News & Events

Minister Higgins announces 150 employment permits for sea fishers

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Emer Higgins, has today introduced a new quota of 150 General Employment Permits for the role of sea fisher which will address skills shortages in the Irish fishing fleet.

Minister Higgins said:

“I am delighted to announce the expansion of the employment permits system to include the role of sea fisher. Opening this quota will help address labour shortages in this important sector. As we have reached full employment with over 2.7 million people at work here, there are some skills that are increasingly difficult for employers to access in Ireland and across the EEA, and sea fisher is a prime example.”

The Department of Justice’s Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) for non-EEA Crew in the Irish fishing fleet was established in 2015 as a response to address claims of exploitation and trafficking of undocumented non-EEA workers on certain categories of vessels in the Irish fishing fleet. This new quota has been introduced following a recommendation by a cross-governmental group to move the role of sea fisher from the AWS to the Employment Permit System.

The role of sea fisher in the Irish fishing fleet is now eligible for a General Employment Permit with a minimum salary requirement of €34,000, up to a quota of 150 permits.

Minister Higgins continued:

“This is a really positive development as non-EEA sea fishers will now have access to the same benefits and protections as other non-EEA nationals employed in the State, particularly in terms of entitlements and protections.

"The transfer of this role to the Employment Permit System will streamline the permission process and make it easier to recruit non-EEA sea fishers. It is an example of how responsive our Employment Permits System is in addressing skills shortages in a way that can benefit both businesses and workers.”

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment consulted with sectoral and migrant worker representatives and that consultation process informed the inclusion of non-EEA sea fishers in the employment permit system and its associated regulations.

Notes for Editor

The Employment Permits System

Ireland’s policy is to promote the sourcing of labour and skills needs from within the workforce of Ireland, the European Union and other European Economic Area (EEA) states. Policy in relation to applications for employment permits remains focused on facilitating the recruitment from outside the EEA of skilled and 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 Occupations Lists

For the purposes of the employment permits system, occupations fall into three categories:

  1. Occupations listed on the Critical Skills Occupations List are highly skilled professional roles that are in high demand and are not always available in the resident labour force. Occupations on this list are eligible for a Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) and include roles such as medicine, ICT, sciences, finance, and business.
  2. Ineligible occupations are those with evidence suggesting there are sufficient Irish/EEA workers to fill such vacancies. Employment permits are not granted for these occupations.
  3. Every other job in the labour market, where an employer cannot find a worker, is eligible for an employment permit. For these occupations, the employer is required to undertake a Labour Market Needs Test and if no-one suitable applies for the job, the employer is free to apply for an employment permit. Occupations such as these may be skills of a more general nature and are eligible for a General Employment Permit (GEP).

Transition from the Atypical Working Scheme for non-EEA Crew to the Employment Permits System

The Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) for non-EEA Crew in the Irish Fishing Fleet was established in 2016. This Scheme, operated under the remit of the Department of Justice, facilitated the recruitment of non-EEA fishers to work onboard certain fishing vessels. A review of the scheme was undertaken in 2022. Government approved the outcome of the Review and its implementation. In accordance with the Review recommendations, the AWS was closed. The main recommendation was that the scheme should be normalised via the General Employment Permit System run by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Following on from this an implementation group was established to oversee the transition from the Atypical Scheme to the Employment Permits System. This was a cross-departmental group of senior officials in relevant departments and agencies including the Department of Transport, the Workplace Relations Commission and an Bord Iascaigh Mhara. The group was co-chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment invited submissions from representative bodies, government departments, agencies, and other interested parties to a consultation to review the eligibility of occupations for employment permits. Submissions were received from the fishing sector and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment had a series of engagements with representatives from this sector, migrants rights advocates and unions concerning access for non-EEA fishers through the General Employment Permit System.