Recommendations to the government for tighter rules to curb the number of skilled migrants coming to work in the UK have been criticized by employers, who said the measures would increase costs and make hiring harder.
A levy on employers hiring from abroad, higher minimum salaries and a clampdown on overseas IT contractors are all measures proposed by the Migration Advisory Committee in a report out on Tuesday.
David Cameron, the prime minister, is looking at ways to tighten the rules for “tier 2” visas to bring net migration down to the promised “tens of thousands” from the most recent figure of 336,000. Tier 2 is the main route to work in the UK for workers from outside the EU.
But employers’ groups were quick to decry the measures as too stringent. The CBI, the biggest employers’ group, said they “could hold back firms’ ability to grow and create jobs, particularly for exporting, medium-sized businesses”. The committee recommended an annual immigration skills charge of £1,000 to fund training for local workers, raising £250 million that would be channeled back to employers.
The committee “strongly” supports the introduction of the so-called Immigration Skills Charge to encourage employers to reduce their reliance on migrant workers and encourage them to invest in training British workers. It also recommends tightening the rules on intra-company transfers – overseas staff working for the same company in the UK – which have risen “very rapidly” in recent years.
Professor Sir David Metcalf, committee chairman, said: “Skilled migrant workers make important contributions to boosting productivity and public finances, but this should be balanced against their potential impact on the welfare of existing UK residents.
“Raising the cost of employing skilled migrants via higher pay thresholds, and the introduction of an immigration skills charge, should lead to greater investment in UK employees and reduce the use of migrant labour.”
It also recommended that the minimum salary threshold be raised to £30,000 a year from £20,800, but with this change phased in to avoid harming staffing levels for teachers and nurses, where pay is often below that level.
The committee also recommended restricting tier 2 to a narrow range of professions and limiting working rights for dependents who accompany the visa holder.