Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Meeting the needs of British workers while maintaining the interests of the UK economy, the Migration Advisory Committee recommends today

Immigration plays an important role in supporting the UK economy the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) report into the workings of Tier 2 of the Points Based System (PBS) highlights.

However, the report recommends that the earnings thresholds for gaining points should be raised, jobs should be advertised within the UK for longer and the arrangements for intra-company transfers should be strengthened. Strong monitoring and enforcement of Tier 2 is also required.

Sponsored skilled workers from outside the EU can work in the UK under Tier 2 of the PBS. This gives British workers priority on all advertised jobs, but where British workers are not available, Tier 2 will let companies employ people from outside of the EU, making sure that there are no skill gaps in the British economy.

Chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, Professor David Metcalf said:

“In our first analysis of the PBS, the committee thinks that Tier 2 is working well, but our advice to the Government is that the labour market could be helped by requiring higher standards from skilled workers outside of the EU before we allow them to work in the UK.

“We believe that selective immigration that favours skilled workers, as the PBS does, is vital to ensure that the UK continues to be a good place to do business or invest.

“However, it is important that British workers are not displaced. We have therefore made a number of recommendations which will help to avoid undercutting and any disincentives to raise the skills of UK workers.”

The report’s main findings:

The structure of Tier 2 is, as a whole, well designed for achieving its economic aims and for encouraging immigration to adjust to changing demand over the economic cycle. The MAC does not consider that it needs to be substantially revised in light of the recession.

The MAC recommends that all routes in Tier 2 remain in place. However, it does recommend that some changes are made and that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) considers whether there are enough resources devoted to enforcement and the penalties for employers are sufficient.

The MAC was not asked to make recommendations on the economic contribution of dependants of PBS immigrants but found that, on the basis of the available evidence, they tend to be skilled individuals employed in unskilled or lesser skilled occupations. There was not sufficient evidence to enable the MAC to conclude if dependents had made an impact on UK workers and this requires further research.

The following recommendations are made with regard to the design and operation of Tier 2:
* UKBA considers whether specific professional qualifications should be regarded as equivalent to National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) level 3, or bachelors or masters degree level when allocating points under the PBS;
* masters degree be awarded 15 points in Tier 2, instead of the current 10 points;
* a requirement that migrant workers outside of the EU will earn £20,000 and workers without qualifications earn at least £32,000
* a new category to be established for key public service workers, with an added 5 points.

In terms of the Resident Labour Market Test route the MAC recommends that:
* the route be kept in place;
* the required duration of vacancy advertising be increased to four weeks for all jobs;
* the Government considers the scope for introducing a certification regime for at least those employers identified as high risk.

In terms of the intra-company transfer route the MAC recommends that:
* the route be kept in place;
* the route should not lead to a right to permanent residence;
* the qualifying period with the company overseas is extended from 6 to 12 months;
* a separate scheme is created for graduates only which would require 3 months prior experience with the company, but with a maximum stay in the UK of 12 months; and
* the Government gives consideration to whether the level of resource currently being devoted to enforcement of the intra-company transfers route is sufficient and whether the degree of transparency around enforcement of the system could be increased.

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