Attracting Highly Qualified And Qualified Third-Country Nationals:Ireland

24 Mar 2014

Despite high unemployment, policy initiatives to attract highly-skilled non-EU workers are still necessary.

A new report published by the ESRI (Friday, 6 September) shows that despite the recession Ireland is actively competing for certain non-EEA workers.

Main points of the report

  • Irish government policy is to meet labour and skills needs from within the European Economic Area. However the demand for certain niche skills exceeds available supply in sectors such as IT, engineering, finance and healthcare.
  • Ireland has had to develop new policies to compete for key non-EEA workers, including:
    • Initiatives to ease immigration-related barriers to employment e.g. faster processing of employment permit applications;
    • Facilitated access to permits by highly-skilled workers, in key occupations identified on the new Highly-Skilled Occupations list;
    • Introduction of new programmes targeting non-EEA investors and entrepreneurs;
    • New initiatives to attract and retain certain third-level non-EEA students.
  • Just over 64,300 non-EEA workers were employed in Ireland in 2012, representing 3.9% of total persons employed; the corresponding EU27 average is 4.1%.

Are the policies working in terms of attracting highly-skilled workers?

  • Irish policies have been particularly effective in prioritising highly-skilled workers:
    • Data show that almost half of non-EU nationals in employment were working in high-skilled occupations. Among 20 EU states for which data are available, only the UK and Luxembourg showed higher proportions.
    • Almost 70% of non-EU nationals at work in Ireland have high levels of education, degree level and above. This is the highest percentage among the 20 EU states for which data are available.
    • Using annual remuneration as a proxy for skill level, national data show a growing proportion of employment permits issued to workers earning €60,000 and over: up from 12% in 2008, to 25% in 2012.
  • However shortages of highly-skilled workers in ICT, healthcare and financial services sectors persist. Specific skills mixes, such as foreign languages and business skills, are also in demand among employers in Ireland.

Policy challenges

  • The absence of clearly defined family reunification and long-term residence schemes are possible barriers to attracting non-EEA nationals to Ireland.

For further information please contact:

Emma Quinn (National Programme Coordinator, EMN Ireland), +353 1 8632137 (office); [email protected].

The ESRI acts as the Irish National Contact Point of the European Migration Network (EMN). The aim of EMN is to provide up-to-date, objective, reliable and comparable information on migration and asylum at member state and EU-level (see

The EMN is co-funded by the European Commission DG Home Affairs and the Irish Department of Justice and Equality. All EMN studies are compiled according to common specifications and an EU-level synthesis report is subsequently produced.


The Economic and Social Research Institute, Whitaker Square, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2. Tel: +353 1 8632000; Fax: +353 1 8632100; Email: [email protected]; Website:

Notes for editors:

  1. Attracting Highly Qualified And Qualified Third-Country Nationals: Ireland, by Emma Quinn and Egle Gusciute, will be published on the ESRI website on Friday 6 September, 00:01 am.
  2. The ESRI is an independent research institute. The Institute does not take policy positions and the views expressed in ESRI publications are those of the authors. All ESRI reports are peer-reviewed prior to publication.

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