The Department for Enterprise is on track to issue a record number of work permits this year as officials try to clear a backlog of applications built up during the pandemic.
More than 24,000 permits for non-EEA nationals were approved in the first seven months of the year alone, already 50 per cent more than the total for 2021.
At the current running rate of approximately 4,000 permits issued per month, the department is on track to surpass its 2008 peak of 29,394 by mid-September.
The rapid throughput comes as unemployment hit a 21-year low of just 4.2 percent and labor shortages are affecting most sectors of the economy, increasing demand for foreign workers to fill staffing gaps.
Many of the new permits to be issued this year come from a backlog that spiraled out of control in 2021 after a combination of increased demand and Covid disruptions overwhelmed issuance capacity. At one point last year, the average wait time for a work permit was 21 weeks.
Horticultural and meat workers were also added to the list of eligible occupations for non-EEA work permits last October, resulting in an additional 3,000 applications, adding to the growing backlog.
As a result, the Department of Enterprise started 2022 with more than 10,000 pending applications.
But a contingency plan implemented in January that tripled the headcount in some departments seems to have got the system back on track.
Waiting times have now fallen to between two and eight weeks, and two-thirds of last year’s outstanding claims have been settled, leaving a backlog of just 3,700 that should be cleared by December.
Work permit applications rose 69 percent year-on-year to 27,666 in 2021 – and nearly 50 percent more than before the 2019 pandemic – as hospitals and multinational tech companies embarked on a hiring frenzy to cope with the surge in demand from Covid.
In response, the department managed to issue 16,275 permits last year, but the processing shortage left many companies short of staff just as they prepared for recovery.
Employment permits are only granted for positions that cannot be filled from the available labor pool in Ireland and the rest of the EEA.
Permits for IT and healthcare workers dominate the program, accounting for nearly half of all issued so far in 2022, with 6,566 for tech and 5,679 for healthcare, though hiring freezes and layoffs in the tech sector could drive that change in the coming months.
Farm worker permits are not far behind, with 3,778 issued by the end of July.
Business and Employment Secretary Damien English said last month the government would introduce legislation to simplify the system
The reforms include seasonal permits, a simpler needs test, and revised permit criteria to speed up the processing of applications.
https://www.independent.ie/business/irish/state-to-issue-a-record-number-of-work-permits-amid-jobs-boom-41893214.html State issues record number of work permits amid job boom