As part of its quarterly economic bulletin released on 31 July 2019, the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) has issued a report on employment growth in Ireland (Employment Growth: Where Do We Go From Here?). The report finds that unemployment has dropped to 5% while the number of persons employed in Ireland has now surpassed its pre-2008 peak. The report suggests that the decrease in unemployment and increase in labour force participation will not be sufficient to support employment growth at current levels over the short to medium term. Although inward migration has increased to 34,000 in 2019, the third consecutive year of strong gains, the CBI report suggests continued strong net inward migration will be the most important source of employment growth if the economy continues to grow.
Future migration – what are the obstacles?
The CBI proposes that a sustained increase in the number of migrants back to levels seen during the last period of full employment (2004 – 2007) would ease labour supply pressures. However, it comments that there are several reasons why the rate of net migration may not return to pre-2008 levels. These include a limited pool of available EU workers, global competition in attracting labour and difficulties and delays in the work permit and visa application processes.
Even though the permit regime for non-EEA citizens has been adjusted to allow non-EEA migrants to work in Ireland to meet skills shortages, challenges remain with the current regime.
For example, the Restaurant Association of Ireland has recently stated that their members are suffering staff shortages due to increases in the time it takes to process work permits and that the group most affected are those who cannot afford to wait such as small businesses and those already dealing with staff shortages.
The Effectiveness and Renewal Group (ERG) of the Department of Justice and Equality published a high-level report on 30 April 2019 recommending that the Reception and Integration Agency, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and the Refugees Protection Programme be streamlined into one separate unit called "Immigration Service Delivery". The ERG suggests that this move would separate the functional elements of immigration, such as policy, legislation, governance and transparency, from service delivery and would likely improve the process for applying for work permits.
How to minimise delays in work permit applications
Hopefully we will see improvements to the work permit application regime soon. In the meantime here are practical tips for employers to help get work permit applications approved on time:
- Correct Permit Type: Employers should carefully consider the correct permit type before application. Opting for incorrect permit types will delay processing and potentially result in rejected applications.
- Application Timelines: Employers should be aware of current and changing timelines for review and approval of applications and start gathering information well in advance of these timelines. They should also be aware of the date by which they want the employee to start work in Ireland and factor this into the application timelines.
- Complete Applications: Employers should make sure that applications are complete, and all necessary documentation is attached to each application.
- Trusted Partner Status: Employers should consider if applying for Trusted Partner status would be beneficial and feasible for their organisation.