#FullStrength coalition: lower immigration salary threshold or risk thousands of roles going unfilled
5 November 2019
Today (Tuesday), the #FullStrength coalition of prominent business and education bodies submitted its response to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), making the case that the salary threshold for overseas workers should be lowered to around £20,000 — or it risks leaving tens of thousands of roles across the economy unfilled.
One hundred and forty eight uniforms, representing workers from across the economy, including the healthcare, construction, and transport sectors, are being taken down the streets of London from the Oxo Tower at 0730 to Westminster, to highlight the 148,000 roles currently held by EU workers in the capital that pay less than the proposed £30,000 threshold published in the Immigration White Paper.1
Lowering the salary threshold to around £20,000 would bring it in line with the realities of the labour market. Nearly two thirds (63%) of all jobs in the UK paid are below £30,000, which rises to around three-quarters (73%) in health and social care and (77%) retail.2
Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive of the business campaign group London First, which leads the #FullStrength campaign said:
“As we head into a General Election, it is critical that all parties commit to putting in place a fair and managed immigration system that keeps our economy open to the people we need.
“Employers are already struggling to fill vacancies and the end of Freedom of Movement means existing skills shortages risk becoming even more acute.
“To keep the UK at full strength, we need a salary threshold that reflects reality and a single, demand-led system that works for the whole of the country.”
The #FullStrength coalition represents tens of thousands of businesses, and millions of workers across all sectors and regions of the UK. Members include: Association of Labour Providers, British Retail Consortium, The Coalition for a Digital Economy, The Confederation of Passenger Transport, Federation of Master Builders, Innovate Finance, Tech London Advocates, London First, North West Business Leadership Team, Recruitment & Employment Confederation, Tech London Advocates, techUK, UKHospitality, Universities UK and UKinbound.
Its joint response to the MAC urges the next Government to deliver a single, skills-led system, which operates in a simple and efficient way so that small and big businesses have access to the talent they need. It also argues that a system based on regional variations risks adding complexity, costs and confusion.
However, the coalition welcomed the commitment to reintroduce the two-year post-study work visa, announced in September, and are urging the next Government to implement this, alongside setting the salary threshold at around £20,000. The submission also calls for the next Government to back:
A two-year temporary work route – increased from one year, which would allow companies to bring in overseas workers for a temporary period of up to two years, with a reciprocal cooling-off period. Workers should also be allowed to switch from this route to other routes, such as a skilled visa, while they are in the UK;
A reformed sponsorship model – reducing the costs and bureaucracy of the current system, making it easier for SMEs to use, as well as enabling endorsing bodies to sponsor freelancers and self-employed workers; and
Increased mobility of talent – by extending the current youth mobility scheme to include EU citizens and creating an improved 90-day business visitor visa — so that companies can move staff across offices to work on projects.
Neil Carberry, CEO, Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said:
“The UK has a proud history of welcoming colleagues, friends and family members who come to the UK to contribute to national prosperity and to build their lives here.
“At all skill levels, from people working in restaurants through to surgeons operating in our NHS, there’s a great history of Britain benefiting from the skills and talents people from other countries bring. After Brexit, Global Britain needs that more than ever and that’s why we back the #FullStrength coalition’s call to make sure we’re open to the world as we grow together.”
Emma Degg, CEO, North West Business Leadership Team, said:
“We want to ensure business growth is not hampered by labour shortages. We are rising to the challenge — taking on apprentices and working with local schools and colleges to ensure local people have access to opportunity. However, it is also crucial that we have the right immigration policy in place to help to secure the future of our industries. We ask all politicians to take note. We will absolutely do our bit: we’d like you to do yours too.”
Russ Shaw, Founder, Tech London Advocates, said:
“The talent that we have in our technology sector in London comes from all over Europe and all around the world, so we need to have a fit-for-purpose visa and immigration policy as we prepare to leave the EU.”
Graham Vidler, CEO, Confederation of Passenger Transport, said:
“Workers from around the world keep our buses going, losing them would inevitably lead to a poorer service for passengers. It is vital that future immigration policy in the UK is based on needs within the UK labour market rather than any pre-determined criteria, such as salary thresholds, that could prevent those with much needed skills from entering the UK.”
Kate Nicholls, CEO, UKHospitality, said:
“Although the majority of the UK’s hospitality sector is home-grown, we do need to recruit from overseas. Our overseas talent is enormously important to an international industry drawing tourists from around the world. A salary threshold of £30,000 will exclude many roles in the UK’s hospitality sector. That means that significant numbers of businesses will be denied recruits and jobs left vacant around the country. It will affect every aspect of hospitality from coffee shops to hotels. That means there may not be people available to give you the great service you are used to in your favourite bars or restaurants, welcome you into hotels or make you the coffee you take for granted every morning. The salary threshold must be reduced or businesses on every high street in the UK may be left struggling and will only lead to higher prices and much less choice for customers.”
Media invited to a photo opportunity in front of the Oxo Tower at 0730 on Tuesday 5th November, with five clothes rails, hung with 148 colourful uniforms signifying the roles that could be left empty should the salary threshold remain at £30,000.
1. GLA Economics Current Issues Note 59 – Occupational Analysis2. ONS, Reference number 009226, October 2018.
2. ONS, Reference number 009226, October 2018.
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