Employment Permit structures and procedures have been designed and maintained to protect the Irish labour market while ensuring that key specific skills are available that will enable the Irish economy to expand and develop. Within this context Ireland still remains a very open and welcoming country for non-Irish nationals in our Labour Force. Quarter 1 2012 labour market statistics show there are 274,000 non-Irish nationals in our labour force of just over 2 million. Favourable demographics and consistent investment in education ensure a plentiful supply of highly qualified workers with excellent technical, language and customer services capabilities, as well as a reputation for flexibility and innovation. In addition, Irish employers have access to the EU and EEA labour force.
Under the terms of the Employment Permits Acts 2003 and 2006 all non EEA nationals seeking employment, including South African nationals, are required to hold a valid employment permit. In this regard 34 permits have issued to South African nationals in 2012. 201 such permits issued in 2010 and122 issued in 2011.
It is current Government policy to issue new employment permits only in respect of the following criteria:
highly skilled, highly paid positions or;
non-EEA nationals who are already legally resident in the State on valid employment permits or;
positions requiring specialist or scarce skills, expertise or qualifications which cannot be filled elsewise.
Furthermore permits are issued in respect of employment where it is established that a minimum salary of €30,000 per annum is on offer, based on a 39 hour week. Further details regarding employment permits and procedure are available at my Department's website at www.djei.ie.