THE GOVERNMENT has scrapped restrictions on the employment in Ireland of workers from Romania and Bulgaria, measures which date to their accession to the EU five years ago.
The development follows evidence of a big drop in the number of people from both countries travelling to Ireland to seek work. In addition, it comes months after the European Commission asked the Government to examine whether the restrictions were necessary.
“It has become clear that the basis for the continuation of restrictions on access to the labour market for remaining categories of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals is questionable,” a statement last night from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said .
“As such, the Government has decided immediately to bring forward the transition date for access to the labour market for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.”
When Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, European law provided for a seven-year transition period before other member states were obliged to admit workers from those countries into their labour markets.
Although the restrictions were due to lapse automatically at the end of next year, the commission raised the matter with the Government seven months ago.
“The EU Commission cited the experience of previous enlargements of the EU, where it was shown that migration from the member states that newly joined the EU did not lead to disturbances of the labour markets of the receiving countries,” the department said.
The review that followed took account of work permit applications from Romanians and Bulgarians, the number of personal public service numbers (PPSN) assigned to them and the number of people from both countries living in Ireland.
“The review identified a clear pattern of work permit applications from the countries under discussion that follows closely economic circumstances and prospects of employment,” the department said.
“From a peak in 2003 the numbers seeking to come and work in Ireland from Bulgaria and Romania have collapsed from 2007 onwards.
“In 2003 some 3,600 permits were sought from nationals of both countries, declining to just over 500 applications in 2011.”
The statement also said demand for PPSN numbers from Romanians and Bulgarians has collapsed and said the level of PPSN numbers ever activated by them was low.
“The population of Romanians and Bulgarians living in Ireland is estimated to have fallen by approximately 3,000 between 2008 and 2011,” it said.
The statement said the restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarian workers had already been relaxed gradually. Self-employed workers from the two countries, students and “self-sufficient” people were already allowed to work in Ireland.