The Irish government has been slammed by the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) for a ‘crippling skills shortage’ across the industry. According to the RAI, Irish restaurants are being forced to recruit from overseas in a bid to fill an estimated 8,000 vacancies.
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It is perhaps not surprising that there is a shortage of chefs. It is an occupation that many people will not want to do. Typically in this occupation you have to work long, unsociable hours. As there are not enough Irish and EU citizens to do this type of work the only option is to try and recruit chefs from outside the EU.
Chief executive of the RAI, Adrian Cummins, explained that the association had been urging ministers for several years to grant more Irish work permits for non-European chefs, but without success.
Speaking at the RAI’s annual conference recently at the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort in Limerick, Cummins said that the Minister for Transport and Tourism, Shane Ross, is ‘failing the restaurant industry.’ Cummins accused Ross of not fighting the RAI’s corner on the issue.
Seven years lobbying for more Irish work permits
Mr Cummins said: “We’ve been lobbying the Department of Jobs and Enterprise, which is responsible for skills, for seven years on this. But we’ve been told that even if the Minister moved on getting more Irish work permits for non-Europeans, he’d be blocked.”
According to Cummins, the Department of Justice, which controls Ireland’s immigration matters, is heavily influencing the State’s stance on the issue.
Cummins claims that the government is at odds over the matter and is insisting that one department needs to take charge. He believes the Transport and Tourism department should lead the way, but said that Shane Ross isn’t taking responsibility and fighting the matter on the restaurant industry’s behalf.
Skills shortage increasing by 3,000 every year
The estimated 7,000 – 8,000 shortfall of chefs is rising by more than 3,000 every year, according to the RAI. The association is pushing for restaurants to be allowed to hire chefs from anywhere in the world to help tackle the skills crisis. The RAI claims that the shortage is preventing Ireland’s restaurant industry from expanding to meet demand.
Under Ireland’s current immigration laws, only ‘ethnic’ restaurants are granted Irish work permits for non-EU chefs. Indian restaurants can apply for permits for Indian chefs, and so on. However, Mr Cummins claims that ‘even then an Irish work permit is still difficult to get, with only 200 or so granted in 2017.’
The RAI has expressed its anger at the omission of the hospitality industry from a list of sectors in which asylum seekers will be allowed to seek employment in the aftermath of a recent Supreme Court ruling on their right to find work.
Mr Cummins said: “There must be large numbers of qualified cooks sitting idle in direct provision centres who could be allowed to work in the industry.”
Irish restaurant industry needs to do more
However, the RAI’s chief executive did admit that Ireland’s restaurant industry could be doing more to deal with the shortage. The RAI said it will look to get State funding to launch an advertising campaign targeting young people and encouraging them to consider a career as a chef.
Recruitment consultancy firm, Global Force, which partners with the RAI to find chefs from overseas, says that mid-ranking chefsde partie earn an average €30,000 per year. Meanwhile, head chefs can earn anywhere between €45,000 and €70,000+.
Research published by audit firm BDO, indicates that 75 per cent of restaurants in Ireland are confident about the future outlook of the industry. Their positivity is attributed to a booming consumer economy, which is creating demand for eating out.
The BDO research, presented by director Austin Hickey, suggests that 45 per cent of restaurants recorded an increase in turnover in 2017, despite concerns about increased insurance and labour costs.
One-third of restaurants surveyed by BDO reported an increase in personnel between 2016 and 2017. Meanwhile, a similar number of restaurants plan to boost staff numbers in 2018. Yet, 85 per cent of restaurants said they struggled to recruit chefs.
The RAI is urging the Irish government to reinstate the former State hospitality training body, CERT, which is now part of Fáilte Ireland, in a bid to tackle the skills shortage.
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