The government should reduce the salary threshold for immigrants by more than £4,000, a committee has advised.
Skilled migrants from outside the EU are currently required to have a job offer with a minimum salary of £30,000, however, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said it should fall to £25,600 for all workers to prevent staff shortages in certain sectors.
The Migration Advisory Committee’s long-awaited review said the current Tier 1 visa “does not work well”.
“The skills bar for entry is set too high, targeted at those at the very top of their field, and is too risk averse,” the report published today (January 28) says. “The numbers admitted fall far short of the cap.”
Instead, the government should create system whereby migrants who score highly on a points system are pooled, from which there is a monthly draw, with a cap on the total number admitted each month.
The committee criticised the UK’s current convoluted immigration system where EU workers can come in without a job offer or a particular skill under freedom of movement rules, while people from the rest of the world must seek one of several different visas.
It said the UK’s post-Brexit system should allow entry to workers from all over the world with skills that are in demand, but also take into account many of them would not earn enough to meet the current salary test.
The report said: “Many stakeholders would prefer there to be no salary thresholds beyond the minimum wage.”
But the committee believed the threshold stopped the undercutting of the labour market, ensured migrants made a net positive contribution to the public finances, and made sure migration policy supported the “ambition to make the UK a high wage, high skill, high productivity economy”.
The MAC said its proposals would benefit the UK economy, but warned there could be a rise in pressures in social care because of a shortage of low-skilled workers.
“We remain concerned about the situation in social care, but the root cause of the problems there is the failure to offer competitive terms and conditions,” said the report.
Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said “The social care sector is already under immense pressure, and heavily reliant on workers from overseas. Anything that creates a further barrier to recruiting and retaining that workforce will only make that worse. We urgently need the Government to develop and implement a comprehensive workforce strategy for social care, to ensure we can deliver a social care system fit for purpose in the future. This must be developed in tandem with the workforce strategy for the NHS. “The Chair of the Migration Advisory Committee has said that some difficult trade-offs are unavoidable, but it’s essential that social care providers are given assurances that any new system does not come at the cost of poorer care for the older people and families who currently depend on it. “We want to see any new immigration system include a route for those workers from overseas to avoid creating additional strain across our stretched NHS and care systems.”
, Simon Bottery, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund, said “One in six staff working in adult social care in England have a non-British nationality. These workers are crucial for the viability of social care services which are struggling to cope with approximately 122,000 vacancies at any one time. “By prioritising higher-paid workers, the Migration Advisory Committee recommendations for a points-based visa system would effectively shut the door to thousands of people who are desperately needed to shore up the social care workforce. In doing so, the Committee has batted the social care staffing problem back to government, challenging the government to improve care worker pay and conditions so more home-grown staff are attracted to the roles.
“However, the immediate reality is that the average hourly pay for care workers is below the rate paid in most supermarkets. The Committee’s challenge risks being a triumph of hope over reality, unless the government provides an immediate social care funding boost, a comprehensive plan for sustainable staffing, and the Prime Minster delivers on his commitment to ‘fix social care once and for all’.