Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Britain limits the importation of workers to highly skilled categories

The number of jobs open to migrants from outside the European Union is to be halved, ministers will announce today. Foreigners are currently able to obtain work permits for around 500,000 posts that bosses say cannot be filled by British or EU workers.

But from April that will fall to 230,000 when non-graduate jobs are taken off the Home Office ‘shortage occupation list’.

Non-EU beauty salon managers, estate agents, florists, pipe fitters, steel erectors and welders will be among those barred. The Home Office has commissioned an expert review of all the remaining categories on the list.

If the Migration Advisory Committee finds there are enough unemployed British workers with the required skills, tens of thousands more posts could be closed. Ministers want to ensure that priority access to Britain’s labour market is granted only where there are real skills shortages.

Immigration minister Damian Green said the Government was determined to cut dole queues and make sure migrants were not the ‘first resort’ for firms with vacancies.

Firms looking to fill jobs which appear on the shortage list do not have to advertise to British workers first, and applicants do not have to meet an earnings test.

Others taken off the list because they are not graduate level include sheep shearers, senior care workers and meat boners.

Mr Green said: ‘These changes to the shortage occupation list will ensure that only skilled workers are coming to the UK through Tier 2 of the points-based system. ‘It will allow firms to bring in people with necessary skills without migrants becoming the first resort to fill a wide range of available jobs.

‘This Government is also determined to get people back to work and provide business with the skills they need from the British workforce – reducing the need for migrants at the same time as we reduce their number.’

Last week, Mr Green attacked Labour for failing to impose controls on Eastern European workers when the EU expanded in 2004. He said the ‘mistake’ would never be repeated and much tougher restrictions would apply in future. More than 1.15million Eastern European workers have signed up to the Home Office’s worker registration scheme.

Mr Green said the job categories listed as skilled under Tier 2 will be cut from 192 to 121. Midwives, chartered surveyors and management accountants stay on the approved list.

Officials estimate around 65 per cent of the 8,400 work permits issued last year to workers on the shortage list would not have qualified under the new rules.

The shake-up is part of efforts to cut net migration – the number that migration adds to the population every year – to the tens of thousands by 2015. Last year it hit 226,000.

The student visa system will also be modified so only the ‘brightest and the best’ can come to Britain. Home Office figures suggest more than a quarter of those at private colleges flout immigration rules.

Professor David Metcalf, of the Migration Advisory Committee, said: ‘Placing limits on migration requires we are far more selective and ensure only highly skilled migrant workers can come to work in the UK.’


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