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Enterprise; Trade and Employment | Staff shortages monitoring and solutions

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Employment the extent to which he and his Department continue to monitor the effect of staff shortages in the context of the delivery of services throughout the public and private sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Employment the extent to which efforts continue to be made to ensure the availability of adequate qualified staffing levels to meet the requirements of the workplace; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


When we launched the Economic Recovery Plan last year, we set a goal of achieving 2.5 million people in employment by 2024. The Plan not only aimed to recover employment lost during the pandemic but to promote new employment opportunities through increased labour market activation and by accelerating the provision of training, reskilling and upskilling opportunities.
According to the latest available national figures, from the Central Statistics Office’s Labour Force Survey, employment levels reached 2.55 million in Q2 2022. We now have more people employed in our country than ever before, while the latest monthly unemployment rate stands at 4.3% – levels not seen since 2005. These results are a testament to the hard work and resilience of the Irish people and enterprise. The rate of growth since the beginning of 2021 has been remarkable. Since Q1 2021, the number of people in employment has grown by 324,000 (14.5%).
It has been especially welcome to see a strong recovery in the Accommodation and Food Service sector, with employment in this sector increasing by 68% since the start of 2021. The impact of the pandemic was not equal across sectors, and those in the Hospitality sector were significantly affected. Our strong policy interventions during the pandemic – rapidly rolling out the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme and Pandemic Unemployment Payment – appear to have minimised any long-term labour market scarring in the sector.
Much of the recent increase in employment has been driven by record levels of female labour market participation. There is currently a record-high 1.19 million women in employment – an increase of 164,400 since the start of 2021. As well as continued funding increases for early learning and childcare, interventions through Making Remote Work, our national Remote Work Strategy and Pathways to Work 2021-2025, have assisted in addressing obstacles to labour market inclusion for women.
In its ongoing engagement with enterprise and public service stakeholders, my Department and its agencies have nevertheless been made aware of labour shortages in certain sectors. My Department has worked to signpost businesses towards the training, labour market activation and EEA recruitment programmes and supports available through the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, its agencies, and the Department of Social Protection, in order to address their staffing needs.
Some of these shortfalls are due to pre-existing structural shifts, which have been accelerated by the impact of the pandemic. The digital and green transitions, and their associated behavioural changes, are altering the economy and leading to permanent changes in our labour market and business models. Not all jobs will return as we recover from the pandemic, while embracing these transitions will open up substantial new employment opportunities, as well as potential skills mismatches as these opportunities initially emerge.
The Government’s Economic Recovery Plan commits to supporting the transition of Ireland’s economy and workforce to the new digital and green economies. In order to support businesses in securing talent with the right skills, the Government continues to roll-out thousands of additional re-skilling and upskilling opportunities through the National Training Fund to steer employees and employers through the resulting sectoral and labour market transitions.
My Department and its enterprise agencies help inform the targeting and content of these training interventions, through membership of the National Skills Council, Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, National Training Fund Advisory Group and Regional Skills Fora, as well as through broader collaboration with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and their agencies.  
My Department also operates an employment permit system which is highly responsive to areas of identified skills needs and labour shortages across the economy- including those which impact on the provision of public services- where such skills and expertise cannot be sourced from within the EEA at that time. The system is, by design, vacancy led and managed through the operation of the critical skills and ineligible occupation lists. These lists are usually subject to twice yearly evidence-based reviews, taking account of labour market research, a public consultation and contextual issues such as Brexit and COVID-19.
Up to the end of September, my Department had granted 31,076 permits. Just over four fifths of these permits were granted for the recruitment of staff across Information and Communication activities, Health and Social Work, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, Financial and Insurance Activities, Accommodation and Food Services and Construction.

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