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Cleverly shuts the door on cheap migrant labour

5 Dec 23 The government has just reduced the viability of using migrant labour to tackle domestic shortages by increasing starting salaries by 50%.

Image by Jacqueline Macou (Pixabay)
Image by Jacqueline Macou (Pixabay)

As part of a plan to cut annual net migration by 300,000, home secretary James Cleverly yesterday announced that work visas would only be available to those being paid  £38,700 or more.

The current threshold is £26,200.

An exception is being made for those coming to the UK on the health & care visa route, who will be exempted from the increase to the salary threshold.

With hardworking bricklayers, plumbers and joiners able to earn £50,000 a year, according Hudson Contract payroll data, the 50% hike in starting salaries for immigrants may not, in itself, have much impact. However, other changes are afoot.

To crackdown what is seen as cut-price labour from overseas, the government will end the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations and replace the shortage occupation list with a new immigration salary list, which will retain a general threshold discount. The Migration Advisory Committee will review the new list against the increased salary thresholds in order to reduce the number of occupations on the list.

It was only in July this year that a raft of construction related trades were added to that shortage occupation list after intense lobbying by the industry.

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The Home Office is also making it harder for migrant workers and students to bring their families with them.

Home secretary James Cleverly said: “It is clear that net migration remains far too high. By leaving the European Union we gained control over who can come to the UK, but far more must be done to bring those numbers down so British workers are not undercut and our public services put under less strain.

“My plan will deliver the biggest ever reduction in net migration and will mean around 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would not have been able to do so. I am taking decisive action to halt the drastic rise in our work visa routes and crack down on those who seek to take advantage of our hospitality.”

Charlotte Wills, a partner at immigration law specialists Fragomen, said:  “The UK immigration system is quick and objective. The question is, with the new increases to salary thresholds and other measures, combined with yet more rises to soon to be introduced fees, has the government gone too far in prioritising politics over economics and risks undoing the good work so far done by the immigration system?

“The 47.7% increase of the salary threshold for sponsored workers is truly staggering and raises concerns for those sectors who have relied on migrant workers post-Brexit to fill labour shortages whilst implementing training programmes to solve the problem on a longer-term basis.”

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