The purpose of the review is to ensure
that our current policies are fully supportive of Ireland’s
emerging labour market needs, be they critical skills needs or
labour shortages for lower-skilled, lower-waged workers.
"I am acutely aware of the particular
challenges facing parts of the agri-food sector. For this
reason, I asked the review group, in advance of completing the full
review, to prioritise the emerging labour shortages in the sector
in its deliberations.”
allow for a pilot, quota-based system that will address the
immediate needs of the horticulture, meat processing and dairy
“This is a departure from
our current employment permits regime, which has generally focused
on critical skills gaps at the higher end of the labour market as
we position Ireland for further growth in the knowledge economy.
Like many developed countries, however, we are now seeing pressures
at the lower-skilled end of the market. In seeking to deal with
these pressures, I am also conscious that any changes introduced
must not disrupt the domestic labour market,” the Minister said.
The review group,
taking a cross-sectoral approach, accepts there is evidence of an
increasingly challenging environment to recruit and retain staff.
The Government Strategy, Food Wise 2025, has also identified
ambitious and challenging growth projections for the agri-food
The Minister continued: “I have decided to introduce a
temporary scheme to alleviate the immediate difficulties that
companies in the sector are experiencing. This scheme will allow
workers in the horticulture, meat processing and dairy sectors from
non-EEA countries to access the labour market.
Specifically, in relation to the dairy sector
Minister Humphreys said she is aware that an increased demand for
on-farm workers in the dairy sector has been compounded by the
challenging winter and spring weather.
"I am also aware that my
colleague Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the
Marine, has established a ‘People in the Dairy Sector Stakeholder
Group’ to consider the short and long-term labour needs on dairy
farms. I understand that an action plan will be published in the
The Minister expects the report of the
Inter-Departmental review group, due this summer, to recommend a
strategy for economic migration to meet the State’s changing labour
needs into the future. Included in this will be the medium and
longer term labour requirements in the agri-food sector.
Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle recently said dairy farmers are facing an "unparalleled situation" in terms of labour and the challenges ahead.
"The number of dairy herds with over 100 cows has risen to nearly 50pc. That's up from 13pc in 2005.
"Close to 3,000 extra jobs will be needed over the next decade on dairy farms and that clearly is going to create issues of where that labour is going to come from and also the training of that labour," he said.
Although Prof Boyle highlighted the positive side of job creation in the sector, he says the issue of managing farm labour has been neglected for "far too long".
IFA President Joe Healy has welcomed the announcement as a positive first step.
“Irish agriculture, especially labour intensive and/or expanding sectors such as horticulture, dairy and pigs, has a genuine need of additional labour from outside Europe as we approach full employment and recovering EU economies have labour needs of their own,” Mr Healy said.
“It is important that Minister Humphreys would provide a timeline and framework for the operational review of this pilot, so that the operation of the scheme can be assessed against each of the three agricultural sectors’ needs,” Mr Healy said.
“I am glad to read that where sectors put in place strategies to source and retain labour from the domestic and European labour markets, and where they invest in innovative technologies, as the sectors have done, the Minister would be open to granting additional permit quotas. It will be important to define the conditions in which this might be achieved,” he added.
“We now need clarity to be provided urgently as to how individual farmer employers can apply for these permits, and the time framework within which the pilot will be reviewed, and hopefully amended if necessary and extended as required,” he concluded.
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