Thursday, October 14, 2010

Britain has crazy immigration priorities too

Why would ANY country try to keep out highly skilled workers while consciously letting untold numbers of illegals live there?

The government's interim immigration cap has left one of the UK's major research universities able to recruit or keep only 78 "skilled" overseas academics this year - and the permanent cap could bring further reductions.

The UK Border Agency has given each university a quota on recruitment from non-European Union countries under Tier 2 of the points-based immigration system, which covers "skilled workers". The quotas cover new visas - and renewals for existing staff - between 19 July 2010 and 31 March 2011, when the permanent cap will be imposed.

University College London, which has more than 4,000 staff, said it had been allowed just 78 places under the interim cap.

Universities are trying to bridge the gap by recruiting under Tier 1, which covers "highly skilled workers". In this category, however, the skills threshold is higher and the number of visas allocated is subject to a monthly national cap.

The UKBA's consultation on the permanent cap, which closed last month, has caused concern among universities by suggesting that Tier 2 visas could be closed to them.

The consultation document notes that there is a "strong case" for granting Tier 2 visas only to migrants with skills that are in "national shortage". This could have disastrous implications for universities because academics are not currently on the National Shortage Occupation List.

Universities UK voiced the sector's concerns in the consultation.

Many institutions believe that the UKBA has failed to appreciate that academic careers are inherently international and that the lengthy training period for new entrants means universities cannot rapidly switch to a "British-only" policy.

The universities of Oxford and Cambridge would not comment on their exact allocations.

But a Cambridge spokeswoman said: "The government's current visa-quota proposals threaten our ability to recruit both the academic leaders of today and the exceptional young talent from which will grow the Nobel prizewinners of tomorrow."


How to make immigration work in Britain's interests

Irwin Stelzer talks economic sense below. His recipe would apply to other Western countries too

From France (deport Romas), to Germany (preserve national identity), to Sweden (xenophobes win seats), to the Netherlands (no more burqas), an anti-immigration tide is sweeping across Europe. Britain is no exception; permanent restrictions on immigration are inevitable. But it would be a pity if they deny companies the skilled workers they need to remain competitive in a globalised world.

Britain can do little to reduce the flow of immigrants from the other 26 EU member states. In future it will be able to do even less if Bulgaria goes through with its plan to issue 500,000 passports to citizens of non-member countries; and if the new EU rule that guarantees immigrants the right to all welfare benefits accorded to native populations proves a magnet for immigrants.

Work visas for non-EU immigrants are now subject to a temporary cap that has left affected firms threatening to move where the skilled workers are. Employers are right. Restrictions on the numbers of would-be workers cut into their bottom lines, put pressure on them to train British citizens to do these jobs – often costly – and probably reduces national wealth.

Native workers are also right. In many cases immigrants take "their jobs" or, at minimum, place downward pressure on wages.

And residents of towns in which immigrants cluster are also right. Their culture is threatened as strange sounds and smells dominate once-familiar streets, and the burdens on the social services are increased.

The Government is desperate to satisfy all parties. So it has called in the bureaucrats to decide which immigrants should be admitted. It should instead concentrate on how to get the winners to share some of their increased profits with the losers who bear the costs.

Immigrants possess skills that are in short supply here, and add billions of pounds to national output. But a system that calls on bureaucrats to award points to workers with skills the bureaucrats decide are most needed is bound to get things wrong. There is a more efficient and fairer way.

Employers and immigrants strike wage deals that leave out of the equation the costs to society. Schools are more crowded, demands on the NHS increase, in some cases policing costs rise, incentives to train native workers fall. Economists call these "externalities" – costs created but not borne by the parties to a transaction.

The government can put these costs where they belong – on the firms and workers who benefit – and make sure that each visa adds to national wealth. How so? By requiring employers to bid for the limited number of entry permits, the proceeds to be remitted to the communities on which the immigrant imposes costs, or to HM Treasury. The employer will pay the full cost of the immigration, perhaps making up some of that cost by offering the immigrant a lower wage – which will reduce the demand for entry.

Like other market-based solutions, this is adjustable: if bidding for permits gets outrageously high, the government can increase their number.

Of course, other things need doing. Britain could refuse entry to anyone with a passport from Bulgaria, and fight it out before Europe's courts. After all, the EU has merely wrinkled its nose at France flaunting its treaty obligations. Britain can also really, really defend its borders. The government can put any applicant for entry at Heathrow with no papers back on a plane to wherever he had embarked on his journey. It can immediately deport any illegals it rounds up, and if the country of origin refuses to take them back, send them to a willing country, perhaps for a fee. Such a policy would reduce the number of illegals trying to sneak into Britain.

So, a limit on immigrants, border control, auctioning of permits. All are ingredients of a sensible policy that would add to national wealth. Innocent bystanders in communities now bearing the social and economic costs would be compensated, rather than forced to subsidise the large companies that are the major importers of labour.

Imperfect solution? Sure. But before dismissing it, consider this. Economists Pia Orrenius and Madeline Zavodny, in their new book Beside the Golden Door, suggest an initial minimum price, which would fluctuate according to demand, of $10,000 for a high-skill permit to work in the US. If British companies really need those foreign workers, a price anything like that would net the Treasury £350 million for 50,000 permits. And the nation the workers it most needs.


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