British Queen celebrates


Amid mounting pressure to address soaring net migration figures, the United Kingdom has announced stringent measures aimed at significantly reducing legal arrivals of migrants.

This move, unveiled on Monday, involves a substantial increase in the minimum salary requirement for skilled job positions by a third.

The surge in legal migration has remained a focal point in Britain's political landscape for over a decade, notably influencing the 2016 decision to exit the European Union. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces mounting scrutiny from his Conservative Party colleagues, particularly in anticipation of an upcoming election where the opposition Labour Party holds a significant lead in opinion polls. Sunak has pledged to assert greater control over immigration in response to these concerns.

However, these measures have garnered criticism from both businesses and trade unions. They argue that the reforms could prove counterproductive, especially for sectors already grappling with labor shortages, such as the private sector and the state-run health service.

Recent statistics revealed a record annual net migration of 745,000 individuals to the UK in 2022, with a sustained high influx from countries like India, Nigeria, and China, diverging from the previous trend of migration primarily from the EU.

James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, anticipates a potential reduction of 300,000 in net migration with the implementation of these new measures. The revised policies entail a significant elevation of the minimum salary threshold for foreign skilled workers, climbing to £38,700 ($48,900) from the current £26,200, although exemptions are in place for health and social workers.

Additionally, the measures involve preventing family members of foreign health workers from entering on their visas, a substantial 66% increase in the health service usage surcharge for migrants, and an upsurge in the minimum income requirement for family visas.

However, concerns have arisen regarding the potential clash between these regulations and the persistently tight labor market in the UK. The government's decision to contemplate abolishing the shortage occupations list, a vital avenue for businesses to recruit migrant workers in sectors facing acute staff shortages, has sparked discontent among business owners.

Cleverly also highlighted the government's intent to terminate the system permitting employers to pay migrant workers 80% of the standard rate in areas facing worker shortages, indicating a comprehensive review of the shortage occupations list.

Critics, including trade bodies and unions, foresee negative repercussions for the economy, expressing apprehension that these changes could exacerbate existing labor shortages, particularly in industries like hospitality. Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, emphasized the urgent need for an immigration system aligned with business needs and the labor market.

The Bank of England acknowledged some ease in hiring for businesses but underscored persistent skill shortages in specific sectors. Trade unions echoed concerns, with Christina McAnea, the general secretary of UNISON, warning of the potential adverse impact on the health service, anticipating a migration shift to more hospitable countries due to these stringent measures. Photo by dannyman, Wikimedia commons.