I thank the Deputy for raising this question. This is a common theme that we have dealt with over the last couple of months. We have engaged with many sectors that are having difficulty filling job vacancies. As the Deputy mentioned, food processing is one of those. I have engaged with these sectors and they clearly show me where they are missing out on opportunities to expand and grow. They cannot reach their customers. It is an issue in many sectors.
To be clear, the policy responsibility for each of the individual sectors that the Deputy mentioned, such as construction, food processing, catering and tourism are a matter for each Department. They will feed into this conversation in our Department around the rules around employer permits, and so on.
This is, therefore, something I am aware of. We are trying to engage and find solutions to that. Two of these relate to the employment permits system, which is designed to facilitate the entry of appropriately skilled non-EEA nationals to fill skills and-or labour shortages in circumstances where there are no suitably qualified Irish or EEA nationals available to undertake the work and that shortage is a genuine one. The system is managed through the operation of the critical skills and the ineligible occupations lists, which are subject to twice yearly evidence-based reviews.
A review of the occupation list is currently under way, with submissions received from the sectors Deputy Durkan mentioned, namely, the construction, hospitality and agrifood sectors. All submissions are under active consideration and it is envisaged that the review will be finalised in the early autumn. Normally, the work of that review would be completed and published by November. The commitment I have given to the various sectors is that we will try to have that work completed for October. We are under pressure to do that, but we will try to do it and have it out for early October.
In addition, applications for employment permits have seen a significant increase over the course of the year. As of the end of August, 14,600 applications had been received, representing a 35% increase over the same period in 2020, which was expected because there is much more movement of people this year.
The processing times have been impacted negatively and the waiting time at the moment-----