Written Answers. - Work Permits.

Nora Owen

Ceist:

156 Mrs. Owen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans regarding the work permit system; the areas of work which will qualify for permits from non-European Economic Area countries; the number of permits in specialised areas, such as information technology and construction, granted in 2001 to date; the approximate number which will be granted in 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27424/01]

Ireland does not have a formal quota-based migration policy with country or sectoral quotas. The admission of non-EEA personnel is largely market led. The onus is placed on employers to show that no EEA persons were available and willing to do the job. The work permit scheme is unrestricted in terms of the categories or skills of workers for whom applications can be submitted.

The number of work permits granted under the scheme has increased substantially in recent years and the number of permits issued in 2001 to date is in excess of 32,000. Because of the way in which our work permit database is structured it is not possible to identify precisely the numbers of permits issued in specialised areas such as information technology which is a sub-set of the services sector. However, in the service sector 12,506 have been issued this year to date while about 600 permits have been issued in respect of the construction sector.
The working visa-work authorisation scheme has been operating now since June 2000 and in the period up to the end of August 2001 a total of 3,870 permits have been issued for high skilled workers in the IT, construction and nursing professions.
In light of recent setbacks in the economy and the rising level of domestic unemployment I am concerned that applications for work permits are continuing to increase. The average number of applications per week received over the past eight weeks was in excess of 1,200.
I will shortly announce modifications to the policy for issuing work permits in order to reflect the changing labour market environment.