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New migration caps for skilled workers criticised

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The Law Society and NHS employers have warned that harsher immigration caps could damage recruitment and the UK economy.

This week the Migration Advisory Committee — a non-departmental public body sponsored by the UK Boarder Agency that advises the government on migration policy — recommended a 13-25% reduction of visas for Tier1 and 2 non-EU immigrant workers.

Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson warned of potential damage to the UK economy, saying: "The MAC report acknowledges that non-EU highly-skilled migrants do not have an adverse impact on our labour market - they are in fact helping our economy."

"The long-term implications of restricting skilled migration will be that legal work will move offshore and the UK's competitiveness will be compromised.

Karen Charman, head of employment services at NHS Employers, echoed fears over recruitment, saying: "At the very least, exemptions must be provided for any trusts whose ability to maintain quality patient care relies on a number of migrant workers who could not be recruited within the cap."

The UK Boarder Agency classifies Tier 1 workers as "highly skilled people" coming to the UK "to look for work or self-employment opportunities". Tier 2 are described as people "with a skilled job offer to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker" and also includes religious ministers, sportspeople and intra-company transfers.

The committee’s chair, David Metcalf, said: "It is not possible to reduce net migration to the tens of thousand by limiting work-related migration alone.

"The Committee assumes that work-related migration takes 20 per cent of the total cut - its fair share - which implies that family and student migration must take the other 80 per cent".

Reaction from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development was, however, positive.

Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the institute, congratulated the committee’s report, saying: "The MAC is also right to conclude that visas issued to skilled and highly skilled migrants should be reduced by up to 25%.

"Although this will not be welcomed by some employers, the limits the MAC proposes to ministers show that a more selective approach to controlling skilled migration within the Points Based System will both enable most organisations to meet their skills needs and support the broader policy drive to improve the skills of the home grown workforce."

The committee also recommended that the government favours Tier 2 over Tier 1 workers to "reduce the limits on business" and raises the earnings and qualifications thresholds for both tiers.