical Skills Employment Permit. Technician and construction support occupations, such as Foreman, Architectural Technician and Construction Safety Officer, can qualify for a General Employment Permit.
- Other changes include an extension of the quota for HGV drivers by 200.
Commenting on the changes, Minister Humphreys said:
“A strong economy and full employment present their own challenges as labour shortages in certain sectors demonstrate. I am pleased to announce these changes, which will fill immediate gaps in businesses across a range of sectors. The employment lists are reviewed twice a year so that we can be as flexible as possible in an evolving labour market. The changes are evidence-based and take into account that we still have 4.8% unemployed in Ireland and 6.3% in the EU28. The sectors involved have had to prove that they are making every effort to recruit staff domestically and train up workers. Ultimately this is the primary way of dealing with labour shortages in the longer term.”
Since March 2018, all chef grades with experience have been eligible for an employment permit with the exception of Commis Chefs. Today the Minister has removed the occupation of Commis Chef (with two years’ experience) from the Ineligible Occupations List, meaning that all chef grades are now eligible.
Hospitality is a very important sector in Ireland. It directly employs 152,000 people and employment in tourism is projected to be 310,000 by 2025. In terms of overall economic activity, accommodation and food services activities account for around €3 billion of total gross value added in the economy.
The Minister said: “Chefs account for the highest number of vacancies in the hospitality sector and the shortage of Commis Chefs is feeding into shortages at higher and specialist levels. This announcement will ensure that the capacity gap is filled in the short-term through the employment permit system.”
Taking into account the pressures on the sector, the Minister has also decided that the occupation of chef will no longer be subject to a quota. Previously there was a cap of 610 permits. This change will be kept under regular review to ensure that there are no adverse effects on opportunities for those in the industry within Ireland and across the EEA and those exiting training programmes seeking employment in the sector.
In addition, the current cap of two chef permits per establishment is no longer applicable.
Labour demand in the construction sector is outstripping supply in a number of occupations. This is due to a number of factors including the impact of the downturn on the outflow of graduates and trainees from the education system, as well as emigration and career change. To enable the industry to fill the capacity and skills gaps in the short to medium term, the Minister has moved most professional occupations in the sector to the Critical Skills Occupations List. She has also removed technician grades and construction support occupations, such as Architectural Technician and Construction Safety Officer, from the Ineligible Occupations List.
The Minister said: “I am making these changes because I acknowledge the challenges facing the sector in meeting objectives under Rebuilding Ireland, Project Ireland 2040, Future Jobs Ireland and the Climate Action Plan. Investment is predicted to increase to €41 billion by 2023 with growth expected to average at 16% in 2019
“In the longer term, I expect the sector to continue to develop strategies to reskill and recruit from the domestic and EEA labour market and invest in innovation wherever possible.”
The Minister is also addressing an anomaly of the system in respect of nurses. The change will allow all nurses from outside the EEA to qualify for a Critical Skills Employment Permit – the most favourable type of work permit – which brings immediate family reunification, broad access to the Irish labour market for family members and a fast track to long term residency after 2 years.
Currently non-EEA nurses fall into two categories, those with a nursing degree and those with a nursing diploma. As it stands, nurses with degree qualifications can access the Critical Skills Employment Permit, while those with a diploma can only access a General Employment Permit. This type of permit only allows for family reunification after 12 months and family members cannot automatically access the labour market.
Minister Humphreys said: “This an obvious anomaly where you can have two nurses working side by side in a ward, one of whom has their family here in Ireland and another who has to wait a year. This isn’t fair and the system needs to change.
“In order to attract the best and brightest to come to work and live in Ireland as opposed to a competitor country, we need to offer an attractive range of benefits to both the highly-skilled workers and their families. The research shows that in a high percentage of cases where foreign nationals leave a country earlier than planned, it is because their spouses or partners could not find work.”
- Other Sectors
Other changes to the system include an extension of the quota for HGV drivers by 200. Shortages in this sector are an EEA-wide challenge. The sector, through the Logistics and Supply Chain Skills Group, is seeking to improve career development, training and upskilling across the whole transport and logistics sector.
In addition, a Sectoral Working Group is being established to develop a sustainable labour strategy for the meat processing sector into the future. The Working Group will agree terms of reference before the end of March 2020 with the group established before the end of June 2020. As a result of the establishment of this Working Group, the quota of employment permits for meat processing operatives is being extended by 1000.
In making this decision, consideration was also given to a detailed business case submitted by the meat processing sector regarding their continuing labour challenges, which are due to a combination of the move into new markets, the impact on labour availability that the growth in employment in other sectors is having and the improving economies in eastern Europe.