A total of 3,200 new general employment permits for workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) have been announced for the agriculture, agri food and equine sectors.
The new work permits will result in an additional 1,500 meat processing operatives; 500 meat deboners; 1,000 horticulture operatives; and 100 dairy farm assistants.
Following a review on work permits, the additional permits will address the labour shortages across a number of key economic sectors throughout the country, including agriculture. The changes come into effect from Thursday 28 October 2021.
The review of the employment permits has come as a result of impacts and trends seen in the labour market resulting from the pandemic.
The Department of Enterprise said agri food and agriculture are experiencing unprecedented labour challenges due to the pandemic, in spite of initiatives to attract and retain staff and has identified significant unfilled vacancies prior to the reopening of international travel, the number which continues to increase with an attendant risk to supply chains and harvests.
Ireland is an outlier in Europe in not having a seasonal employment permit, it added.
Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English said the agri food sector shows evidence of significant challenges, notably in meat processing and horticulture.
“I am aware that challenges exist in finding sufficient labour for many operating in agri food and agriculture.
“The quotas issued will be subject to a review of labour attraction and retention in the sector and should evidence based cases be made to my Department for further changes, they will be examined and acted upon appropriately.”
In addition, the equine sector has indicated a long-standing need for work riders, an occupation with niche requirements
The minister said that a strategic review of labour attraction and retention in the agri sector is in the pipeline also.
“In addition, the equine sector has indicated a long-standing need for work riders, an occupation with niche requirements which are especially difficult to source.
“As of today, a quota of 100 general employment permits will be made available for work riders,” he said.
In relation to HGV drivers the minister said that any HGV drivers recruited from outside the EEA will be eligible for an employment permit without the limitation of a quota.
This quota has been in existence since 2017 and was extended previously in 2019.
As of today, the quota is not yet fully used up so does not present an immediate constraint on labour supply.