Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Challenges to Ireland's Competitiveness: Discussion

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the representatives from the NCPC for coming before the committee. Their organisation does very interesting work. It is important for all public representatives to get independent advice where possible on the health of the economy and in obtaining projections on where things are going in regard to the issues that may arise. The year 2020 was exceptionally difficult for many businesses across all sectors of the economy. I gather from the witnesses' contributions that we are facing a lot of uncertainty in the next 12 months.

I want to raise an important point. I am a rural Deputy from Cork East constituency, where the agrifood sector is by far the largest employer. There are many thousands of jobs in the processing sectors within agriculture. At the primary level there are those who work in farming with basic English, and those working in the production of cheese, whey and powder. We are a major constituency in regard to those areas. Following on from that point, a matter which is repeatedly brought up in my constituency is the difficulties facing employers who try to bring in employees from outside the European Union. From the engagement I have had with employers working in agriculture, it is increasingly the case that they find it more difficult to bring in workers from eastern Europe. Many have faced almost impossible challenges in hiring workers living in the Republic of Ireland, be they Irish or other European citizens who have moved to Ireland. That is one issue that has been identified to me. Will the witnesses expand on the points made in regard to the NCPC's work in trying to solve current labour shortages in the area of the agrifood sector and the wider economy, in addition to the issue of work permits?