Pilot work permits ‘only one piece of the jigsaw’ – Creed
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has underlined the importance of a new pilot quota of employment permits for the agri-food sector.
“This is a measured response to issues raised by the sector as the labour market tightens,” the minister said.
He was referring to the announcement today by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys on the granting of a pilot quota of employment permits for the horticulture, meat processing and dairy sectors.
In parallel with these trends, some EU member states – which have traditionally been a strong source of labour supply for these sectors – have themselves experienced employment growth, resulting in reduced labour migration.
This combination of factors has led to labour shortages.
Minister Creed said the granting of a pilot quota of permits is “timely” and will go some way towards helping to fill the labour gap.
“The agri-food sector is a key source of employment, particularly regional and rural-based employment, with over 173,000 jobs – or 8.6% of total employment – in 2016.
However, it is clear that certain parts of the industry have been struggling to fill vacancies for some time now, despite a range of efforts.
“I must emphasise that these permits are only one piece of the jigsaw with regard to labour supply. The agri-food sector, in line with the Food Wise strategy, must value human capital, and put significant effort into attracting, retaining and developing the best people to work in the sector,” he said.
The minister continued: “The sector must also continue and intensify its efforts to source labour from both the domestic and EU labour markets. My department will work closely with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to assist in these efforts.
I am also hopeful that once the state opts into the EU Reception Conditions Directive, anticipated to be in June, eligible asylum seekers will have access to employment – including positions in the agri-food sector.
“This could prove to be another valuable source of labour, and I and my officials are in discussions with the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in this regard.”
Further dairy labour supports
Meanwhile, Minister of State Andrew Doyle – who has responsibility for the horticulture sector – said labour shortages have posed a significant challenge to operators.
“I am pleased that Government can help them overcome that impediment with today’s announcement,” he said.
While the pilot allocation of permits for the dairy farm sector will go some way towards addressing the shortage of labour there, Minister Creed said that a “more comprehensive response” will be contained in the report of the ‘People in Dairy Stakeholder Group’, which he established.
This report is expected in the coming weeks.