Professionals concerned about migration plans

Lawyers and other immigration professionals have expressed reservations over recommendations from the government-appointed Migration Advisory Committee for a post-Brexit immigration system for the UK.

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The headline proposals spelled out by the MAC on Tuesday included a reduction from £30,000 to £25,600 in the salary threshold for Tier 2 visas and a points-based system that would only apply to skilled, would-be immigrants without a job offer.

MAC immigration proposals "quite conservative"

Joanna Hunt, managing associate at law firm Lewis Silkin, said that, despite the rhetoric of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other ministers about the introduction of a 'new' points-based system, "the MAC is reluctant to endorse this".She added, "Instead, its proposals are quite conservative. They expressly do not see any value in adopting an Australian model but consider that the Tier 1 Exceptional talent visa route should be broadened allowing easier access to it.

MAC warns of lack of evidence and data

“The most powerful message in the report is the warning the MAC makes in respect of the lack of evidence and data that there is about what characteristics could lead to the most positive outcomes for the UK."They warn that without this data that it will be hard to monitor how effective the new system is in achieving the aim of attracting highly skilled workers.“This could simply perpetuate the same mistakes of the past as previous Governments have experimented with merit based PBS systems such as this only to close them when it was found to be leading to large pools of low skill rather than high skilled workers.“With the present Government showing itself to be keen to introduce new visa route after visa route based on little evidence or assessment of the need for it or the impact it could have, they would do well to heed the MAC’s recommendations.”

New reduced salary threshold "very high"

Ms Hunt described even the reduced salary threshold as "very high" and said the MAC accepted that this would result in pools of lower paid, medium skilled workers who will not be able to use the Tier 2 route."They recommend other visa options for them but as the present government has indicated that it is not keen to offer a temporary low skilled worker visa, industries may be left with acute staffing shortages."Ms Hunt also pointed out that the MAC is not recommending salary thresholds to be pro-rated, which puts workers who want to work part-time at a disadvantage. "There are risks that this discriminates against female workers in particular, who make up the majority of part time workers, as they may be unable to drop their hours to look after children or other relatives.”
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New proposals "more restrictive than the status quo" for EU workers

Oxford University's Migration Observatory points out that the MAC recommends extending the existing exemption of 'public service occupations' from the salary threshold should be extended to cover more health workers and those working in education.Denis Kierans, a Migration Observatory researcher, said, “For non-EU workers, what the MAC is proposing is a clear liberalisation.“But for EU workers, even this more liberal proposal is still much more restrictive than the status quo – fewer people will be eligible and it will be more bureaucratic and more expensive. It’s likely that for many employers, the biggest deterrent from bringing in foreign workers will not be the salary thresholds, but the cost and bureaucracy of the process.”

Care workers not covered by salary threshold exemption

The observatory also pointed out exemption from the salary threshold would not cover care workers, prompting the Nuffield Trust think-tank to describe the MAC proposals as a potential disaster for social care.Natasha Curry, senior fellow at the trust, said, “On their own, these proposals would make it almost impossible for people to migrate to work in most frontline social care jobs."That is alarming because care homes and other providers already have climbing vacancy rates, and our research shows tens of thousands more staff will be needed to meet the promise of fixing a system that leaves many languishing without support.“The temporary one-year visa proposal mentioned for lower paid workers would make a bad situation worse in a sector where continuity of relationships and developing skills really matters.”

Recruitment and Employment Confederation comments on the MAC report

Tom Hadley, director of policy at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, welcomed the MAC's recommendations for improving the Tier 2 system better by abolishing caps on numbers of skilled workers that can come in and proposing to get rid of the resident labour market test."However we think the (salary) threshold should be even lower to address the skills needs of businesses who need labour at all pay levels," he added.“Skills shortages are one of the biggest problems facing the UK economy. We need an immigration system that can solve this. For food to be produced, for goods to be delivered and for our NHS to continue to be the best in the world."A flexible route into the country for temporary workers of all skill levels means that workers can move into sectors and geographies where they are needed without being tied to a particular employer."

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