The Government should change the immigration points system to curtail the number of skilled non-EU workers and protect British (well, EU) jobs, according to its Migration Advisory Committee. The proposed measures will cut the number of skilled migrants allowed to enter the UK (including finance and management professionals) by about 10%, to 45,000. We’re told that this isn’t a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the dicey economic climate, but rather an attempt to create a ‘level playing field’ for British workers. The question is: can we afford to be turning them away?
The committee has recommended a series of changes to the existing points system, to ensure that skilled migrants do not ‘undercut’ British jobseekers. These include a higher earning and qualification threshold (the former to ensure employers can’t pay them less than their British counterparts), longer advertising periods for jobs in the UK, and changes to the system under which people come to these sunny shores through international company changes – the route through which more than half of non-EU skilled workers enter the UK (including banning access to citizenship and extending the qualifying period).
Some might argue that these measures aren’t really necessary. The number of skilled migrants entering the UK has already begun to drop since the recession began to bite and the new immigration set-up was introduced. Whereas almost 70,000 skilled workers from outside Europe entered the UK under the old work permit scheme last year, just 50,000 are expected to arrive this year under the new points system that came into force last November.
And fewer than ever are staying put. The Institute of Public Policy Research says short-term migration is a growing problem, with the number of immigrants who spend less than four years in the UK doubling between 1996 and 2007. The IPPR reckons that without these skilled migrants, many professions (like medicine, for example) will face a skills gap, because we don’t have enough qualified people in the UK (or the EU more broadly) to meet the demand.
This has at least persuaded MAC to reject suggestions that migration should be restricted to so-called ‘shortage’ occupations, which would have cut skilled migrant numbers in half. Its chairman Professor David Metcalf says it’s important that Britain continues to attract these people, or it won’t be thought of as good place to do business. And until we can be self-sufficient in these skill areas, we need to look outside these shores to fill the gaps. So these recommendations are nothing like as idiotic as the Government’s previous ‘British jobs for British workers’ slogan...
In today's bulletin:
July borrowing soars to record high as taxes dry up
Record A-level results fail to quash skill gap fears
Retail sales up as Tesco accelerates banking move
Government told to turn skilled managers away
Businesses get militant about staff web use