The salary threshold for skilled migrants coming to work in the UK should be dropped from £30,000 to £25,600 after Brexit, says a report published today (28 January 2020).
Skilled migrants from outside the EU currently need to have a job offer with a salary of £30,000 or more.
After Brexit and the end of the transition period in December 2020, this should fall to £25,600, recommends the Migration Advisory Committee’s report, which was commissioned by the UK Government.
Professor Alan Manning, chair of the committee, said the recommendation would lead to a “more open” system for non-EU applicants but also a “more restrictive” system for EU migrants.
Much of the low-skilled migration from eastern and central European countries that joined the EU in 2004 was the kind that would no longer be eligible, he told a press conference in London.
Businesses fear staffing crisis
A large number of UK business groups wrote to the Government last week arguing for a much lower minimum salary of £20,000.
Some firms fear staff shortages particularly in low-skilled jobs as EU free movement comes to an end, with EU nationals set to face the same entry criteria as non-EU migrants.
The report said most employers surveyed were opposed to salary thresholds, as they could: “add to costs and make running businesses harder.”
But the committee backed the salary rules in spite of recent Government briefings suggesting they may be scrapped altogether, and said the UK should maintain even higher thresholds for better-paid occupations.
The report recommended that London should not have a higher threshold and there should be no regional variation.
A flexible immigration system
Responding to the MAC report, Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:
“The recommendation to lower the proposed minimum salary threshold to £25,600 is a welcome, pro-business proposal, which would widen the scope for employing those beyond highly-paid professions.”
“It is vital that the workers and skills needed for the UK’s economy to grow are not locked out by a future immigration system which is unresponsive to business needs.”
One in five small employers in the UK have at least one staff member from the EU, said the FSB. Four-in-five small employers that hire staff into jobs classed as mid-skilled do so into roles with salaries of less than £30,000. This includes positions in sectors such as engineering and IT.
However, Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the Confederation of British Industry, said that it remains unclear how firms can hire for mid-skilled roles such as LGV drivers, joiners and lab technicians who don’t meet the £25,600 test.
He said: “Flexibility will be needed to build a system that lets wages rise where there are shortages while helping businesses to access the skills and labour needed to grow all parts of the UK.”