It has been said many times before: British jobs for British workers, and it is indeed reasonable to expect any government to take action to protect the livelihood of the indigenous workforce and keep a tight control over its borders. However, reducing the numbers of highly skilled migrants would appear to be a shortsighted strategy for a British economy struggling to compete in the global market.
Following the recent publication of the Migrant Advisory Committee (MAC) report, the UK Government announced this week that further caps on both Tier 2 (work permits) and Tier 1 (highly skilled) are to be implemented as of April 2011, but in a change of heart after persuasive lobbying from concerned UK and international businesses, both the Tier 2 Scheme and the Intra Company Transfers (ICT) have been spared the brunt of this policy.
However, the downside is that only those transferees whose salaries exceed £40,000 will be allowed to come to the UK for longer than 12 months and the total number of Tier 2 visas available for the next financial year stands at only 20,700. More alarmingly, the Tier 1 General Scheme and Tier 1 Post Study Worker for young UK graduates will be scrapped: a move that suggests the Coalition has done a U-turn on its promise to attract the best and the brightest migrants from around the world.
The Tier 1 General is likely to be replaced by a new category with the somewhat elitist-sounding title of Exceptionally Talented: a category with a mere 1000 available places. Highly skilled migrants are fairly mobile, and as such, they can and often do move to greener pastures, lured by bigger financial rewards and cultural perks. Like anyone else, they pay taxes, however, they cannot claim public funds, and although not widely publicised, Tier 1 migrants are not allowed to extend their stay if unable to meet a fairly high salary threshold.
To determine what can only be described as the worth of an applicant, the Government may introduce a skilled occupation list and implement a points system whereby applicants will receive points based on the demand for their particular skills. It is also likely that those migrants in occupations not on the list will be unable to apply for a Tier 1 General visa.
The Coalition's stated agenda is to reduce net migration. For many, a popular decision, but has the Government really thought it through? At first, this strategy might please disgruntled voters who have been penalised by the tough measures implemented to reduce the deficit. However, it is important to understand that migrants are both customers and suppliers in the UK economy, and so one is left wondering how the low skilled and long term domestic unemployed might benefit from such a draconian policy when common sense dictates that it would perhaps be wiser to invest more funds in training and preparing them for battle in a competitive market. Surely Adam Smith's invisible hand did not envisage a protective glove to avoid the pains and gains of competition
Further immigration caps are sure to spell trouble for UK businesses and the economy as a whole as companies looking to recruit will almost certainly find it increasingly difficult to attract enough skilled and unskilled migrant workers to fill vacancies in any sector of the job market. It is ironic then, that April 2011 will see Government policy limit numbers of the very people who could not only ease the current skills shortage, but at the same time make a significant contribution to an economy that could perhaps do with them now more than ever.
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