Business still needs clarity on propsoed points-based immigration system and its implications
When it came to addressing immigration, the 2017 Conservative manifesto sought to reduce net migration to less than 100,000, a longstanding target which came under fire. In 2019, Boris Johnson abandoned this in favour of an Australian style points-based system, which would entice the “brightest and the best”.
Following the general election, home secretary Priti Patel said the Tories would create a "fairer system" which would do away with “arbitrary” targets while cutting down on immigration overall.
She said: "The vote to leave the EU was a vote to take back control of our borders, and that is exactly what a Conservative majority government will do by getting Brexit done and ending freedom of movement”.
Official figures from March 2019 say that net migration totalled 226,000 in the year to March 2019, with the emphasis on controlled immigration not only aiming to reduce that amount, but also relieve the pressure on public services.
However, public services do often benefit from the migrant workforce and this is the balance that the Johnson ministry must get right.
Under a points-based system, immigration applicants would be assigned points according to a number of professional and personal skills, including aptitude in the English language.
The Conservatives say that people with potential such as entrepreneurs, investors and award-winners in certain fields will be entitled to fast-track entry under the system while skilled workers in the healthcare profession who have a confirmed job offer will be eligible for an NHS visa, reduced fees and the same fast-track privileges.
Matthew Fell from the Confederation of British Industry lobby group feels that the plans overlook low-level skilled workers who are in demand for various roles.
Fell said: "As important as attracting high-skilled workers is, low-level skills are still very much in demand for business.”
Fell believes that various industries, including hospitality, construction, agriculture and care depend on low-skilled workers and that the new system will have an adverse impact on the ability of businesses to recruit.
He added: "Workers needed to boost economic growth must feel welcome in the UK. Until there is more detail, these plans will leave them nervous."
Under the proposed policy, sector-specific rules would apply for lower-skilled workers to enter the country in order to fill in gaps where UK workers cannot be sourced.
However, the worry within the British Chambers of Commerce is that hiring decisions are effectively being taken out of the hands of employers, and its director general, Adam Marshall, has urged the government to provide clarity on what the proposed system will look like and mean for businesses.