Recent figures from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment indicate that despite this shortage the number of employment permits issued for the first eight months of 2008 is less than 50% of the number issued in 2007. Nearly 100 employers attended an Ernst & Young briefing today where experts advised the audience on a number of issues which are affecting Irish Employment including employment permits and the visitor visa process.
According to Ernst & Young while there is a significant number of employment permits issued in Ireland each year there is a substantial skills shortage in a number of sectors. Areas such as information technology, financial services and in particular healthcare are still finding it very difficult to secure appropriate staff. There is an incredible demand for high quality staff in these sectors and Ireland / the EU are unable to satisfy this demand at the moment. We need to investigate ways to both improve the skill levels of people who are currently living in Ireland and also to improve and adapt the permits system so that we can tap into the substantial skill resources that exists in Ireland. The number of employment permits issued by The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for the first eight months of 2008 is 10,095. In comparison 47,960 employment permits were issued in 2003 and 23,513 in 2007.
Speaking at Ernst & Young’s Irish Employment Permit and Immigration briefing this morning, Jim Ryan Partner, Human Capital Practice from Ernst & Young said: "Despite the economic downturn and the impact this has had on the construction sector there is still a critical shortage of highly skilled talent within the local labour market in certain sectors. The changing economic environment means that the Government needs to adapt its current economic migration policy. It is vital that Ireland maintains its competitive advantage in not only attracting overseas investment but protecting the existing investment in Ireland while at the same time protecting the local labour market."
"As part of the Government’s drive to create a knowledge based economy, the economic migration policy needs to continue to be responsive and flexible to meet the demands of the economy and the particular requirements of each business sector", continued Mr Ryan. "Despite the increase in unemployment, certain sectors have a severe skills shortage which can only be addressed in the short term by adopting the country’s migration policy so that these sectors can tap into pools of experience which other countries may have. In addition, the Government also needs to continue its focus on up-skilling and re-skilling local unemployed Irish nationals through education and training programmes, to provide them with the skills to re-enter the workforce in sectors where there is a demand for employment."
As a backdrop to the skills shortage in Ireland, statistics indicate that by 2050, one third of the EU population will be over 65 years of age which means that 20 million workers will leave the workforce by 2050. The effect of the ageing population means that Ireland like it’s counterparts in the EU is competing globally to not only attract but to retain key talent from overseas to meet business needs.
One part of this solution is increased immigration and retention of highly skilled migrants to Ireland. There are many lessons that can be learned from Australia, Canada and New Zealand which are highly innovative and responsive in their migration policy to mitigate the impact of skill shortages and ageing population on their economies.
Government needs to continue to have a combined cohesive approach to attract and retain this talent and to move from a system of temporary migration to long-term migration. The Draft Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008 is an important step in this direction.