New Limits Planned On Access To Skilled Workers

New limits planned on access to skilled jobs

Alan Travis, home affairs editor
Thursday November 30, 2006
The Guardian

Skilled jobs will have to be advertised to British and European workers first unless they are listed as shortage occupations, under migration proposals unveiled by the home secretary, John Reid, yesterday.

He said a planned migration advisory committee, to be set up early next year, will also propose an annual quota on the number of lower skilled migrants allowed into Britain.

But Mr Reid has stopped short of acceding to Conservative demands to set an annual limit on the number of migrants coming to Britain each year, or even spell out what the “optimum level” of migration should be, as he appeared to suggest he would two months ago. He has already banned lower skilled migrants from outside the EU.

The home secretary said he hoped the independent migration advisory committee, made up of business and union leaders, would take into account the economic, tax and wider social impact of migration, including that on housing, schools and public services, as well as identifying skills gaps. The committee is to be introduced alongside a five-tier points-based immigration system covering highly skilled, lower skilled, students and other temporary workers.

The immigration minister, Liam Byrne, said the committee would generate a more open debate about the level of immigration that was good for Britain.

The migration advisory committee will be asked to recommend which jobs should be designated as shortage occupations. Under the points system, skilled migrants are allowed to work in Britain if they have a specific job offer from a Home Office-approved employer or sponsor.

The new requirement will mean that unless the committee designates the job as in a shortage occupation the post will have to be advertised first to UK and other EU citizens.

In deciding which occupations face shortages and should therefore be open to migrants, the expert body will also be expected to take into account alternative measures such as providing incentives to employers to train British residents in the necessary skills.

The committee will also be asked to advise the government on an annual quota for lower-skilled migration.

But since Mr Reid has already announced a ban on lower skilled migrants from outside the EU, this will only apply to new EU citizens from Romania and Bulgaria from next April. The quotas have already been announced at 20,000 and 10,000 respectively but the committee will be expected to advise on the level in future years.

The details emerged as it was disclosed that large queues are building up for English classes for migrants, with 150,000 people wanting to go on courses in the last 12 months. Mary Coussey, chair of the advisory body on naturalisation and integration, said the waiting list for English as a second language courses had reached more than 1,200 people at one Liverpool college. In many cases the free courses were oversubscribed, with Polish and other new EU workers who were not trying to become British citizens squeezing out other migrants. Those who could not get on to the courses were taking citizenship tests without first making progress in English and failing again and again.

The first annual report of the advisory body on naturalisation and integration shows that citizenship ceremonies have proved a popular rite of passage, with 182,232 ceremonies held from their introduction in February 2004 to April 2006.

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