SMEs call for changes to Irish work permit system

15 February 2016
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) has recently published a report which found that 62% of small and medium enterprises in Ireland see the country’s work permit laws as barriers to the recruitment of skilled workers. This study and other recently published studies are signs that Irish work permit laws may need to change.
Despite the greater numbers of people immigrating to the UK and studies which find the UK very appealing to skilled workers, complaints continue to arise over work permit restrictions. Many organisations and individuals feel that the restrictions hurt the national economy, as well as the success of businesses.
Appealing to skilled workers
Amidst concerns over rising immigration, and additional restrictions on immigration imposed by the Home Office, the recruitment of skilled workers from abroad has been a very hot topic in recent news. The ISME is only one organisation among many recruiters of highly skilled workers who have called for change.
At the same time, a joint study published by INSEAD, Adecco Group and the Human Capital Leadership Institute ranked the UK as the 7th Most Talent Competitive Country in the world. The ranking in the study - the Global Talent Competitive Index - confirms the appeal of living and working in the UK for skilled workers. Although the study has shown that skilled workers would happily be recruited by UK businesses, enterprises are finding that work permit restrictions are major obstacles to recruitment.
Tighter restrictions from the Home Office
The Office for National Statistics has reported statistically significant increases in both the net migration of EU citizens and long-term international immigration in their recent Migration Statistics Report. The Home Office has challenged the rising number of people immigrating to the UK with new restrictions for work permit applications.
Among the restrictions, a Shortage Occupation List restricts Tier 2 Visas for skilled workers whose positions have been listed. This is part of the effort to ensure UK businesses hire from within the country whenever possible. The Home Office has also introduced a salary cap of £35,000 for any skilled worker seeking indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence).
Consequences for small and medium enterprises remain unknown
Among the small and medium enterprises surveyed by the ISME, 45% would agree with changes to the Irish work permit restrictions. The changes would primarily affect workers from outside the European Union, streamlining the job search and recruitment process.
This sentiment contradicts the finding of another report on the Irish work permit system conducted by Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute. The report found that “Positive legislative and policy developments and a more user-friendly application process have made it easier to attract highly skilled workers.”
The conflicting studies seem to show that Irish work permit legislation and developments are unsatisfactory for many small and medium enterprises. As an important part of the Irish economy, it would be good to improve this sentiment. It is possible that larger business with greater resources can afford to cope with the restrictions more easily than smaller businesses.


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