The number of migrant workers coming to Britain from outside the EU should be cut by between 13% and 25% next year, government experts have said.
But even this will only contribute 20% to the government’s target of reducing UK immigration to “tens of thousands”, says the migration advisory committee.
The other 80% cut would have come from student and family migration, it adds.
The committee’s advice will help ministers in setting the cap, which will come into effect next April.
Committee chairman Professor David Metcalf said the number of visas for skilled workers issued under what is called Tier One and Tier Two needs to be between 37,400 and 43,700 for 2011/12.
This would represent a cut of up to 12,600 from the 50,000 in 2009, he said.
Immigration minister Damian Green said the government would announce their decision on the cap “shortly”.
He said: “Bringing down net migration to sustainable levels will not be easy. We will not be able to achieve it by focusing on just one area of the system or on one route into Britain.
“By introducing an annual limit we will reduce the number of people who come to the UK to work from outside the EU.
“But this is just one of the ways we intend to reduce the level of net migration back down to the tens of thousands each year.”
He insisted the cap could be introduced without damaging Britain’s economy.
The government has already made a major concession to industry, by exempting intra-company transfers from it, which account for the majority of skilled workers coming into the UK through Tier Two of the points-based system.
The committee’s report also paves the way for a clampdown on people entering the UK on elite Tier One visas, meant for the “brightest and best” migrants.
This is the only category of non-EU migrant allowed to enter the UK without a job offer, but research by the UK Border Agency has found almost one in three migrants who came in through this route were in menial roles such as shop assistants, security guards and supermarket cashiers.
Home Secretary Theresa May has said that Tier One of the visa system should only be used by investors, entrepreneurs and people of exceptional talent.
And the committee’s report backs this up, recommending that Tier Two visas, for skilled workers with job offers, should be prioritised over Tier One visas.
The report also concludes that tier 1 and tier 2 migration clearly has a positive impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The report also calls for more effort to ensure British workers were trained up so that businesses can recruit the skilled people they need, without having to bring them in from abroad. EU citizens, with the exception of those from Romania and Bulgaria, are free to work in the UK without restrictions.
The number of student visas rose from 250,000 in 2008 to just over 300,000 (including 30,000 student dependants) in 2009 following the introduction of Tier 4 of the points based system, the system introduced to make it easier for students to come and study in the UK.
Going a little further back, previous Prime Minister Tony Blair started two ‘Prime Ministerial Initiatives’ specifically to increase the UK’s share of the lucrative FE and HE education market.
As a result, changes to the immigration rules were introduced allowing students more flexibility to switch into working routes under Tier 1 and 2, as well as introducing the automatic entitlement to work during term time.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said he wants to bring net migration down from 196,000 a year to “tens of thousands” by 2015, despite pleas from industry and universities who claim their ability to recruit top level scientists and researchers could be harmed.
Prof Metcalf said: “It is not possible to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands by limiting work-related migration alone.
“The committee assumes that work-related migration takes 20% of the total cut – its fair share – which implies that family and student migration must take the other 80%.”
In September, Theresa May announced an interim cap, limiting the number of non-EU workers allowed into the UK to 24,100 – down around 5% – to April 2011.
But the Commons home affairs committee said in a report earlier this month that the government had no chance of fulfilling its pledge to cut immigration without further curbs on international students and those joining family members in the UK.
Migrants may even have to be stripped of their right to settle in the UK in the long term to bring the numbers down, the MPs said.
It found the proposed cap could affect fewer than one in 100 migrants entering the UK. Source: BBC
Dominic Casciani, BBC News home affairs correspondent, said:
‘Professor David Metcalf’s report on how to limit migration isn’t 324 pages long for nothing. It’s because the government’s goal of slashing net migration to tens of thousands is so very challenging.
‘What’s clear is that the target cannot be met simply by severely limiting skilled workers from outside of Europe, an approach that could have “long-term consequences” for the economy.
‘Some of the answers will lie in raising the bar for entry and longer-term measures to “boost outflows” – policies to stop migrants settling or switching jobs.
‘Ministers will also have to think about cutting foreign students and the legally-fraught area of family-related settlement.
‘If these policies levers can be pulled, the pressure to limit highly talented non-European workers will ease.
‘The question in the subtext is something that goes beyond the coalition’s domestic goals: Can any government in a globalised world prevent the movement of people?’
Students contribute £8.3 billion to UK
The government also needs to consider what impact reducing migrant workers and students will have on its efforts to boost the economy and slash the deficit.
Business leaders argue that they need the flexibility to recruit workers from abroad to fill skills gaps in areas where the independent Migration Advisory Committee have advised the Home Office that a shortage exists.
Students, who should not be treated as ‘migrants’ at all as they do not accrue any settlement rights whilst on a student visa and have no entitlement to state benefits, are worth £8.3 billion to the UK economy, according to the UK Border Agency.
Education is a still a world leading brand and a major ‘export’ for the UK, which is vital to the country’s recovery.
Destroying Britain’s market leading position in education, and in the process thousands of jobs, would be utter madness.
Worst still, students will simply spend their billions elsewhere in countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Singapore and the US, which recognize their economic contribution and will ‘bite their arms off’ to have them.
Most of Britain’s manufacturing jobs have been ‘exported’ to Asia and Eastern Europe, our large banks and multi-national corporations have exported white collar jobs to India and many of the FTSE 100 companies are now in foreign ownership.
Successive governments have allowed our manufacturing industries to decline whilst selling off the family silver. The country relies heavily on financial services and the City, but is this enough?
The questions we need to consider are:
- What products do British owned companies have left to sell abroad in a competitive global market?
- If we do not sell goods or services to other countries how is Britain going to survive, let alone reverse the long term post-war decline?
Migrants do not only bring their labour or cash into the UK, they also bring energy entrepreneurship and a desire to start businesses which provide jobs and pay taxes.
The Home Affairs Committee report published on 3 November warns against what appears to be a ‘consistent tendency, under both the current and previous Governments, to rush through complex changes to the immigration system via amendments to the Immigration Rules rather than through primary legislation’.
Chair of the Committee, Rt Hon Keith Vaz, said:
“Successive governments have enacted changes to the immigration system with almost immediate effect, bypassing parliamentary conventions.
“Such unnecessary haste leads to poor decision-making which is more likely to be challenged in the courts.
“The Government must ensure that Parliament be given the opportunity fully to scrutinise all significant changes to the immigration system before they are introduced.
“We were particularly concerned about the potential effect on international students of a reduction in immigration, seeing as they account for around 25% of total long-term immigration each year.
“Although the Government has not yet unveiled plans for reform of student immigration, our evidence underlined the crucial importance of international students to the cultural and intellectual life, as well as the finances, of UK educational institutions.
The Government should direct its efforts to tackling those who abuse the system – bogus colleges and visa overstayers – rather than penalising legitimate students”.
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