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Minister Murphy welcomes changes to employment permits system for construction sector workers from outside the European Economic Area

Published on Wednesday, 03 Apr 2019
Minister Eoghan Murphy
  • Changes to address labour shortages in key sectors
  • Benefits for the construction and sports sectors
  • Changes follow a comprehensive review of the employment permits system

Mr Eoghan Murphy TD, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, today (3 April, 2019) welcomes the changes to the Employment Permits System, following a comprehensive cross-departmental / agency review, which were announced this morning by Heather Humphreys, T.D., Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

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 such as Brexit. The purpose of the system is to maximise the benefits of economic migration while minimising the risk of disrupting the Irish labour market.

Following the first bi-annual review of 2019, Minister Humphreys has announced the following changes:

  • Addition of certain occupations to the Critical Skills List of Occupations:
    • Civil engineers
    • Quantity surveyors
    • Construction project managers
    • Mechanical and electrical engineers with BIM capabilities
    • High Performance Directors and Coaches for high-level sports organisations
       
  • Removal of certain occupations from the Ineligible List of Occupations:
    • Sheet metal workers
    • Welding trades
    • Pipefitters
    • Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Engineers 
    • Shuttering Carpenters
    • Glaziers, window fabricators & fitters
    • Scaffolders, stagers & riggers
    • Crane drivers
    • Career guidance teachers (secondary schools)
       
  • Removal of the certain occupations from the Ineligible List of Occupations by quota:
    • Transport and Distribution Clerks and Assistants (Freight Forwarders; Cargo & Freight Agents; Brokerage Clerks) subject to a quota of 300,
    • Plasterers subject to a quota of 250
    • Bricklayers subject to a quota of 250

Minister Murphy welcomed this announcement, noting that “As construction in the residential sector increases, it is important that the sector has access to the right mix of skills & labour. The momentum gathered must continue and we must both up-skill our own workforce through education and training and also make sure that labour shortages do not occur in the short term.”

Commenting on the changes, Minister Humphreys said:

“Our economic migration policy accommodates the arrival of non-EEA nationals to fill capacity gaps in the domestic economy in the short to medium term, while still prioritising, wherever possible, Irish and EEA nationals in the awarding of contracts of employment. The changes I have announced today demonstrate that the employment permit system is sufficiently agile and flexible to respond to evolving needs of the labour market.”

Turning to the changes she is introducing for the construction sector, the Minister continued:

“Construction in Ireland is an important economic sector, which is broadly based across the country, supporting employment in all regions. During the recent economic downturn, it suffered more than most and many skilled workers left Ireland to find opportunities abroad.  I am aware that the sector is actively seeking to encourage many of these workers back to take up jobs in Ireland but despite those efforts, there is still a significant supply gap and companies are experiencing real skills shortages.”

Minister Murphy concluded “these changes to the employment permits system will ensure that we can have the right people with the right skills in place to ensure that we can continue to work towards our housing targets. It is well recognised that in order to achieve the high standards in building required, highly qualified and experienced construction workers are fundamental.” 

ENDS

Notes for editors

Background

The Employment Permits System

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 Occupations Lists

The employment permits system is managed through the use of lists designating highly skilled and ineligible occupations. The lists are reviewed twice a year to ensure their ongoing relevance to the State’s human capital requirements. The review process utilises research undertaken by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) and other experts in the labour market, including the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) at SOLAS.  The Department also invites submissions from industry representatives, other Government Departments and any other stakeholders who might have a case to make, via a twice-yearly open consultation on the Department’s website. Since the Review of Economic Migration Policy which took place in 2018, the Minister has taken advice on economic migration from the Inter-Departmental Group which managed the review process.

The Employment Permits system is designed to attract highly skilled workers from outside the EEA to Ireland, to meet skills demand in the economy where those skills can’t be accessed through the resident labour force.  For the purposes of the employment permits system, occupations fall into three categories:

  • 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.  Special “fast-track” conditions attach to this permit type including the eligibility to apply to the Department of Justice and Equality for family members to accompany the permit holder immediately; and after two years may apply for permission to work without the requirement for an employment permit.  The current minimum remuneration thresholds for a CSEP are €30,000 and €60,000, differentiated by qualification and experience levels.
  • Ineligible occupations are those with evidence that there are more than enough Irish/EEA workers to fill such vacancies. Employment permits are not granted for these occupations. Ineligible occupations are generally lower skilled occupations such as personal services and operatives.
  • Every other job in the labour market, where an employer cannot find a worker, are eligible for an employment permit.  For these occupations, the employer is required to undertake a Labour Market Needs Test (i.e. advertise the job for two weeks) 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).  This permit type is renewable and after five years the applicant may apply to the Department of Justice and Equality for long term residency permission.  The current minimum remuneration thresholds for this permit type are €30,000 plus €27,500, €27,000 and €22,000 as exceptions for certain categories of employment.

The Critical Skills and Ineligible Occupations Lists Review

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 Critical Skills and Ineligible Occupations Lists on a regular basis, in accordance with the changing needs of the labour market. 

The employment permits regime is designed to facilitate the entry of appropriately skilled non-EEA migrants to fill skills shortages.  However, this objective must be balanced by the need to ensure that there are no suitably qualified Irish/EEA nationals available to undertake the work and that the shortage is a genuine one.

An occupation may be considered for inclusion on the highly skilled list or removal from the ineligible lists provided that:

  • shortage exists across the occupation, despite attempts by industry to train and There are no suitable Irish/EEA nationals available to undertake the work;
  • development opportunities for Irish/EEA nationals are not undermined;
  • genuine skills shortage exists and that it is not a recruitment or retention problem;
  • the Government education, training, employment and economic development policies are supported;
  • the skill shortage exists across the occupation, despite attempts by industry to train and attract Irish/EEA nationals to available jobs.

Submission Process

In order to maintain the relevance of these lists of occupations to the needs of the economy, a bi-annual review process is applied.  As part of this review process, submissions are sought from representative bodies, Government Departments, Agencies, and other interested parties relating to occupations currently included on or absent from the lists.

The submission process is an opportunity for stakeholders to provide additional information and potentially different perspectives on the nature and extent of skill shortages.  Stakeholder submissions are a vital source of information, helping inform the Department’s final assessment of the status of occupations.  The next review is planned for April 2019, and a call for submissions from interested parties will be posted at www.dbei.ie when it commences.

Changes to the Occupation Lists

The Critical Skills Occupations List will now include:

  • Civil Engineers,
  • Quantity Surveyors,
  • Construction Project Managers
  • Mechanical and Electrical Engineers with BIM expertise.
  • High Performance Directors and Coaches for high-level sports organisations

The following occupations will be removed from the Ineligible Occupations List and will be eligible for a General Employment Permit:

  • Sheet metal workers
  • Welding trades
  • Pipefitters
  • Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Engineers 
  • Shuttering Carpenters
  • Glaziers, window fabricators & fitters
  • Scaffolders, stagers & riggers
  • Crane drivers
  • Transport and Distribution Clerks and Assistants (Freight Forwarders; Cargo & Freight Agents; Brokerage Clerks) subject to a quota of 300,
  • Plasterers subject to a quota of 250
  • Bricklayers subject to a quota of 250

Other technical amendments

  • To provide for the new Revenue Commissioners PAYE Modernisation Initiative
  • Changes to the criteria for Chef employment permits to allow employers to replace permit holder employees who leave their employment prior to the expiry of a permit and to recognise the total years’ experience gained by an applicant in any grade of chef rather than limiting to their experience in one specific chef grade
  • To allow secondary schools to access career guidance teachers through the employment permits system, in same way as other secondary teachers
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