26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Minister puts brakes on workforce review

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The United Kingdom Home Office has delayed a planned review of shortages in the workforce after net migration reached its highest level on record.

The Home Office originally commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to carry out fresh research into the Shortage Occupation List.

The list, which forms a key part of the Government’s post-Brexit immigration system, sets out the jobs deemed by Ministers to face a short supply of workers in the domestic labour market, making it easier for employers to recruit people from abroad.

The Government had been under growing pressure to commission a new report, with numerous sectors, including food, construction and tourism, experiencing severe labour shortages, driven by the pandemic and a post-Brexit fall in workers from the European Union.

The MAC last reviewed the list in 2020, when the then-Home Secretary, Priti Patel rejected most of its recommendations.

It was due to complete its work this year but the Home Office, now led by Suella Braverman (pictured), asked the independent body to pause its work until further notice, casting doubt over its plan to complete a new review of the Shortage Occupation List in 2023.

The Government took the decision to pause the work after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its most recent estimates of net migration.

The ONS findings showed that net migration to the UK in the year leading up to June 2022 was the highest on record, driven by immigration from outside the EU and humanitarian schemes established for people fleeing Ukraine and Hong Kong.

Head of People Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, Jane Gratton said the current Shortage Occupation List was out of date and needed to be expanded to make it easier for companies to recruit workers from abroad.

“As the UK looks to shift to a high skilled, high wage economy, businesses will need time to adjust, and the immigration system has a key role to play,” Ms Gratton said.

Secretary for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride said while relaxing rules for foreign workers was a relatively quick and easy lever to pull, he did not believe this was the correct solution.

“The Government is instead focused on getting millions of jobless Brits into the workforce, in plans expected to be published in the form of a White Paper in the coming weeks,” Mr Stride said.

London, 17 February 2023

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