The MAC Report and why net migration target is a political aim

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
30 September 2018

On 18th September 2018 the Immigration Advisory Committee published a report in anticipation of Brexit. The key recommendations in the report, in regard to UK work visa routes, were as follows:

  • Abolish free movement and have no preference between EU and non-EU migrants
  • Provide no route for the so-called lower skilled workers, namely those in jobs below RQF Level 3 to enter the UK. The only possible exception to this would be a seasonal worker route for agricultural workers
  • Make changes to the Tier 2 General system (replaced by the skilled worker visa) to expand it to include jobs at RQF levels 3, 4 and 5 which includes most of the health and care worker visa routes, teachers and agricultural managers and workers, but to retain the £30,000 minimum salary threshold, which is currently set for jobs at RQF level 6 for all of the above jobs.
  • Remove the overall cap on numbers sponsored through Tier 2
  • Abolish the resident labour market test under which employers must advertise the proposed role which the migrant worker would fill. Alternatively, if the resident labour market test is retained, reduce the salary threshold for exemption from this process from £159,500 to £50,000.
  • Retain the immigration skills charge of £1,000 per migrant worker from medium and large sized businesses and £364 for smaller charitable companies.

I think that this report presents some difficulties to the future of the UK economy. If we close all lower skilled routes from the EU, then what will happen to all these positions? Will the employers be able to meet their hiring needs post Brexit? The only possible exemption which the MAC put forward is a seasonal agricultural work scheme. This is because they acknowledge that the gap cannot realistically be filled by domestic workers. However, a similar shortage problem exists in the care sector, since home care workers and support workers in nursing homes are on the low skilled list. With an ageing population this shortage will result in desperate needs not being met.

The MAC Report suggests that existing residents and those who arrive on family business will be able to take up the burden caused by the no lower skilled migration route. They even suggest expansion of the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme visa system) even though this route is not sector specific. If the Government seeks to use the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa to deal with sector specific shortages, all they will be doing is opening up a new gateway by which anyone between the age of 18-30 can enter. In other words, replacing the free movement of one type with the free movement of another type.

With regard to the Tier 2 catch-all solution, the sponsor licence scheme is already complex and if now, Tier 2 were to be used for workers from all over the world, in hundreds of roles, and that will become the main immigration route to which EEA workers will apply, it means that there will be an increase in the number of applications without reducing the administrative burden on the Home Office. It is unlikely that the Home Office will increase the number of staff and funding to meet the proposal of the report.

The salary threshold of Tier 2 would mean that Tier 2 would be incapable of responding to shortages in primary and secondary teaching and nursing at the junior end. We all know only too well that teachers and nurse’s pay doesn’t always reflect their contribution to society!

The report is silent about the ability of employers to engage EA nationals or self-employed temporary or agency worker basis which has the potential to restrict the availability of EA nationals to companies and UK businesses.

Time and again we see that the net migration target is a political target not an economic target. Currently companies are experiencing time delays, administration barriers, rising costs with existing immigration system for bringing in non-EU workers. The future has in store more complexity, delays, and rising costs.