News & Events

Minister Humphreys opens Review of the Employment Permits System

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD today announced the commencement of a mid-year Review of the Occupation Lists for employment permits for workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). The lists are reviewed twice a year.

Minister Humphreys said:

“Today I am opening a public consultation on Ireland’s employment permits system. This is an opportunity for sector representative bodies and employers to provide enterprise perspectives on skills and labour shortages in their sector.

“It follows my recent announcement of the outcome of the previous review. Arising from this, I approved changes for occupations in the construction, transport and sports sectors.

“The regular review process ensures that the employment permits system remains flexible. It allows us to meet skills and labour shortages in real-time.”

Ireland operates a managed employment permit system, which maximises the benefits of economic migration while minimising the risk of disrupting the Irish labour market.

To ensure that the employment permits system is responsive to changes in economic circumstances and labour market conditions, the system is managed through the operation of occupation lists. The lists fall into two categories – the first for in-demand occupations, the ‘Critical Skills Occupations List’, and the second for ineligible occupations, the ‘Ineligible Occupations List’, where a ready source of labour is already available from within Ireland and the EEA.

The review process is evidenced-based. It involves detailed consideration of the annual National Skills Bulletin and the Vacancy Overview Report, along with research undertaken by the Expert Group of Future Skills Needs, Solas, input from Government Departments and Agencies and a public consultation.

In addition, account is taken of the views of the relevant lead policy Department on the submissions for changes to the lists.

The Minister concluded:

“Stakeholder submissions are a vital source of information for these twice-yearly reviews. They make a hugely important contribution to the final assessment, so I would urge industry to once again engage with the process.”

The closing date for the public consultation is Friday 12th July 2019.

Submissions should be submitted online using the public consultation submission form to:

Call for Submissions to the Review of the Occupations List for Employment Permits

Submissions to the review are considered by the Economic Migration Policy Interdepartmental Group chaired by officials in the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Following the review process, a recommendation will be brought to the Minister.


Note to the Editor

The Irish State’s general policy is to promote the sourcing of labour and skills needs from within the workforce of Ireland, the European Union and other EEA states. Policy in relation to applications for employment permits remains focused on facilitating the recruitment from outside the EEA of highly skilled personnel, where the requisite skills cannot be met by normal recruitment or by training. Employment permit policy is part of the response to addressing skills deficits which exist and are likely to continue into the medium term, but it is not intended over the longer term to act as a substitute for meeting the challenge of up-skilling the State’s resident workforce, with an emphasis on the process of lifelong learning, and on maximising the potential of EEA nationals to fill our skills deficits.

The employment permits system is managed in part through the operation of the highly skilled and ineligible lists for grant of employment permits.

• Highly skilled jobs are professional positions in medicine, ICT, sciences, finance and business. Special “fast-track” rules apply e.g. family can join the permit holder immediately, permanent residency is available after two years.
• Ineligible jobs are generally lower skilled occupations where there is evidence that there are more than enough Irish/EEA workers to fill such vacancies.
• Every other job in the labour market, where an employer cannot find a worker, may be eligible for an employment permit. The employer has to do a Labour Market Needs Test (i.e. advertise the job for two weeks). If no-one suitable applies for the job, the employer is free to apply for an employment permit.

Review of the highly skilled and ineligible lists
It is vital that the employment permits schemes are responsive to changes in economic circumstances and labour market conditions. Therefore it is necessary to review the highly skilled and ineligible lists on a regular basis, in accordance with the changing needs of the labour market. A review of the occupations lists has recently commenced with a call for submissions to a public consultation and the development of evidence based cases from interested parties may be prepared and submitted.

Review of Economic Migration Policies
During 2018 a review was undertaken to ensure that economic migration policies governing the employment permit system are fully supportive of Ireland’s emerging labour market needs, be they skills or labour shortages in certain sectors.

The Review Group found that existing policies have served the State well in recent years allowing us to focus on attracting skills critical to business, even in the context of a significant labour market surplus. Now with the strong employment growth that is being experienced across all sectors, pressures are emerging in employment cohorts the system has previously not needed to address. Therefore, an adjusted approach is needed, one which will on the one hand continue to ensure that Ireland can attract highly skilled foreign workers, while on the other hand allow the system to respond to verified labour shortages that arise from time to time in lower skilled occupations.

Key recommendations deriving from the Review include:
• Changes to the current twice-yearly review of the Highly Skilled and Ineligible Employment Lists - which deal with labour market access for non-EEA workers - to make the system more responsive in real-time. While the twice-yearly system will still operate, sectors experiencing severe labour shortages will be able to submit a business case for consideration via their line Department as they arise. A temporary scheme of this nature was piloted for the agri-food sector earlier this year.
• Introduction of a Seasonal Employment Permit to facilitate certain categories of short-term workers.
• A review of salary thresholds and other criteria for the various employment permit types to ensure a good fit with changing skills and labour market needs with minimal disruption to the labour market.
• Changes to the current legislation to balance robust regulation with flexibility.

These changes will be achieved by re-convening the high-level Inter-Departmental Oversight Group under revised Terms of Reference, to oversee the implementation of the Report’s recommendations, to monitor the ongoing alignment of the employment permits regime with the needs of the labour market and to report to the Minister of Business, Enterprise and Innovation on a regular basis.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) plays a key role in implementing the Government’s policies of stimulating the productive capacity of the economy and creating an environment which supports job creation and maintenance. The Department has lead responsibility for Irish policy on global trade and inward investment and a remit to promote fair competition in the marketplace, protect consumers and safeguard workers.
For further information please contact Press Office, D/Business, Enterprise and Innovation, or (01) 631-2200
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