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Occupation shortage list should be revised to restrict immigration, committee says

Immigration by workers from outside the European Economic Area should be restricted to a smaller number of occupations, a Home Office committee has said.14 Sep 2011

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which advises the government on migration issues, has recommended in a report (252-page / 1.7MB PDF) that the number of occupations on the Shortage Occupation List should be reduced to restrict the positions open to non-European workers seeking entry to the UK.

The roles on the Shortage Occupation List are the only ones open to migrants from outside the EEA under the shortage occupation route of the points based immigration system. Highly skilled migrants seeking to work in the UK must apply for a visa via this route, which is subject to an annual limit of 20,700 workers.

The points based immigration system was introduced in 2008 to replace the existing work permit system. Under the points based system, migrants from outside the EEA must be able to demonstrate that they possess certain attributes before they can get permission to enter or remain in the UK.

Points are awarded for various attributes under each category or 'tier' which can include age, prospective earnings, qualifications and English language ability.

The Shortage Occupation List should be reduced to cover 190,000 workers, or well under the one per cent of the UK workforce, MAC said. Before changes were introduced in 2007 the list covered positions held by over one million employees.

The new list targets individual job titles in sectors where there are labour shortages rather than occupations. The 33 recommended additions include consultants in emergency medicine, actuaries, environmental scientists and high integrity pipe welders.

MAC recommends that 29 job titles including secondary school biology teachers, veterinary surgeons and tutti orchestral musicians be removed from the list.

Professor David Metcalf, chairman of MAC, said in a statement that the committee's recommendations would have little impact on overall immigration due to the cap on migrants. The list was, however, more selective than previous versions he said.

"[The list] is targeted specifically on those job titles where there is currently a clear evidence of shortage. We think it is vital that the government, employers and the training sector take concerted action to raise the skill levels of the UK workforce, especially in long-standing shortage occupation areas. This will reduce the UK's reliance on migrant workers in the long term and provide real benefits for the economy as a whole," he said.

The government will consider the recommendations and respond in due course, it said.

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