UK immigration review looks at work permits for low skilled workers

by Ray Clancy on August 25, 2016

A review of immigration policy in the UK is being undertaken on the orders of new Prime Minister Theresa May as the country look ahead to leaving the European Union.

It comes at a time when a new report points out that immigration is currently over double emigration with other evidence suggesting that the majority of the public view immigration as too high.

BRITISHconsulateIndeed, for the last two decades immigration has been the number one or number two issue raised in opinion polls and it is regarded as being one of the major issues that resulted in the UK voting to leave the EU.

It is possible that low skilled migrants from the EU will have to apply for a work permit in the future and an Australian-style points based system is also under consideration. A permit scheme for agricultural workers has been used in the past in the UK.

Sir David Metcalf of the Migration Advisory Committee, which provides independent, economics-based advice to the government on migration issues and has been involved in virtually every significant labour market migration policy decision since 2008, believes it could be introduced for all low skilled workers.

His views come as a report from the committee reveals that low skilled migrants have put extra pressure on housing, education, health and transport services, with migrants accounting for two million of the 13 million low skilled workers in Britain.

It also shows that half of the immigration inflow, some 308,000 people, come to the UK for work, a record figure. It says that skilled migrants yield positive benefits, low skilled migrants can be more of a burden.

‘As compared with less skilled workers, skilled migrants are much more likely to be complementary to British labour and capital. They contribute, net, to productivity, the public finances and the employment prospects of local labour,’ it explains.

It says that while low skilled migration benefits labour intensive UK employers, there is also evidence of downward pressure on the pay of low skilled workers and, in the worst examples, serious exploitation of migrant, and possibly UK, labour.

‘Therefore it is crucial that minimum labour standards are enforced. Alas, evidence suggests that in pursuing our flexible labour market, which has mostly served us well, such enforcement is inadequate. Incomplete supervision holds for the national minimum wage, labour gangs, particularly in horticulture, and employment agencies for migrants,’ the report adds.

It also points out that high levels of unskilled workers clustered in certain locations means that services in these areas are under pressure, particularly housing, education, health and transport and can mean lower wages all round and poor minimum labour standards.

May has also asked Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis to make control of EU migration a priority during the leave negotiations and Home Secretary Amber Rudd is to look at ways of cutting the number of migrants coming from outside the EU.

Students could be a target. Universities and Colleges recruit large number of students from outside the EU as they pay higher fees, but there is a concern that once they study in the UK they then don’t like to return home. Andrew Green, chairman of the think tank Migration Watch, believes there needs to be a tougher stance.

‘While we wait for the outcome of Brexit negotiations, it’s essential that the Prime Minister sets further action in hand on non-EU migration, which is half the total. The biggest source of migration from outside the EU is clearly students, very few of whom are recorded as going home. This is where action needs to be focused,’ he said.

The Prime Minister is committed to cutting net migration to tens of thousands, a target that was original set in 2010 which would take it down to 250,000 a year, but has never been reached. May said the target stands and believes it could take another four years to achieve.

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