In its most recent review of Tier 2, the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was given the task of formulating a set of proposals to “restrict inflows under the route”. This review stems in part from the government’s intention to improve the training of settled British workers. Both these goals were made in light of the need to balance migrant selectivity and invest in employable skills, both of which impact on the productivity and competitiveness of the UK labour market.
One key area discussed was salary thresholds. From previous research, it was discovered that migrant workers are generally paid more than settled workers in a similar position. This was held to be an insightful finding by demonstrating that settled workers should seek to acquire or develop the “scarce” skills possessed by migrants, which in turn are an asset to the UK labour market. By contrast, migrant workers with occupations in the public sector were paid substantially less than settled workers with a similar job. The MAC concluded that if the government wishes to reduce Tier 2 migration, raising the cost of recruiting migrant workers should do the trick. Whether or not this would, in practice, deter employers from seeking migrant workers is hard to tell, given current employers’ readiness to recruit nationals from outside the EEA for skill-specific roles.
A further area that I found most interesting was the fact that the MAC believes that there is little rationale for exempting in-country leave to remain applications from the resident labour market test. It argues that as long as there is a limit on Tier 2 (General) entry clearance applications, there should be a limit on the extension of those visas to ensure that highly paid out-of-country applicants are not being turned away whilst lower-paid in-country applicants continue to be employed.
Whilst the MAC proposed other recommendations for the government to consider, the overall aim of its review was to balance restrictions on Tier 2 applications against their potential impact on existing UK national workers. Ultimately, it seems as if the government believes that to reduce net migration, stricter restrictions – such as higher salary thresholds and an immigration charge – should be placed on Tier 2 applications to ensure that only those with a selective or particular skill-set are employed by companies in the UK. It will be interesting to see which of the MAC’s recommendations are taken on board by the government, and the reasoning behind their doing so.