Home secretary Sajid Javid has asked the government’s Migration Advisory Committee to look again at the case for regional earnings thresholds for UK work visas and at the potential for offering visas for “high public value” jobs that pay less than £30,000 a year.
The £30,000 year figure was contained in December’s immigration white paper, setting out proposals for skilled worker immigration post-Brexit. But Javid’s latest commission seeks further thoughts from the committee on how the future immigration system can best supply the UK’s workforce needs when free movement of labour for EU nationals ends.
In a letter to MAC chair Alan Manning, Javid asks the committee to reconsider its advice last year – which underpinned the £30,000-a-year salary threshold for skilled labour that applies to non-EU citizens. The government is currently consulting with industry on the level of the salary bar “before determining where precisely the thresholds should be set", Javid said.
An annexe to Javid’s letter noted that while the government remained committed to minimum salary thresholds for skilled workers keen to move to the UK, and that the MAC had previously decided against regional thresholds, more work was required on both issues.
“The government accepts that median salaries and local labour markets vary throughout the United Kingdom,” the brief says.
“The immigration system must serve the best interests of the whole of the United Kingdom and that coherence is needed to enable businesses to transfer migrant workers throughout all parts of the UK.
“The MAC should therefore consider whether the conclusions they reach in relation to levels of salary thresholds are applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom or whether there is a need for greater regional variation.”
On “high public value” jobs – a category which could include teachers, social workers and carers – Javid’s brief asks the MAC to consider what impact salary thresholds might have on sectors that are important to society and the economy but which might not necessarily pay high enough wages.
The MAC brief also asks the panel to report on the potential of “expanding the scope” for non-cash remuneration to count towards salary thresholds, “including equity shares and benefits in kind such as accommodation and transport”.
Javid said it was “vital” that the new immigration system that will be introduced post-Brexit allowed the nation to continue attracting talented workers.
“These proposals are the biggest change to our immigration system in a generation, so it’s right that we consider all of the evidence before finalising them,” he said.
“That’s why I’ve asked independent experts to review the evidence on salary thresholds. It’s crucial the new immigration system works in the best interests of the whole of the UK.”
MAC chair Manning said the committee would aim to report back to Javid in January, as requested.
Among the other areas on which the home secretary sought further work was on whether minimum salary thresholds or “going rates” for particular jobs should be used – or a combination of both.
Javid also asked the MAC to advise him on the impact salary thresholds would have on annual net migration, the resident workforce, and on migrant workers.
The new immigration system is currently scheduled to “start to take effect from 2021”, the Home Office said.