Shortage occupation list should be abolished says Government report

Immigration rules which govern the hiring of foreign workers to plug gaps in the UK labour market should be abolished or heavily reformed, according to a Government-commissioned report.

In a major review, the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said there are “diminishing benefits” to the so-called shortage occupation list (SOL), which is used to allocate skilled work visas.

The list is designed to help migrants fill vacant jobs, allowing them to pay lower visa fees and allowing their employers to pay them 80% of the job’s usual rate.

The MAC has previously said that this discount should be scrapped, arguing that going rates help prevent the undercutting of resident workers and the exploitation of migrants.

If ministers accepted this recommendation, the committee said, it would mean most of the roles currently on the list are no longer eligible as they would only receive a “negligible benefit” by being included.

The change would leave mostly low-wage occupations eligible for the list, which the committee said raised “several concerns”.

Low-paid roles are more likely to see migrants exploited and will more likely lead to a net fiscal cost for the UK, meaning some of the burden could fall to the taxpayer, the MAC said.

The committee said it was not convinced the list provides a “sensible immigration solution” to labour shortages and recommended the Government abolish it.

Instead, the MAC suggested it could be commissioned to carry out standalone reviews of the role of immigration in certain sectors, such as manufacturing or hospitality.

The committee did recommend eight occupations for the 2023 UK-wide list – including care workers, lab technicians, bricklayers, roofers and animal care services – but said “going forward” the scheme should be scrapped.

For the Scotland-only list, it suggested fishing and forestry managers and boat and ship builders be included.

Committee chairman Professor Brian Bell said: “Our review recommends a total of 10 occupations be placed on the shortage occupation list. Going forward, however, we think that the Government should work to abolish the SOL.

“The SOL has always played a relatively minor role in immigration policy, but recent changes to the immigration system have diminished that role further.

“We are not convinced that the SOL is an effective tool to address labour shortages across different occupations and sectors.

“We think a broader approach that focuses on all aspects of the labour market for a particular sector, of which immigration may be part, would be more beneficial.”

The Government has been contacted for comment.

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