Government should reduce immigrant salary threshold, say business leaders
Leaders of a group of business and education bodies have called on the Conservative leadership candidates to reduce the salary threshold for foreign workers in the UK.
They believe reducing the threshold from £30,000 down to £20,000 will help avoid a skills shortage in the UK workforce.
As it stands, non-EU citizens working in the UK must earn a minimum of £30,000 a year and it is proposed that the same should apply to those from EU states once Brexit is finalised.
The Immigration White Paper of 2018 first proposed plans for a skills-based immigration system with the current £30,000 threshold applying to EU citizens, which is now being considered by the Home Office in a consultation process.
However, according to these groups,which include British Rail Consortium, London First, Universities UK and UK Hospitality, around 60 per cent of all UK jobs are thought to be below the £30,000 mark .
Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First, said it is “vital” that the government keeps the workforce at “full strength” at such an uncertain time.
She said: ”It is vital that the government does all it can to keep the country at full strength at a time of great uncertainty.
“The thousands of businesses we represent are clear that without a bold move now on immigration reform, the skills shortages many companies face risk becoming even more acute”.
Freedom of information requests have also shed light on the fact that 90 per cent of nurses, 50 per cent of all medical radiographers, 10 per cent of paramedics and roughly a third of all secondary schoolteachers all earn under £30,000 per annum.
A spokesman for the Home Office said that the proposed skills-based immigration system put forward in the 2018 White Paper will "attract the talented workers" required for economic prosperity while "delivering on the referendum result following the end of free movement".
The spokesman added: "We know there are a range of views about salary thresholds, and the home secretary has asked independent experts to advise on this issue before the proposals are finalised next year.
"The new system will reduce the burden on businesses by streamlining and simplifying our sponsorship system and we will create a new temporary work route to allow UK companies access to the employees they need to thrive."
A letter from the group of business and education bodies addressed to the Conservative leadership candidates also called for leniency on issuing temporary visas and allowing non-British citizens to remain in the UK after completing their studies.
The statement reads: "Without the ability to access international talent, many of our world-class sectors are at significant risk.
”As the UK prepares to leave the EU in the near future, it is imperative that the government puts in place measures that will avoid employers facing a cliff-edge in recruitment, and works towards building a successful economy that is open and attractive.”
Both prime ministerial candidates are against the current government target of reducing net migration below 100,000 people per year.
One of the candidates, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, has pledged to review the current £30,000 salary threshold already, saying that skilled workers would be first in line for entry.
Meanwhile, Johnson is known to favour a points-based system akin to that in Australia, taking into account the nature of work an immigrant will undertake alongside their aptitude in the English language.