New publication shows that the non-EU employment permits system increasingly responds to labour market information

24 Nov 2015

A new EMN Ireland report Determining Labour and Skills Shortages and the Need for Labour Migration in Ireland published today (Wednesday, 25 November 2015), finds that the Irish employment permits system now increasingly responds to knowledge about labour market shortages and surpluses.

The study explores the extent to which research on the Irish labour market guides economic migration policy-making. We find that direct information linkages exist between the responsible bodies: the Skills and labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) in SOLAS and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (DJEI), and that cooperation has become more formalised in recent years.

In general, an employment permit is only issued where an identified need exists. Incentivised permits are available to target workers with skills necessary for the proper functioning of the economy.

EU-level analysis shows that Ireland is ahead of most EU member states in terms of linking labour market intelligence to labour migration policy.

More employment permits issued to non-EU workers in Ireland in 2014

Just under 5,500 employment permits were issued to non-EU workers in 2014, an increase of 42 per cent compared to 2013.

Indian nationals accounted for 30 per cent of recipients in 2014, followed by nationals of the US (13 per cent) and Pakistan (9 per cent).

The link between identified skills needs and permits issued is evident. Of all employment permits issued in 2014:

  • Almost 70 per cent were issued to professionals;
  • 43 per cent were issued in the IT sector; 25 per cent were issued in the healthcare sector.

Closer information linkages now established

The process in place to link research on the availability of skills and labour in Ireland, to economic migration policy-making, has become more formalised in recent years.

An annual list of occupations with shortages is published by the SLMRU in SOLAS in the National Skills Bulletin. This list now forms the basis of two employment permit lists produced by the DJEI:

  1. The Ineligible Categories of Employment List, which contains the occupations in which a permit may not be issued;
  2. The Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List, which contains occupations experiencing labour or skill shortages which are required for the proper functioning of the Irish economy.

Positive legislative and policy developments

The Employment Permits (Amendment) Act 2014 underpinned the employment permits system in legislation. The Minister now has more clearly defined powers and increased flexibility to adapt the system in response to changing economic conditions.

New categories of Employment Permits were introduced in 2014, together with a more user-friendly application process in order to attract highly skilled workers.

Certain challenges remain

More limited information is available to Irish policymakers on the availability of skills within the EU, due to data constraints. The estimation of vacancies and the supply of graduates is also a challenge.

Ireland ahead of many EU Member States

The EU-wide synthesis study1 finds that, while the majority of EU Member States attempt to forge links between their economic migration policies and skills shortages, Ireland stands out for attempting to link almost all types of employment permits to identified labour market shortages.

Commenting on the findings, report author Emma Quinn said:

“One aspect of Ireland’s broad economic policy is to attract and support high value-added investment, often in narrow occupations and fields such as ICT or pharmaceuticals. This can create skills demands that are difficult for the domestic labour force to meet. While up-skilling the resident population is the priority, non-EU migration can allow for a quick response to emerging skill shortages and provide an ongoing supply of skilled workers where the number of graduates remains too low.

Ireland has taken an innovative, incremental approach to identifying skills and labour shortages. This study shows that the employment permits system is now well linked to such information as it emerges. The responsiveness of the employment permits system to labour market intelligence is becoming increasingly important as the economy continues to improve and labour market shortages are more widespread.”


For further information please contact:
Emma Quinn (Head of the Irish National Contact Point of the European Migration Network), Tel. +353 86 833 8236 or [email protected].

¹ European Migration Network (2015). Determining labour shortages and the need for labour migration from third countries in the EU: Synthesis Report. Available at and

Notes for Editors

  1. Determining Labour and Skills Shortages and the Need for Labour Migration in Ireland was authored by Egle Gusciute, Emma Quinn and Alan Barrett, and will be published on 25 November 2015. The embargo is until 00.01, 25 November 2015.
  2. This study is primarily concerned with labour migration from outside the EEA comprising EU members plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.
  3. 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 and
  4. The EMN is co-funded by the European Commission DG Home Affairs and the Irish Department of Justice and Equality.
  5. All EMN studies are compiled according to common specifications and an EU-level synthesis report is subsequently produced. The synthesis reports for all studies may be accessed at:

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