C: Pawel Czerwinski via Unsplash

Permits for foreign workers in Ireland to double in 2022

According to the latest statistics from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment a total of 20,155 work permits had been issued to companies based in Ireland to the end of June. This allows them to employ people who live not only outside of Ireland but outside of the EU and the European Economic Area.

In response to a Dáil question on July 12, Minister Damian English forecast that 35,000 applications would be processed this year. On July 15, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar mentioned a figure of  “30,000 or 40,000.”  Judging by the numbers issued to date, the latter figure is likely to be the more accurate.

For comparative purposes, just 16,275 work permits were issued in 2021, and 14,163 for the whole of 2019 the last year before the Covid restrictions.

The only sector referred to by Varadkar was healthcare but that only accounts for 23% of the total and it is only the third highest in terms of overall numbers. The greatest number of issues have been to companies operating in the “information and communications” sector who have been granted 5,329 permits so far in 2022.

This has already surpassed the 4,615 permits issued for the whole of last year. The largest single beneficiary has been Amazon who have received 656 permits to the end of June, compared to 551 for the whole of 2021. Google has been issued with 445 permits so far, compared to 313 in 2021.

People may welcome this as a sign of economic growth but as we have referred to previously, over 70% of Google jobs in Ireland go to people from other countries. When that is taken into consideration along with the relatively low tax take from the big tech companies as well as the demands that they place on the electricity supply with knock on consequences for domestic charges, the massive dependence on them really needs to be questioned.

There is also of course the fact that the vastly increasing numbers of people coming to live here need to find places to stay. The increase in people coming to Ireland on work permits alone is going to outstrip the number of projected new builds. Similar demands of course will be placed on all other sectors from transport to education and health.

And that of course is completely separate from another unknown number – perhaps as high as 50 or 60,000 – of refugees who will come to Ireland from Ukraine and other countries this year.

This makes a nonsense of any claims that the state will be able to plan all these things. The same clearly applies to the Project 2040 aspiration towards “balanced regional development.” Again, as we have previously shown, the manner in which the international economy led by multi nationals is dictating trends in Ireland will continue to mean an unhealthy imbalance towards Dublin and surrounding counties. This is highlighted again by the fact that 48% of the new work permits have gone to companies in Dublin.

Devotees of the free market – which include all of the left parties when it comes to “free movement of labour” – will think this is all well and good. To paraphrase a former United States Secretary of Defence, Charles E. Wilson, “What’s good for Amazon is good for Ireland.”

Is it though? No truly successful European country based on free enterprise has ever allowed the big corporations, let alone ones that are not even from the country concerned or have the tax and employment profile of Big Tech in Ireland, treat them like a tax subsided business zone.

If that is the vision we are supposed to have for Ireland in the 21st century, then maybe just float the country on the NASDAQ and change the logo. One thing for certain is, that we are not “sustainable” as anything resembling a sovereign entity if we continue as we are.

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