Ireland operates a managed employment permits system maximising the benefits of economic migration and minimising the risk of disrupting Ireland’s labour market. The system is intended to act as a conduit for key skills which are required to develop enterprise in the State for the benefit of our economy, while simultaneously protecting the balance of the labour market.
Only where specific skills prove difficult to source within the State and wider EEA, may an employment permit be sought by an employer to hire a non-EEA national. The Employment Permits legislation prescribes a range of criteria when considering an application for an employment permit including a Labour Market Needs Test (LMNT). The LMNT seeks to ensure that an offer of employment is first made to people already in the local and EEA labour markets before an application is made for an employment permit to employ a non-EEA national. The Employment Permits Act 2014 prescribed the criteria to which employers must adhere in order to satisfy the LMNT and includes the provision that employers must advertise in National Newspapers.
An examination of the operation of the Labour Market Needs Test (LMNT) was included in the Review of Economic Migration Policy which was published at the end of last year. The Report found there is widespread support for retention of the LMNT, however it recommended modernisation and extension of the process by broadening the range of advertising methods to reflect modern advertising tools. This will be addressed in new Employment Permit legislation which is being developed to consolidate the existing Employment Permit Acts and to implement the recommendations of the Review. A consultation with stakeholders will be undertaken as the draft legislation is being developed.
The highly skilled and ineligible occupations lists for employment permit purposes are subject to regular review to ensure the regime is aligned with prevailing labour market conditions. The twice yearly review process examines labour market conditions at occupational level and adjusts access to the Irish labour market for non-EEA nationals on the basis of available evidence. In addition to public submissions, the review process involves the in-depth examination of research and data from sources such as SOLAS, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), review of relevant Reports, outputs and initiatives and input from Government Departments. Submissions received are also considered by the Economic Migration Policy Interdepartmental Group chaired by DBEI.
In order to have the status of an occupation changed to make it eligible for employment permits, there would need to be a clear demonstration that recruitment difficulties are solely due to shortages of appropriate personnel across the EEA and not to other factors such as salary and/or employment conditions. Organisations in the sector would need to provide the necessary data to substantiate their claims. A detailed evidence-based case for removal of an occupation from the ineligible list, based on this detailed data would need to be put forward by the lead Department for the sector in question, in this case the Department of Health, to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation for review and consideration.