Employment permits are to be changed in a bid to tackle labour shortages in the healthcare and nursing home sectors.

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English announced the changes that will allow more workers from outside of the European Economic Area.

Healthcare assistants, social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech and language therapists will be eligible for Employment Permits.

Dieticians will qualify for a Critical Skills Employment Permit.

The Health Service Executive plans to recruit 16,000 new workers across the system.

Minister English said: "These changes, which will come into effect from today, will address immediate skills and labour shortages in the healthcare and nursing home sectors.

"One of the principal beneficiaries of today's announcement will be the Nursing Home Sector following the removal of Healthcare Assistants from the ineligible occupation list."

He also said that the changes "will help the sector address recruitment difficulties, which have been exacerbated by Covid-19 as well as the significant planned expansion in HSE recruitment".

Ireland operates a managed employment permit system through occupation lists, namely the critical skills and ineligible occupation lists, which are reviewed twice a year.

The purpose of the system is to maximise the benefits of economic migration while minimising the risk of disrupting the Irish labour market.