Irish work permit system needs to change say businesses

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A jointly compiled report published on 4 February 2016 by international recruitment agency, Hays and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) found that just 38 per cent of Irish SMEs believe they can compete with multinational companies in the recruitment of highly-skilled individuals. The findings have led to calls from SMEs for the country's work permit system to be changed so that if they cannot hire the skilled workers they need locally they can more easily hire people from outside of the EU.

The report, 'Resourcing from Growth', was unveiled at a Hays-hosted event at Chartered Accountants Ireland. For the report 563 Irish SME companies were surveyed in a bid to get an insight into 'market confidence, potential barriers to growth, recruiting methods and sector requirements.'

Small businesses unable to recruit enough skilled workers

According to the findings of the survey, despite SMEs being a driving force across the Irish economy, many consider themselves to be 'ill-equipped' to compete with multinational organisations such as Apple, Facebook or Google when it comes to recruiting top talent. This is despite Irish SMEs employing nearly 70 per cent of the country's private sector workforce and accounting for close to 50 per cent of national turnover.

Many SMEs are unable to find enough skilled workers residing in Ireland to meet their needs. In many cases, recruiting talent from overseas is the only option available to companies needing to fill a highly-skilled job vacancy. However, in the case of SMEs, current Irish work permit laws mean it is not always possible.

For that reason, 45 per cent of the 563 SMEs who took part in the survey said they would support changes to Irish work visa legislation. Under the current rules, non-EU workers are required to obtain sponsorship from an employer. Irish SMEs would like to see the sponsorship requirement removed, simplifying the process for skilled workers to find job roles in Ireland.

Survey appears to contradict recent ESRI Report

Recently, as reported by, Ireland's work permit system was said to be among the best in Europe. A study by Ireland's Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found that the 'Irish work permit system performs well in adapting to skills shortages and skills surpluses.'

An excerpt from the ESRI report read: "Positive legislative and policy developments and a more user-friendly application process have made it easier to attract highly-skilled workers."

Author of the ESRI report, Emma Quinn, said: "Ireland has taken an innovative, incremental approach to identifying skills and labour shortages. The study highlights that the Irish work permit system is now well linked to information concerning skills and labour shortages."

"The response of the work permit system to labour market intelligence is becoming more important as the economy continues to improve and labour market shortages become more widespread," she added.

While it seems to be the case that the Irish work permit scheme is amongst the best in Europe it would also seem to be the case from the Hays and ISME report that the Irish visa system is not doing enough to help small businesses in Ireland.

Interest in Irish immigration increasing is receiving increasing interest in Ireland as an immigration option. If you have a contract or employment in Ireland, this may be worth considering. For many it is difficult to gain entry or leave to remain in the UK.

In the UK fewer people now qualify for indefinite leave to remain. The UK Government is likely to take even more steps in future to restrict Tier 2 visas. The Tier 2 work visa is one of the few options left for work-based entry to the UK.

If you are a highly skilled worker with good qualifications and experience then we may be able to come up with an immigration route for Ireland.

For more information on immigration to Ireland, call the London office on 0344 991 9222.