What you missed: Latest in the UK Migration
Number of non-EU Workers surpasses that of EU Workers
Modern immigration started in the UK after the end of World War II. The British Nationality Act, enacted in 1948, allowed the existing subjects of Europe and the Commonwealth States to live and work in the UK without a visa; migration was initially sought only to fill the gaps in labour shortages and facilitation of mass migration was never intended. Migration was generally motivated by economic prospects and rose from 3,000 persons per year in 1953 to 136,400 persons per year in 1961. A Cabinet committee was formed in 1950 to find ways to check immigration.
According to a report published by the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory, the number of non-EU workers has spiked up recently, overtaking that of EU workers for the first time since 2006. Earlier, EU migrant workers numbered two-thirds of the total UK migrant worker population.
The introduction of UK’s points-based immigration system shall significantly affect the figures for the next year, remarks Jennifer Lambe, founder Lambe & Co.
The current immigration system setup has mandated the filling of, generally, only high-skilled roles by non-EU workers, as compared to any kind of role for EU nationals as the latter have benefitted by free movement. This is all set to change next year when the new immigration systems shall require EU nationals looking to work in skilled roles to have a valid work visa. Skilled workers received the largest percentage of issued work visas last year, out of which 63,000 were issued to non-EU citizens.
Majority of the skilled sponsored workers to have been issued visas in the first three quarters of 2019 belonged to the IT and the healthcare and social welfare sectors. Nearly all the increase in Tier 2 workers between 2015 and Q3 2019 is accounted for by the healthcare industry. Non-EU workers were also amongst those who represented the key workforce in healthcare and social welfare sectors; in fact they’re actually over-represented in these fields.
Employers are also advised to prepare for the new immigration system now if they intend to continue employing staff from overseas next year. Many organizations have already started preparing for the same. Much controversy has been caused by the supposed future unfulfillment of the post-Brexit skills threshold by lower skilled roles, which have generally been critical during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Indian nationals have received the highest proportion of the work visas issues, whereas Chinese nationals have received the largest number of Tier 1 visas, which is issued to investors, entrepreneurs and leaders.
Migrant Workers will play a critical role in the UK’s economic rebirth
The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination Bill 2020, which had caused some controversy, received its second reading in Parliament in May. It was approved by MPs and will now undergo further scrutiny before being made a law.
The Government has lauded the Bill, calling it an important milestone in paving the way for a new immigration system to benefit the UK for years to come. However, there are many critics of Government’s assessment who argue that issuing unlimited visas for high-skilled jobs will lead to personnel shortages in key areas such as caring and social welfare. They also argue that the world dynamics have changed dramatically since the drafting of the law because of the global Covid-19 situation, thus rendering redundant the parameters were responsible for drafting it in the first place.
Considerable restrictions are still exercised globally on international travel and more-or-less the situation shall remain the same. Owing to this, ad hoc visa extensions have been announced by the government for migrant workers unable to leave the UK. Similar facilitations have also been made for migrant healthcare workers so that they continue assisting in keeping off the pandemic at bay. The new immigration scheme shall replace the earlier free movement of EU citizens into the UK by a pointer system applicable to everyone coming from overseas to live and work in the country.
As the UK economy slowly brings itself back to life post-lockdown, there is unanimous consensus on the fact that migrants will play a vital role in the rebuilding process, especially in the healthcare and hospitality sector. This was especially true in the post-WW II era when the administration brought in thousands from Europe, Ireland and the Commonwealth as a possible way to cope up with the demand for workers. Once settled, they worked in construction, healthcare, public sector and many even went on to set up their own successful businesses. They worked hard, contributed to society and paid taxes like everyone else.
The migrant workers coming to the UK immigrate looking for better lives, and in turn contribute a lot to the country. Most of the migrants come from poor, working-class families and because of limited opportunities owing to their class, education or location. A lot of the immigrants undertake huge physical and financial risks to get to the UK. They come in search of improved lives, and in improving them they work hard, earn and spend the money within the system and thus benefit the economy.
It is a myth that migrants come to the UK and start living off on benefits. Only a tiny number accedes to that notion. Migrants have a burning desire to succeed and to climb financial ladder once they hit the country’s shores.
Business planning to capitalise this migrant effect to their benefit and employ migrant workers should start planning now and ensure smooth transition through to the new law.
Employers must be listed on a Home Office list of approved sponsors to sponsors migrant workers. Licence applications can be made through the Home Office website. Once the application has been filed, UK Visa and Immigration officials may visit the sponsor premises to check and verify licence requirements and ensure that appropriate systems have been put in place for worker management. Even though the process is complex, considerable long-term benefits of using migrant skilled workers are well-established.
PM Boris Johnson scraps Immigration Health Surcharge for Overseas Workers
PM Boris Johnson has asked the Home Office and Overseas Department for Health to exempt the NHS workers of the Immigration Health surcharge. As it happens, Many Conservative MPs were also not in favour of the surcharge and wanted the government to fully review it. They said that the tax reminded them of the under-appreciation for the efforts of the overseas workers in constantly uplifting the UK economy. The health immigration surcharge was £400 per year on non-EU migrants and all set to rise to £624 by October.
PM Boris Johnson had asked the Covid-19 briefing health secretary Matt Hancock to remove the surcharge as soon as possible. The Prime Minister had himself benefitted from the work of NHS overseas staff while he had the Covid-19, and later made the decision to remove the surcharge. Initially, IHS exemption did not include care workers and, according to Johnson, the country couldn’t afford to scrap the surcharge, given the critical economic conditions.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked the PM, “Does the Prime Minister think it’s right that overseas care workers coming and working on our frontline should have to pay a surcharge of hundreds – sometimes thousands – of pounds to use the NHS themselves?”
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab had also indicated earlier that there were no plans to extend the exemption from the charge to care workers, which later prompted the Royal College of Nursing to write to Home Secretary Priti Patel to ask that the charge be waived as a matter of urgency. Dame Donna Kinnair of RCN said, “We have already received devastating accounts from members who are struggling to pay the charge, and the impact that it is having on their families’ lives. This charge undermines the dedicated care overseas healthcare staff provide us all.”
Later, the GMB union had called for a £600m emergency social care funding to be used for Covid-19 sick pay for care workers. NHS Frontline workers have been offered their full pay given they are sick with the Coronavirus, but this has not been extended to care staff.
The union has been appealing to the government to pay full, sick pay to all social care workers who have abided by government advice by self-isolating themselves.
Rachel Harrison of GMB said, “Social care workers, amongst our key worker heroes, have het again been consistently failed by the government with regards to pay, PPE and testing. In case they get the virus, most social care workers are faced with an impossible choice – either stay home on poverty sick pay which means they can’t pay the rent or put food on the table; or go out to work and put your colleagues, neighbours and residents in danger. It’s a nightmare. Paying sick pay to the carers which they can survive on is by far the best way of controlling infection in our care homes.”