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Limits on Non-EU Migrant Workers Entering the UK

November 18 2010 - As a first step towards a reduction in non-EU migration, the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published the required limits on skilled and highly skilled migrant workers to be admitted to the United Kingdom under Tiers 1 and 2 of the Points Based System in 2011/12.

The coalition government intends to to reduce non-EU net migration into the tens of thousands and, to meet this objective, the total number of out-of-country Tiers 1 and 2 visas issued next year needs to be between 37,400 and 43,700 - compared with 50,000 for 2009. This is equivalent to a reduction across the two tiers of between 13 and 25 per cent, or 6,300 and 12,600 visas issued. Limits for future years will be produced by the MAC in due course.

The MAC suggests the following for the Tier 1 General route:

  • A reduction in the number of entry clearance visas issued, compared with 2009, in the range of 3,150 to 6,300; and
  • A limit on the number of Tier 1 entry clearance visas in the range of 8,000 to 11,100 in 2011/12

For the Tier 2 shortage occupation, RLMT and intra-company transfer routes, the MAC suggests:

  • A reduction the number of entry clearance visas issued, compared to 2009, in the range of 3,150 to 6,300; and
  • A limit on the number of Tier 2 entry clearance visas in the range of 29,400 to 32,600 in 2011/12. This limit excludes extensions, switchers and dependants.

MAC Chair, David Metcalf, said:

"It is not possible to reduce net migration to the tens of thousand by limiting work-related migration alone. The Committee assumes that work-related migration takes 20 per cent of the total cut - its fair share - which implies that family and student migration must take the other 80 per cent".

Other policy suggestions to the Government include:

  • Favouring Tier 2 over Tier 1 to reduce the impact of the limits on business
  • Improving selectivity of Tiers 1 and 2 including raising the points thresholds for earnings and qualifications
  • Reviewing whether explicit economic criteria should be applied to decisions on settlement in the UK

Dr John Philpott, Chief Economic Adviser at the CIPD commented:

"The MAC is to be congratulated for producing a rational evidence-based report on how a cap on migrant workers from outside the EU might contribute to meeting the coalition government's policy objective of reducing net migration to tens of thousands.

"The MAC rightly concludes that limits on work-related migration can realistically only play a relatively small role in curbing net migration. But the MAC is also right to conclude that visas issued to skilled and highly skilled migrants should be reduced by up to 25%. Although this will not be welcomed by some employers, the limits the MAC proposes to ministers show that a more selective approach to controlling skilled migration within the Points Based System will both enable most organisations to meet their skills needs and support the broader policy drive to improve the skills of the home grown workforce."

Previous articles on migrant workers

June 11 2008 - A study conducted by Sara Lemos of the University of Leicester and Jonathan Portes of the Department for Work and Pensions concludes that migration from Eastern Europe has not had any statistically significant impact on:

  • claimant unemployment
  • the young
  • the unskilled
  • wages

Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform Stephen Timms said:

"Migrants from Eastern Europe have come to the UK to work and have been a benefit to our economy, allowing companies to grow and create more jobs. As this research shows these migrants have not taken jobs away from British workers and have not impacted on wages.

"The numbers of people claiming unemployment benefits are at levels as low as 30 years ago, while the number of vacancies in the economy continue to rise. What we need to do now is ensure we continue helping those young people with low skills to get the training and support they need to make the most of the opportunities which exist."

Migrants Boost Labour Market

May 19 2007 - A TUC study concludes that the massive inflow of migrants to the UK is a significant benefit to the UK economy citing Treasury estimates that migrant workers are responsible for around 10% of economic growth.

The economics of migration concludes that far from being a drain on the welfare state, migrant workers pay more in taxes than the value they receive from public services. According to the TUC, their research shows that migrant workers have not depressed jobs or wages. There is some evidence of a local effect on the wages and employment of low-skilled workers but these employees have not lost out because of the UK's vibrant economy.

The report argues that this good performance can be maintained if unscrupulous employers are stopped from taking advantage of immigrants' lack of knowledge of their rights and poor English. The report's solution is to crack down on bad employers through:

  • enforcement of employment rights such as the minimum wage
  • closing loopholes such as the poor protection enjoyed by agency workers

Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary said:

"Migrant workers are making a substantial contribution to Britain's economy, and some sectors would collapse if they were removed overnight. They haven't caused mass unemployment or held wages down as some would have us believe.

"But we do not do enough to protect vulnerable workers, whether migrant or indigenous, from exploitation. If migrant workers are treated fairly and paid a decent wage they can only add to the economy, and pose no threat to the livelihoods of the rest of the workforce.

"The availability of migrant workers should not stop employers or government helping unemployed and disadvantaged UK citizens into work, nor stop efforts to give the low skilled the new skills they need to improve their job security and help them get better jobs."

The report accepts that unplanned population changes may put strains on a locality if the social and housing infrastructure are unable to cope. The TUC contends that a proportion of the additional prosperity contributed by migrant workers to the economy should be dedicated to local public services.

The full report is available on the TUC website (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).



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