The government is to introduce a “raft” of new measures to ensure that resident workers can have every opportunity to fill vacancies before they are offered to workers abroad, the Home Secretary announced today.
The government has accepted the recommendations made last month by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to tighten up the rules controlling when skilled workers are allowed to take jobs in the under the points-based system.
From next year all jobs must be advertised to British workers in Jobcentre Plus for four weeks – extended from two weeks – before companies can seek to employ non EU/EEA individuals.
The Home Office say this will ensure that British workers are “not only first in line for jobs but also have more time in which to apply”.
The government will also extend the qualifying period – from six to twelve months – for all those overseas workers who want to transfer to work at their company’s UK base on an Intra Company Transfer.
The minimum salary to qualify as a skilled worker and be eligible to work in the UK will jump from £17,000 to £20,000.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson said:
‘The introduction of the points-based system has radically improved our ability to respond quickly to changing economic circumstances.
‘We have now accepted all of the committee’s recommendations and we will continue to work with them to make sure that we use the flexibility in the points-based system to the best advantage of society and the economy.
‘These changes will ensure that businesses can recruit the skilled workers that the economy needs, but not at the expense of British workers, nor as a cheaper alternative to investing in the skills of the existing workforce.’
The government will adopt a 16 recommendations put forward by the Migration Advisory Committee, to ensure that the points-based system “does more to support United Kingdom workers while continuing to facilitate the trade, travel, and study that benefits the United Kingdom”.
The government has been advised by informative discussions with businesses and key public service organisations. It will continue to work with business to develop a plan for implementing the recommendations.
The Conservatives accused the government of over selling the changes calling for an annual cap on non-EU migrants.
Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said:
“The home secretary should stop overselling what are pretty minor changes. The idea that this would cut work permits by 10% is just a fantasy figure.
“The way to control work permits is to have an annual limit, which the government short-sightedly refuses to introduce.”
Immigration Matters Comment
These measures mostly consist of rehashed ideas which have been announced on a number of occasions.
Under the old Work Permit scheme job vacancies had to be advertised, usually on Job Centre Plus, for 28 days before a permit could be issued under a non-shortage occupation. So not much change there.
In many occupations the Job Centre may not be the most appropriate medium for advertising a vacancy, which would normally be advertised in trade magazines or specialist websites.
The higher minimum salary for a skilled worker, to be raised from £17,000 to £20,000, could affect recruitment in the lower paid care industry, which depends on overseas staff.
It should also be remembered that jobs must be advertised to potential applicants throughout the EU, not just to “British workers”.
In reality the government is powerless to ring fence “British jobs for British workers” as Gordon Brown announced.
Britain signed up to EU treaties allowing free movement of labour to millions of Eastern Europeans, which accounts for the majority of immigration into the UK.
Since 2004, when the then Immigration Minister Tony McNulty famously predicted that just 13,000 people would come in from Eastern Europe, well over a million migrant workers have flocked to the UK.
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