Migrants to find it more difficult to get permits
The Irish Times
Thursday, April 16, 2009
A LEADING migrant rights group has accused the Government of unfairly victimising immigrant workers by reforming the employment permit scheme.
New rules will be introduced on June 1st and will make it more difficult for non-EU workers to obtain Irish work permits.
The changes will require employers to advertise longer for Irish staff before offering a job to a migrant worker. Permits will no longer be issued for most lower-paid and some middle-income workers.
Announcing the changes yesterday, Tnaiste and Minister for Enterprise Mary Coughlan said migration policies in Ireland needed to adapt to reflect the changing realities of the Irish labour market.
She emphasised the need to ensure that employers made every effort to find suitably skilled workers from within the existing labour market.
Under the new regulations an employer must double the length of time for which a vacancy is advertised before hiring a non- EEA candidate (the EEA includes the EU as well as Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, but excludes Romania and Bulgaria).
Tougher conditions on renewals will mean that before a non-EU permit can be reissued, the job will have to be readvertised to ensure there is still no suitable EEA candidate for the post. This will only apply to permits issued from June 1st.
Permits will no longer be issued for low-paid jobs (salary of less than 30,000) or for domestic workers and truck drivers.
Dozens of mid-level occupations (pay of 30,000 to 60,000) are to be removed from the green card skills list, particularly in healthcare and financial services.
Spouses of work permit holders will have to apply for their own employment permits if they want to work in Ireland.
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland said the changes were entirely unnecessary and would create confusion and jeopardise workers rights. It said workers from outside the EU already went through rigorous tests and paid high fees.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland said the move did not make sense in an economic downturn as the changes would just make it more difficult and expensive for employers seeking workers with specific skills.
Non-EEA permit holders comprise 1.5 per cent of the labour force (some 30,000 people).
There has been a sharp fall in the number of permits issued in recent years. They fell by 40 per cent last year (to just over 13,000) and look set to fall further this year, with just 2,000 permits issued in the first quarter of 2009.
Because of this fall, the Migrant Rights Centre said there was no evidence to suggest the changes were necessary.
It said the Tnaistes approach created the perception that migrants with work permits created the current problems in Ireland.
These drastic changes are a distraction from the truth and one can only interpret this as the Tnaiste trying to score some cheap political points against a small number of migrant workers.