What is the change? The Irish government is poised to review the country’s employment permit system, with an eye toward expanding the number of employment permits for low-skilled workers in some sectors.

What does the change mean? No changes or official recommendations have been made yet, but a move toward providing more employment permits for low-skilled workers could help sectors in which employers say they are having trouble filling jobs with Irish or EU workers.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Employment permits.
  • Who is affected: Employers, particularly those having difficulty filling low-skilled jobs with Irish or EU workers.
  • Next steps: RTÉ Ireland and the Irish Independent reported this week that a working group will weigh the possibility of expanding employment permit opportunities for low-skilled workers and will gather input from a number of departments and agencies as it conducts its study.

Background: Ireland’s employment permit regime focuses on key sectors and skills shortages, especially in economically strategic enterprises with potential for jobs growth. RTÉ and the Independent reported this week that the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has come under pressure to allow more low-skilled workers in certain sectors. Farming, construction and food services were listed as areas that may be in particular need of low-skilled workers from outside of the EU. The reports said that the department prepared a brief in December on possible changes to the employment system for Heather Humphreys, the new minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, saying that a government working group would be created with the “principle objective” of considering “the rationale for an employment permit system where the economy is improving and the labour market is tightening.”

BAL Analysis: While reforms to the employment permit system would be welcomed by some employers, the changes that have been discussed so far would mostly be geared toward low-skilled workers. BAL will continue following developments in Ireland and will report on any significant developments in the country’s review of its employment permit regime.