The Restaurants Association of Ireland has welcomed a Government decision to amend work permits regulations to make it easier for the hospitality sector to hire chefs from abroad.

The Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys has also announced a review of Ireland's economic migration policy to be completed by the end of June.

The shortfall of chefs in the hospitality sector has been estimated at around 7000.

However, today the Minister announced that following a review of the "Highly Skilled and Ineligible" lists of employment earlier this year, certain grades of chefs were being removed from the "ineligible occupation" list.

This will mean that if an employer cannot fill a vacancy from within Ireland or from across the European Economic Area, it can be filled by a suitably qualified non-EEA national.

There will be a quota of 610 General Employment Permits, which will be limited to two per establishment.

Minister Humphreys said the quota was intended to ensure that in the longer term, the demand for chefs would be met from a steady supply within the Irish labour market.

She also noted that work is underway to increase the supply of chefs through training initiatives.

The Minister said the review of Ireland's economic migration was intended to ensure that the employment permits system remains correctly oriented to meet the state's emerging labour market needs, be they labour or skills shortages.

The Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin said today's announcement was one of a number of initiatives - along with culinary apprenticeships - aimed at addressing future skills shortages and to sustain continued growth and employment in the industry.

Restaurants Association of Ireland Chief Executive Adrian Cummins said the hospitality industry had been under significant strain in recent years in regard to staffing - and that allowing more skilled professionals to enter the industry could only encourage further growth in the sector.

The Irish animation industry will also benefit from reforms to the employment permits regulations, as certain highly skilled and design oriented employments in animation have been added to the "highly skilled" list.

Minister Humphreys said the Irish animation industry had emerged as a central component of Ireland's digital and creative economy - but that the lack of available experienced highly skilled animation professionals was limiting growth in the sector.

However, she insisted that by setting periods of experience to qualify for a work permit, the entry route to the profession for Irish and EEA graduates would be maintained.