The employment permit system is managed through the operation of the critical skills and ineligible occupations lists. In May 2018, following a comprehensive review of the data and evidence available, and consideration of a detailed business case by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as the lead policy Department for the sector, 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 quotas introduced were 500, 1,500 and 50 respectively. 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 with the number of permits issued in the dairy sector almost exhausted.
These lists are subject to twice-yearly evidenced based review process involving consideration of research undertaken by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (Solas), the Expert Group of Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), the National Skills Council, and input by relevant Government Departments in addition to the public consultation phase. Submissions to the review process are also considered by the Economic Migration Policy Interdepartmental Group chaired by my Department which includes the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
The pilot scheme provides that additional employment permit quotas may be granted in response to progress reported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on commitments given by the sector to:
- the systematic and structured engagement with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection regarding sourcing labour from the live register and across the EEA;
- the development of training, upskilling and career opportunities;
- a commitment to examine the potential of innovation in the sector to ameliorate reliance on a model of low skill, low wage employment.
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 am advised that the business case submitted by the sector requesting an extension to this quota has been forwarded to my Department, following its consideration by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. My Officials are currently examining the submission as a matter of urgency and I expect to be in a position to make a decision on this request very shortly.