I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 18 together.
The State 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.
The system is managed through the operation of the Critical Skills and Ineligible Occupations Lists which determine employments that are either in high demand or are ineligible for an employment permit where there is a surplus of those skills in the domestic and EEA labour market.
In order to maintain the relevance of these lists of occupations to the needs of the economy and to ensure the employment permits system is aligned with current labour market intelligence, these lists undergo twice-yearly evidence-based reviews which are guided by research undertaken by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), the Skills and the Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU), SOLAS and involves public/stakeholder consultation. Account is taken of education outputs, sectoral upskilling and training initiatives and known contextual factors such as Brexit and, in the current context, COVID-19 and their impact on the labour market. Consideration is also taken of the views of the Economic Migration Interdepartmental Group, chaired by the Department and of the relevant policy Departments, in this case the Department of Health.
Following completion of the most recent review, it was decided to remove the occupation of healthcare assistant (in hospital and residential care establishments) from the Ineligible Occupations List. The review did not recommend extending eligibility to care worker/home carers as the evidence suggests that other factors, such as the contracts of employment on offer and employment terms and conditions being offered are a factor in the recruitment challenges faced by the sector, rather than a demonstrable labour market shortage. The sector has also previously been advised that a more systematic and structured engagement with the Department of Social Protection needs to be demonstrated.
If a sector wishes to propose a change to the occupations lists, they need to submit a detailed evidence based business case to substantiate their request. A review is currently underway, with submissions received, including submissions from the Home Care sector, under consideration. It is expected that the review will be finalised by the end of September/early October.