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Call for raised qualification requirements for immigrant workers from outside the EU

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Tighter restrictions on workers entering the UK from countries outside the European Union are to be implemented to help people in the UK find jobs as unemployment increases.

The Migration Advisory Committee has recommended the number of skilled migrants allowed to enter the UK to work should be cut by 10%, but concluded they are still valuable to the economy.

Earlier this year, the Government suggested increasing the level of education and previous earnings required by migrant workers, and the Migration Advisory Committee approved these changes, to prevent employers taking on cheaper international employees.

The new points-based system, which came into effect on 1 April, means workers coming to the UK from outside the European Union must have a previous salary of £20,000 and a Masters degree, and employers must advertise all vacancies in Jobcentre Plus if they intend to bring in staff from outside Europe.

If the Government accepts the Committee's recommendations, these thresholds will be raised for non-EU workers entering under tier two of the points-based system.

David Metcalf, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee, said: "We are conscious the global economic downturn has resulted in turmoil in the British labour market. The Migration Advisory Committee believes ideally the points-based system should act as an automatic stabiliser and not be constantly adjusted in response to the economic cycle. Therefore our recommendations are designed to further strengthen the points-based system as an automatic stabiliser. They are not an automatic knee-jerk reaction to the recession."

But the TUC's general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: "Unions and working people will welcome the emphasis on preventing unscrupulous employers from abusing the points-based immigration system.

"But the Government must resist the temptation to pull up the drawbridge on foreign workers who can contribute hugely to public services, to the economy and to our society as a whole.

"And we must all be careful not to bolster the myths about immigration which fuel racism and cause division."