The CBI has warned the introduction of an arbitrary £30,000 salary threshold for all migrant workers would not be workable for the UK economy.
The warning comes in response to the Government’s white paper on UK immigration, published in December 2018.
White paper on immigration
In the document, the Government proposes a fundamental overhaul of the current UK immigration system post-Brexit. The biggest reform of immigration policy for 40 years, the new system would shift in focus away from nationality–based criteria to skills-based assessment of applicant eligibility. This would mean the removal of preference for EU citizens coming into and remaining in the UK, to coincide with the end of free EU movement when at the UK leaves Europe.
One of the changes proposed was the introduction of a salary threshold for the skilled visa route. The level of £30,000 was put forward by the government advisers, the Migration Advisory Committee in their Autumn report into EU migration.
In response to the White Paper, the CBI consulted with its membership.
According to the CBI, employers in the regions in particular would suffer as a result of this minimum earnings level being placed on all non-UK resident skilled workers.
It also highlighted the triple-threat facing Scottish businesses of an ageing workforce, EU workers returning home, and firms being unable to compete with the wages and salaries being offered elsewhere in the UK.
Of further concern was the proposed 12-month temporary route for ‘lower-skilled’ workers, which the CBI warned would not provide adequate access to labour and therefore would inevitably fail to meet business needs. As a route, it would be extremely limited in its offering to individuals. They will have to pay a fee and will not be able to access to public funds or switch to any other migration scheme from within the UK. A mandatory 12 month cooling-off period will also apply, meaning at the end of the 12 month stay, the individual would have to leave the UK and not be able to reapply for the visa for at least 12 months.
One reform which has received a better response from industry is the proposed abolition of the cap on skilled worker visas and assurance that visitors from the EU will not need visas.
The new system is intended to be phased in from 2021.
Nation and economy-wide concerns
Echoing the CBI, concerns have been raised across the NHS that the proposed £30,000 salary threshold would seriously limit access to migrant health workers in the UK. Other sectors of the economy including construction and science technology have also voiced dissatisfaction with the salary level, since starting salaries for many skilled roles, and for those who work outside of London, can be significantly lower.
The CBI is calling for a single UK wide immigration system, avoiding a more restrictive system, which meets the needs of the UK economy.