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Boris Johnson's plans for points-based immigration system 'will cut economic growth', say experts

Boris Johnson's plans for points-based immigration system 'will cut economic growth', say experts
3 min read

Boris Johnson's plans for an Australian-style points-based immigration system will cut economic growth, according to experts.

The Migration Advisory Committee predicted the shake-up would lead to "very small increases in GDP" per head, while slightly improving the state of the public finances.

The MAC also called for the salary threshold for skilled migrant workers coming to the UK to be slashed from £30,000 to £25,600.

Ministers asked the MAC to examine plans to introduce a new immigration system from 2021, when the UK will cease following the EU's rules on freedom of movement.

Mr Johnson made introducing a points-based system, and reducing overall immigration, key planks of the Conservatives' election manifesto.

But MAC chairman Alan Manning said that was a "soundbite" and raised concerns about rolling out the new system more widely.

He said: "Our recommendations are likely to reduce future growth of the UK population and economy compared to freedom of movement, by using skill and salary thresholds.

“We estimate very small increases in GDP per capita and productivity, slightly improved public finances, slightly reduced pressures on the NHS, schools and on social housing, through slightly increased pressure on social care.

“No perfect system exists and there are unavoidable, difficult trade-offs.

“The largest impacts will be in low-wage sectors and the government needs to be clear about its plans for lower-skilled work migration.

“The government should ensure that the mistakes of previous UK points-based systems are not repeated.”

The shake-up is aimed to allow easier recruitment into the NHS and schools from skilled migrants with a lower pay threshold, while also continuing the need for overseas workers to require a job offer before entering the country.

The report said the expansion of “medium-skill” jobs meant the salary threshold should be dropped by £4,400 lower to be in line with current pay.

And for migrant applicants under the age of 26, the threshold should be £17,920.

Professor Manning said: “This means that most employers will be able to hire migrants at wages which many existing workers in those occupations are currently being paid. 

“For most eligible occupations in the NHS and schools, we recommend the use of the national pay scales as the relevant salary thresholds ensuring they can hire migrants.”

Ahead of the report, Mr Johnson unveiled plans on Monday to introduce a ‘Global Talent’ visa to replace the Tier 1 scheme, but the PM said there would be no limit on the number of people who could come to the UK under it.

Responding to MAC’s salary threshold advice, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: “The government is tying itself in knots, with the Prime Minister saying there won’t be a salary threshold and the Home Secretary saying there will. 

“Even a lower salary cap won’t help recruit the hospital staff we need, the social care workers or many of the new recruits to private businesses.

“We need a system based on treating people and their families decently who come here with firm job offers, whatever their pay level.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "We're grateful to the MAC for its report. The Government will introduce a firmer and fairer points-based immigration system from 2021 which welcomes talent from around the world while reducing low-skilled migrants and bringing overall numbers down.

"We will carefully consider the report before setting out further details on the new system."

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