Changes are being introduced to the employment permit system to allow a greater number of workers from outside the European Economic Area work here.
The changes will include the removal of quotas for HGV drivers, as well as additional permits for hospitality managers and a loosening of the rules for construction workers, opticians and meat processors.
Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English said the Government is determined to address the labour shortages in construction and other key sectors.
Mr English told Morning Ireland that the permit changes will take effect from today.
In relation to attracting more HGV drivers, he said the changes will act as a “pre-emptive strike” to ensure that limits on permits are not a reason for driver shortages.
He said HGV drivers must have proper safety standards and driving skills but that work across government departments is happening to address a range of issues in this regard.
Minister English said that Ireland is a very attractive place for migrant workers despite the housing crisis.
He also said that we need more construction workers in the country to fix the housing crisis and the permit system will help to address this.
He appealed to those who are out of work to look to upskill or re-skill in areas where labour shortages exist.
“This is the third bi-annual review undertaken since the onset of Covid-19 and the impact of the pandemic on the labour market has been a significant consideration in today’s outcomes,” Damien English said.
“These changes, which will come into effect from today, will address the more immediate skills and labour shortages across a number of key economic sectors,” he stated.
“Employment permit policy is only one part of the response to addressing skills and labour deficits likely to continue into the medium term. It is not intended as a long-term substitute for up-skilling, nor should it displace sourcing labour from the State’s resident workforce,” he added.
The Construction Industry Federation has welcomed today’s work permit changes which seek to address skills and labour shortages across the industry, but said it is only part of the solution.
Dermot Carey, the director of safety and training at the CIF told Morning Ireland, that it has been working with the Department of Enterprise to migrate all the categories of construction workers that were ineligible for work permits into eligible categories.
However, he said that the price of securing permits is costly and cumbersome and can take time.
Mr Carey said that employers trying to recruit from abroad under the Trusted Partners scheme are experiencing delays of up to 12 weeks in securing permits.
He said that Ireland remains an attractive location for workers and is looking to secure workers from as far afield as the US, South Africa and Canada.
Mr Carey also said a bigger focus is aimed at attracting domestic workers, by encouraging school leavers to take up apprentice schemes or to take construction courses.