Ibec salutes move to reduce work permit waiting times

Employers’ group warns skills shortages could curtail economic growth

The Economic and Social Research Institute says employment in construction will have to increase for housing supply to meet demand.

The Economic and Social Research Institute says employment in construction will have to increase for housing supply to meet demand.

 

Employers’ group Ibec has welcomed the introduction of measures to reduce the current waiting times for work permits, suggesting skills shortages in certain sectors, if unaddressed, could damage the State’s economic growth prospects.

The Department of Business has introduced new measures to reduce the current waiting times amid an outcry from employers.

For “trusted partners” who use the department’s permit scheme on a regular basis, the wait is five weeks for applications, instead of the usual two weeks. For standard applications the wait is 11 weeks rather than the usual four.

At an Oireachtas committee last month, Clare Dunne of the Department of Business acknowledged that increased demand had led to delays in processing applications, but insisted work was under way to address the issue.

She said improvements put in place by the department would continue until normal processing timelines resumed.

Labour market

In October, the employment permits section issued more permits (1,520) than during any other month in the past 10 years.

“The Irish economy has experienced exceptional economic and employment growth in recent years, which continues to grow at a steady pace,” Ibec’s senior labour market policy analyst Kara McGann said.

“However, as we reach full employment, the ability to enable future growth potential depends on how well we address labour shortages and respond to shifts brought about by the changing economic conditions facing different sectors,” she said.

Foreign workers

In a recent report, the Economic and Social Research Institute said Ireland would need an influx of foreign workers to meet the State’s housing targets, warning that this may add to rental pressures and housing demand in the short term.

In a research paper assessing the capacity of the Irish economy to cope with a big upturn in construction activity, the think tank said employment in construction would have to increase to elevated levels in order for housing supply to meet demand.

This posed a capacity constraint on the Irish economy and on the construction sector specifically, which could only be alleviated by bringing in foreign workers to build the new homes required.