UK urged to cut hiring route for migrants over staff shortages
Making recruitment of low-wage workers easier raises exploitation risk, the Migration Advisory Committee says
London — The British government’s independent migration adviser on Tuesday recommended abolishing one of the main routes for businesses to hire migrant workers in sectors where there are severe staff shortages.
The Migration Advisory Committee, which was commissioned to conduct a review of the Shortage Occupation List, said making it easier to recruit low-wage workers increased the risk of exploitation.
Business lobby groups have previously called for the government to expand the number of occupations on the list to help firms facing significant issues recruiting staff post-Brexit.
But the committee also said low-wage migrants are more likely to result in a net fiscal cost for Britain, and the high administrative burdens of the scheme make it uneconomic for many businesses.
“These concerns mean that we are not convinced that the [Shortage Occupation List] provides a sensible immigration solution to shortage issues in low-wage sectors, and so our preference is for the government to abolish it,” the committee said in a report.
Employers can hire migrant workers at 80% of a job’s usual “going rate” in Britain for occupations on the list, which includes roles such as bricklayers and care workers.
Being a shortage occupation can allow employers to bypass the general minimum salary threshold for a skilled worker visa of £26,200, meaning sectors with a going rate below that level particularly benefited from being on the list, the committee said.
It recommended no employer should be able to pay below the going rate, which it said helps to protect resident workers from undercutting and reduces the exploitation of migrants.
Britain’s home office did not have an immediate comment on the report.
The committee said in future it could instead examine individual occupations or sectors with particularly acute labour market issues, looking at how far immigration policy is helpful, and focusing on changes to things such as wages, training and investment in technology.
The committee said these actions are “likely to be a more sustainable response to the problems”.
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