I propose to take Questions Nos. 291 to 294, inclusive, together.
I am very well aware of the skills shortages currently being experienced in the construction sector. The issue is all the more pressing given the strong economic growth being experienced and the high demand being placed on the sector to respond to a range of construction needs across the economy. I have also met with Construction Industry Federation representatives to discuss the labour and skills challenges in the sector.
Where specific skills prove difficult to source within the State and wider EEA, an employment permit may be sought by an employer to hire a non-EEA national subject to the Employment Permits Acts and Regulations. The employment permits system is managed through the operation of the Critical Skills Occupations List and the Ineligible Occupations List for the purposes of granting an employment permit
The occupation lists for employment permit purposes are reviewed twice yearly to ensure that the employment permit system is supportive of the economy by maximising the benefits of economic migration and minimising any disruption to the domestic/EEA labour market. Changes to access to the Irish labour market for specific occupations via the employment permits system are made on the basis of research undertaken by the Expert Group of Future Skills Needs, the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (Solas), the National Skills Council, input from relevant Government Departments and a public consultation process. Account is also taken of education outputs, sectoral upskilling and training initiatives and known contextual factors such as Project 2040 and Brexit.
A review of the occupation lists for employment permit purposes has just concluded. A number of submissions were received from the construction industry. Officials from my Department met bilaterally with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to discuss the Construction Sector in particular. In addition, all submissions and evidence were considered by the Economic Migration Interdepartmental Group, chaired by my Department, and on which the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government is also represented. Consequently, I announced the following changes in relation to jobs in the construction sector,
The Critical Skills Occupations List will now include:
- Civil Engineers,
- Quantity Surveyors,
- Construction Project Managers
- Mechanical and Electrical Engineers with BIM expertise.
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
- Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Engineers
- Shuttering Carpenters
- Glaziers, window fabricators & fitters
- Scaffolders, stagers & riggers
- Crane drivers
- Plasterers subject to a quota of 250
- Bricklayers subject to a quota of 250
The next review is planned for April 2019, and a call for further submissions from the construction sector will be made at that time.
Ireland operates a managed employment permits system which maximises the benefits of economic migration while minimising the risk of disrupting Ireland’s labour market. Current Government policy is to issue employment permits for the employment of non-EEA nationals for specific vacancies and where the positions on offer cannot be reasonably filled from within Ireland, Switzerland and the EEA. An examination of the operation of the Labour Market Needs Test (LMNT) was included in the Review of Economic Migration Policy which was published in September 2018. From engagement with stakeholders and the public consultation there is widespread support for retention of the LMNT, however the report recommended a modernisation and extension.
My Department will be implementing the following specific LMNT recommendations as part of the ongoing action plan to deliver on all the reviews recommendations.
- The duration of the LMNT will be extended from two weeks to four weeks to ensure a meaningful engagement with the EURES portal.
- The LMNT process will be amended to reflect modern advertising methods. This will be addressed in new Employment Permit Act following consultation with stakeholders.
- My Department in co-operation with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, will develop and deliver a communications strategy to raise awareness of the components of the LMNT process which need to be undertaken prior to the submission of an employment permit application.
Currently, in order to assist with the application process, the Department has produced a suite of information including details on how to carry out the Labour Market Needs Test and various employer checklist documents which, if followed, should result in the granting of an employment permit. This information can be found in the Employment Permit section of my Department’s website at www.dbei.gov.ie. It should be noted that the majority of non-EEA nationals earning over €60,000 applying for work permits apply in respect of Critical Skills Employment Permits for which there is no LMNT requirement.