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Despite recession, Ireland still crying out for high-skilled workers from abroad

Almost 4 per cent of Ireland’s workers come from outside the European Economic Area, according to new ESRI research.

Image: Arrivals at Dublin Airport via Shutterstock

THE RECESSION HAS not put a dint in Ireland’s need to hire foreign workers to fill highly-skilled jobs.

A new report has found that Ireland is still competing with other countries for educated workers from outside of Europe, even despite the economic downturn.

The ESRI report published today found that 3.9 per cent of workers in Ireland come from outside the European Economic Area, compared to an average in other countries in the EU of just over 4 per cent. The workers are employed mainly across IT, engineering, healthcare and financial services, where there is a distinct shortage of people with the right skills in Ireland.

The Irish government has focused on only letting non-EEA people with high levels of skills live and work in Ireland: there are currently 64,300 people from outside the European Economic Area in Ireland, almost half of whom are working in high-skilled occupations. Only the UK and Luxembourg had higher proportions in these jobs.

The vast majority – almost 70 per cent – have obtained high levels of education – above degree level – which is the highest percentage across the EU.

The European Economic Area is made up of almost all of the EU countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

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The report notes that Ireland has tried to hire workers from within the EEA as far as possible over the past two decades, while at the same time limiting the number of employment permits to highly specialised and qualified people from outside of Europe.

Policymakers have brought in a range of measures to attract highly qualified workers from outside the EEA to fill skills shortages, including the introduction of special programmes to attract entrepreneurs and investors, and green cards for employment.

The report by ESRI researchers Emma Quinn and Egle Gusciute notes however that there are still significant barriers to attracting highly-skilled workers from outside the EEA to Ireland, particularly the lack of a clear long-term residence scheme and the opaque nature of family reunification schemes.

Read: Costly college fees axed for migrants who become EU citizens >

Read: Immigration in Ireland: Approximately 88,000 visa applications received in 2012 >

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