The UK Border Agency (UKBA) is cutting the number of jobs available to foreign workers on the shortage occupation list, the Government announced this week.
The shortage occupation list sets out jobs for which there is a lack of resident workers, and will form part of the criteria for the skilled worker Tier 2 of the points system, being launched on 27 November.
Tier 2 of the points system, the Government says, ensures that British workers get first crack at jobs and ‘only those foreign workers the country needs will be allowed to come to the United Kingdom’.
“Recent Government work to ensure British workers are skilled and competitive means that many of the previous gaps in the labour market have been filled. As a result, today’s list is tighter than ever before and will see a reduction of more than 200,000 positions in occupations with shortages that need be filled by migrant workers”.
The number of job openings available to migrants has been slashed from one million to just under 800,000.
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
“The Australian-style points system is flexible, allowing us to raise or lower the bar according to the needs of business and taking population trends into account.
“Had the points system been in place last year there would have been 12 per cent fewer people coming in to work through the equivalent work permit route. On top of this, the strict new shortage list means 200,000 fewer jobs are available via the shortage occupation route.”
Under Tier 2, companies must pass the Resident Labour Market test by proving they cannot fill the post with a resident worker before they can sponsor someone from outside the EEA. If the job is on the shortage list the company will not need to pass the test.
The Government publishes today’s shortage occupation list following advice from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). Their recommended list has been adopted in full – with the addition of social workers, who will remain on the list while further evidence is considered by the MAC.
Further Education Minister Sion Simon said:
“This Government is making an unprecedented investment in skills and training to ensure that United Kingdom residents do not lose out to overseas workers or see jobs go abroad because of a lack of skills.
“We have recently made a number of funding deals with employers, worth £630 million over three years, to give them greater access to flexible, bespoke training aimed at tackling skills shortages in their sectors.
“The deals cover sectors such as catering, hospitality and construction.”
To get in under Tier 2 skilled foreign workers must have:
English language skills
prospective earnings of more than £24,000, or slightly less if they have a decent qualification – or an offer of a job on the shortage list
enough money to support themselves for the first month of their stay.
Employers must obtain a sponsor licence to enable them to bring migrant workers into the country from outside the European Economic Area. They will be vetted by the UKBA and will sign up to certain duties and responsibilities.
This means that Government will shift part the responsibility for migrant workers with those who benefit from them – employers and educational establishments.
The Home Office last week published detailed guidance on Tiers 2 and 5 (skilled workers and temporary workers respectively) on their website.
The tough points system is just one part of a multi-million pound overhaul of the immigration system, the biggest change in 45 years.
The current Work Permit system has the same objectives, as well as a resident labour test and a shortage occupations list, as the all new ‘signing and dancing’ points system. One would be entitled to believe that the Government has always previously allowed in ‘only those foreign workers the country needs’, or is Mr Woolas now saying that this was not the case over the last 10 years?
The shortage occupations list has been pruned, reducing the numbers of jobs available to overseas workers, but this could have easily been achieved under the existing Work Permit system which will be scrapped later this month.
Similarly, the criteria for Work Permits could easily have been tightened-up or changed without spending million pounds of taxpayer’s money on an Australian-style system.