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03 August 2018
As the world's focus on immigration intensifies, labour shortages in certain countries – including Ireland – have become a major issue.
The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, has responded by approving changes to the Employment Permits Regulations. The changes, which will initially operate on a pilot basis, are expected to make it easier for agri-food sector businesses to source workers from outside the European Economic Area.
A total of 800 work permits are due to be issued for non-EEA workers through this quota-based scheme as follows:
Until now, Ireland's employment permits regime has generally focused on critical skills gaps at the higher end of the labour market. The minimum annual remuneration threshold of €30,000 for granting employment permits has meant that lower-skilled and lower-waged workers have been ineligible for Irish employment permits.
With the buoyant Irish economy now reaching close to full employment, it has made it increasingly difficult for European workers to be recruited and retained in Ireland's agri-food sector. This has resulted in a noticeable deficit in the availability of lower-skilled, lower-waged labour.
Humphreys confirmed that these labour shortages were becoming more apparent in certain sectors and acknowledged that "this has the potential to constrict growth if these needs are not met".
The minister therefore requested a review by her department of the economic migration policies underpinning the current employment permits system, prioritising labour shortages in the agri-food sector. Based on this, she introduced a temporary scheme to alleviate the immediate difficulties that companies in the agri-food sector are experiencing.
The scheme will implement the following changes:
As with any change, there is a fear that people will take advantage and 'milk the system'. Humphreys acknowledged that in introducing the changes, she was conscious that the changes must not disrupt the domestic labour market. So far, the changes have been widely welcomed by leading figures in the agri-food sector.
The government's general policy remains committed to satisfying the country's labour and skills requirements using workforces from both Ireland and the European Economic Area. However, over the next decade alone, it is estimated that dairy farms in Ireland will need approximately 3,000 extra jobs. The announcement regarding these special agri-food work permits is a positive indication of the government's willingness to meet Ireland's changing labour needs and may signal a more flexible approach.
For further information on this topic please contact Nicola Sammon at Mason Hayes & Curran by telephone (+353 1 614 5000) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Mason Hayes & Curran website can be accessed at www.mhc.ie.
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