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Immigration Immigration

Ensure immigration helps sectors with skills shortages

Last updated: 10:18pm 3 December 2019

…we must also address the immediate needs of those sectors of the economy suffering shortages in skills. We will make the immigration system work for these sectors, whilst ensuring that we develop the skills we need for the future.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.20

Our verdict

There are a number of sectors in the economy currently suffering from skills shortages, such as technology and healthcare. Skilled immigration is one way for the government to help those sectors. This policy is a pledge to make the immigration system work for sectors with skills shortages.

In November 2017, the government announced it was doubling the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa route from 1,000 applications a year to 2,000 to address skills shortages in the technology industry. Furthermore, the government announced a £61 million investment into technology research and education, in line with their promise to ensure “we develop the skills we need for the future”.

The NHS has a range of staff shortages, a problem made worse after the Brexit referendum in 2016, as many European workers left NHS roles. NHS Digital statistics showed that in the third quarter of 2018 across the NHS “there were 93,964 advertised vacancy full-time equivalents in England”.

The latest review of skills shortages was published by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on the Shortages of Occupation List. The government adopted the MAC recommendation to put all medical practitioners on the list of shortages, making Tier 2 immigration easier. However, any progress resulting from this is yet to be seen.

It is also worth noting recent proposed changes:

  • December 2018 saw the publication of the Immigration White Paper, detailing plans for a future Australian-style points-based immigration system, with an eye to addressing skills shortages.
  • September 2019 saw Home Secretary Priti Patel commission a review by the MAC into how that system could be introduced.

These developments indicate possible progress towards keeping the manifesto promise. However, changes made under the current immigration system are yet to impact on skills shortages, and proposals for immigration reform are at a preliminary stage. This policy is ‘in progress’.

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