The government is proposing to temporarily remove the requirement for work permits across all sectors and occupations, following public consultation.

The proposed reforms to the work permit system in the island will be brought to Tynwald at the October 2023 sitting.

The changes being brought forward follow support for proposals outlined in a public consultation carried out earlier this year, which sought the views of businesses and the public on reforms to the island’s work permit system.

The proposals seek to temporarily remove the requirement for work permits to ‘provide unconditional confidence’ to potential workers looking to move to the island that they will be able to take up employment and move roles within the first five years with greater ease.

Subject to Tynwald approval of the proposed reforms, the requirement to obtain a work permit will instead be replaced by a simple registration process for the employer, providing instant confirmation to the employer and importantly to the prospective employee, as well as providing meaningful and much needed real time information on employment migration.

Minister for Enterprise Tim Johnston MHK said: ‘Whilst the existing system works well for the majority of employers and applicants, with consistently around 70% of applications approved within the same or next working day, there are clearly still significant perception issues around the system, including new residents being faced with a level of uncertainty in the initial stages, and for the following five years.

‘Given the high priority in retaining and attracting economically active individuals in a highly competitive environment we must do everything we can to ensure the island is an attractive place.

‘Reviewing our work permit system forms a key part of this, with a clear commitment outlined in Our Island Plan to remove any barriers which do not support our ambition to deliver prosperity for our community.’

He added that, by bringing forward these proposals as set out in the consultation to Tynwald in October, the Department for Enterprise aimed to make it easier for businesses to employ skilled workers, and to further streamline the process for relocating individuals moving to the island to fill key vacancies.

‘Alongside this, by implementing a simple registration process, we hope to also improve the quality of demographic and migration data collected which will help inform trends and outcomes in relation to labour market, allowing us to better understand our skills requirements both now and in the future,’ he said.

The consultation had more than 250 responses and a summary of the results together with the department’s consultation response is available on government’s consultation hub.

The latest official unemployment figure (for May) shows that there were 246 registered out of work.

That’s 0.5% of the ‘working population’. But there were 880 vacancies registered at the Job Centre, although that is down from a year earlier.

The sectors crying out for more labour include health, catering and retail distribution.

Since the beginning of the century, the month with the highest number of unemployed was 1,347 in April 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

Apart from the blip during the pandemic, the highest was in March 2013 when 1,208 were jobless.

The International Labour Organisation estimate of unemployment, which takes into account more factors than simply registered unemployed, estimates that there were 691 are unemployed and looking for work in May 2023 compared with 707 in April 2023. This amounts to an unemployment rate of 1.5%.