18 September 2018

Britain must retain and build a skilled workforce

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has released its Government-commissioned study, “EEA migration in the UK: Final Report”. The report set out to establish the current and likely future patterns of EEA migration.

Key recommendations include:

  • No preference for EU citizens, assuming that immigration will not be part of the UK-EU withdrawal agreement;
  • Reviewing how the sponsor licensing system works for SMEs;
  • Maintaining existing salary thresholds and extending Tier 2 (General) visas to all jobs at RFQ  (Regulated Framework of Qualifications) Level 3 and above;
  • Reviewing the shortage occupation list;
  • Retaining and revaluating the Immigration Skills Charge;
  • Abolishing the cap on the number of migrants under Tier 2 (General) visas.

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) welcomes the report, which highlights the value of migration to small and medium-sized (SMEs) builders and the construction industry. However, the NFB warned that shortage occupation lists must be responsive and visas for self-employed workers need to be clear and comprehensible.

Focussing on enabling higher-skilled migration while restricting lower-skilled migration, the report does not recommend separate, employer-led sector based routes, for low skilled migrants, with the possible exception of seasonal agricultural workers.

The MAC also states that 40% of self-employed workers are concentrated in three construction sectors and would typically qualify for a Tier 1 visa. However, due to complexities with the existing scheme, the MAC is unable to make recommendations on how it should be changed. Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said:

“A lack of skilled workers stifles industry growth and the capacity to build more homes. We welcome the report’s recommendations, including a review into the shortage occupation list and the sponsor licensing system for SMEs. Abolishing the cap of migrants under Tier 2 visas and reviewing shortage occupation lists would signal a positive step but, with the MAC avoiding any recommendation for self-employed workers, the Government must provide clarity to a vital part of the construction industry.”