Age, education and skills likely to be key in post Brexit UK immigration policy

by Ray Clancy on August 10, 2017

The organisation that advises the UK Government on immigration policy is seeking views on the kind of visas and work arrangements that should be made available after the country leaves the European Union in March 2019.

The Migration Advisory Committee is seeking answers to a number of scenarios outlined in call for evidence document, which will not necessarily become part of its advice, but which it wants feedback on.


It points out that in an international context, the free movement arrangement within the EU is unusual. The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement between Australia and New Zealand is one of the only current comparable models.

It is looking for the views of a wide range of interested parties from all parts of the UK such as businesses, employers, recruiters, trade unions, academics, think tanks, representative bodies and Government departments and hints that age, education and skill are all likely to become issues taken into account after Brexit.

It also asks what effect a reduction in the number of workers coming from EU countries would have and whether businesses and employers have made contingency plans for such an outcome as well as how they are recruited.

It points out that restricting immigration is common, and countries outside of the EU do so. ‘Countries outside the EU set their own immigration policy, and none of them unilaterally give freedom of movement to the citizens of other countries. For example, Canada, a country often perceived as being relatively open to migrants, has no free movement agreement with any other country. The few bilateral agreements that do exist, such as between Australia and New Zealand, are between similar countries,’ the report says.

It explains that the current UK work related migration system for non-European Economic Area citizens has a clear preference for higher skilled workers. Those admitted through the work route have to be in graduate level occupations and meet minimum salary thresholds.

Currently, the UK migration system does not have an explicit work route for lower skilled workers from outside the EEA, because the view has been taken that free movement ensures a sufficient supply from within the EEA.

‘Changes to the UK immigration system might affect lower skilled workers more than higher skilled workers. Sectors and businesses are likely to react differently to a reduction in low-skilled migration. On the one hand, a reduction in the supply of low skilled migrants might push up wages and costs to businesses, which could translate into higher prices for consumers,’ the report explains.

‘On the other hand, a reduction of fairly cheap low skilled migrants could force businesses to substitute labour for capital, boosting productivity,’ it adds.

It will also be looking at the potential of a points based immigration system post Brexit. Such systems are used in many countries such as Australia, Denmark, Japan, Netherlands, and New Zealand. This means that migrants with characteristics that are desired, according to their levels of education, occupation, age, receive more points.

A successful migrant has to have more than a certain number of points. Although entry may be based on potential alone, the right to remain in the country may be dependent on having demonstrated a certain level of labour market success.

It may be that a system would favour younger people. Schemes in Australia, New Zealand and Canada give young people aged under 30 automatic two year visas to work. The report suggests offering the same opportunity to EU citizens in the UK would be beneficial.

‘Younger migrants have a longer working life ahead of them so have a higher chance of making a net positive contribution to public finances and they are perhaps considered to assimilate more successfully,’ the paper says.

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