In May 2018, a pilot quota-based scheme was introduced to remove the occupations of horticulture worker, meat processing operative and dairy farm assistant from the ineligible occupations list. The scheme allows workers from non-EEA countries to access employment opportunities. The application of a quota-based system is to ensure that in the longer-term, strategies are put in place to source labour supply from both the domestic and European labour markets and to invest in innovative technologies for the sector. To date this pilot scheme has proved very successful and a total of 500 permits has been made available to the Horticulture sector; 150 to Dairy Farm Assistants and 1,500 permits for Meat Processing Operatives. In addition, from July 2019, a further quota of 300 permits for Meat Deboners were made available.
The quota for horticulture workers is almost exhausted and before consideration can be given to extending the quota, the sector needs to submit a business case clearly demonstrating that the recruitment difficulties are shortages across the EEA not to other factors such as salary and/or employment conditions. The sector also needs to detail the strategies in place for training/upskilling/career development within the industry and show that it is engaging systematically with the employment services of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
The views of the lead policy Government Department for the sector, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, are an important part of the decision-making process. I understand that sector representatives are currently preparing a business case for submission to the Department.