The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is currently reviewing the occupations lists of a work permit pilot scheme to bring in workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to fill roles in agri sectors.

A number of submissions have been received from sectors including the agri-food sector to secure workers.

From an agri-food view, in recent years, hundreds of non-EEA workers were brought in under the scheme to fill vacancies in meat factories, horticulture enterprises and dairy farms. The vast majority of workers were sought by meat processors.

In a statement to Agriland, a spokesperson for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment said:

“Ireland’s employment permits regime is designed to facilitate the entry of appropriately skilled non-EEA nationals to fill skills and/or labour shortages.”

The spokesperson said that work permit occupation lists are reviewed twice yearly, based on the best available evidence and a consultation, open to all members of the public.

“Account is also taken of contextual factors such as Brexit and, in the current context, Covid-19 and their impact on the labour market,” it was added.

In May 2018, the Department introduced a pilot, quota-based scheme, removing three occupations in the agri-food sector namely Dairy Farm Assistant, Horticulture Worker and Meat Processing Operatives from the ineligible occupations list, making them eligible for employment permits.

All three quotas are now closed, the spokesperson said.

Stating that this pilot scheme “proved very successful for a range of employers” in the sector, the representative said:

“The department is currently reviewing the occupations lists, with submissions received from a number of sectors, including the agri-food sector with regard to these roles.

“The review is expected to be finalised in the coming weeks,” the department spokesperson concluded.