New proposals for controlling the number of non-EU foreign workers coming to the UK have been announced, including changes to the shortage occupations list.
The Migration Advisory Committee, the body set up to advise the Government on skill shortages, has defined the types of businesses which can use workers from outside the EU because of skill or labour shortages.
Employers whose jobs are not on the list will find it more difficult to bring in foreign workers in future.
The government says this system is more effective than simply bringing in limits on overall numbers.
In a BBC interview today, Professor David Metcalf, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee, said that employers would have to meet three hurdles to be able to hire somebody from outside Europe.
“Firstly the job has got to be skilled, secondly there has got to be a shortage, and thirdly and perhaps most importantly, it has to be sensible to bring a person in – there we are looking at the tension between the short-run fix of bringing immigrants in and the long-run need to upskill the economy,” he said.
The changes involve looking at 12 different indicators and will result in a more skilled labour supply, he added.
According to the list, maths and science teachers are still needed, but teachers with other subjects will face restrictions.
Midwives, social workers and IT technicians from outside the EU are all no longer needed, according to the list.
Only “skilled” care workers earning at least £8.80 an hour will be allowed to come to Britain from later this year – a salary level most care-home owners will not be able to pay.
In response to this figure, Mandy Thorn, a board member of the National Care Association, said:
“It is so far above what the medium pay levels are within care homes for senior care workers, it is just not going to be achievable,”
She said the sector had tried to recruit from the UK and Europe but had not been able to attract sufficient numbers. More staff are needed to support a growing number of vulnerable people, she added.
Occupations which are allowed to use foreign workers due to shortages include ship and hovercraft officers and racehorse trainers.
There is also a shortage of skilled chefs, civil and chemical engineers and veterinary surgeons, while quantity surveyors and project managers are needed for property development and construction.
In Scotland, the list includes manual filleters of frozen fish, senior nurses in care of elderly units, and speech and language therapists.
This week an all-party group of MPs called for “balanced migration” and four-year limits for foreign workers.
The full report and the new shortage occupations can be found on the UK Border Agency website www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk.
The Migration Advisory Committee announcement is bound to cause further confusion in the care industry, already hit with restrictions on Senior Carer Work Permits and staffing problems.
In January 2007 the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA – now UK Border Agency) stopped issuing Senior Carer Work Permits after a review of the senior role.
Following an industry campaign, transitional arrangements were put in place allowing employers to renew existing Senior Carers Work Permits on the disputed “going rate” salary of £7.02 per hour.
At the time the BIA said that the circumstances under which a new Senior Carer Work Permit would be granted would be “extremely rare”.
Hundreds of Senior Carers were forced to return home in 2007, because their employers were unable to pay £7.02. In January 2008, further transitional measures were introduced to allow job movement subject to the going rate salary.
This latest move seems to suggest that the Government got it wrong last year and is now back peddling. However, the newly imposed salary, equivalent to £18304 per annum for a 40 hour week, is out of reach for all but a few employers in the London area.