Following a comprehensive review, changes to the employment permits system for workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) have been announced today.

The changes, which come into effect from today, will address immediate skills and labour shortages in the healthcare and nursing home sectors.

Evidence from the healthcare sector shows increasing competition for skilled candidates in several healthcare roles.

But despite increased efforts to recruit from the Irish and European labour markets, including through engagement with the Department of Social Protection, supply has not sufficiently met demand.

Damien English, the Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, said that one of the main beneficiaries of today's announcement will be the Nursing Home Sector following the removal of Healthcare Assistants from the ineligible occupation list.

"With increases in the aging population and consequent increases in demand for services, significant extra Healthcare Assistants will be required to provide sufficient long-term residential care for older people into the future, Damien English said.

"The impact of Covid-19 also means that the demand for Healthcare Assistants is likely to continue to be significant," Mr English added.

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

This is an evidence-based process that takes account of labour market conditions and submissions from sectors and other stakeholders together with contextual factors, including in the current context, Covid-19.

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

Damien Minister English also said today that he had decided that under the employment permit framework for Healthcare Assistants, there will be a requirement that they should have attained a relevant QQI Level 5 qualification after two years employment.

"I am delighted to be able to say that this training is available to employers and employees in the sector at no or low cost," he added.

"Our economic migration policy accommodates the arrival of non-EEA nationals to fill skills and labour gaps in the domestic economy in the short to medium term," Mr English said.

"My Department reviews the system bi-annually, working with other Government Departments to promote an integrated approach to address labour and skills shortages in the longer term. Where shortages are clearly evidenced, the employment permit system is flexible enough to address these shortages in real time," he stated.