Shortage occupation list 2020: call for evidence - our response

Our response to the UK Migration Advisory Committee call for evidence on the shortage occupation list.


498. Brexit has already had a damaging impact on our economy, the main impact of which has not been felt as we are operating under transitional arrangements and our producers, consumers and citizens continue to benefit from full membership of the EU single market, and freedom of movement.

499. The UK Government's proposed future immigration system, with the ending of freedom of movement and no general route for "lower-skilled" migrants - or temporary migration - (traditionally coming from the EU via freedom of movement of persons) and employed in sectors such as tourism and hospitality, social care, construction, agriculture and fisheries, and many others. The UK Government have also confirmed they will not consider regional variation of salary thresholds.

500. The Scottish Government has always disagreed with the UK Government's label of so-called "low-skilled" migrants, arguing that an immigration system should not signify skill-level by salary levels alone, and that these individuals form an essential part of our economy and society. The Scottish Government also strongly believe that freedom of movement should continue. Without freedom of movement, the future system should be as close to replicating it as possible.

501. The valuable role such migrants play in our society has been highlighted by the current COVID-19 crisis. The UK Government announced their list of 'key workers' - those whose jobs considered vital to keep the country and economy afloat - and who are celebrated in media and other channels. This is listed below and includes food processors and supermarket workers, delivery drivers, nurses and care workers.

502. With the exception of NHS and "higher-skilled" health workers, none of these roles would be eligible for a visa from 1 January 2021.

503. By their own admission the UK Government has no plans to revise or change their plans, despite the reliance on these individuals as highlighted by the current situation.

504. The Scottish Government call upon the UK Government to reconsider their plans for a future immigration system and consider the value migrants play not just to the economy but to society, particularly in the light of the current crisis. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the fundamental flaws in the proposed UK immigration system; a lack of a pathway for what the UK Government term 'low-skilled' workers, who have been redefined in recent weeks as 'key workers', and for whom demand for labour will continue.

505. We welcome the MAC's consideration of roles at a lower skill level (RQF 3-5). However, this does not go far enough: without a general route for workers unfairly characterised as "lower-skilled", Scotland faces significant demographic and economic challenges.

506. Considering the skill level of key workers similarly shows how the future system will create shortages in these sectors. While 70.9% of the employed population overall have A-level/Higher-level qualifications or above in Scotland
(RQF 3), only 48.5% of the food and necessary goods workforce do. These roles therefore fall below RQF 3 and would not be eligible for inclusion on the SOL.

507. The timescales for the end of the transition period and implementation of an entirely new points-based immigration system always presented a huge challenge for the Home Office, which was also responding to the recommendations of the Windrush enquiry and implementing the EU Settlement Scheme. Given the current context and widespread economic shut down, it will be nigh on impossible for the UK and economy to recover rapidly from the COVID-19 crisis whilst simultaneously preparing for, or reacting to, the end of our membership of the EU and freedom of movement.

508. The Home Office has acknowledged this but has signalled no intention to review the timescale, despite the huge amount of work that would be needed between now and the end of 2020.

509. For example, this commission to the MAC to consult employers on a new SOL and make recommendations by the autumn, seems extremely challenging at a time when companies are fully focussed on coping with the impact of COVID-19 and when it is highly unlikely that they will know with any certainty their international staffing needs for 2021.

510. It is essential that this consultation is extended to allow employers and businesses adequate time to respond and engage with their own data. There will be particular businesses and sectors, worst hit by the crisis, who will be unable to respond at all and it is crucial that the needs of these sectors are not overlooked. The MAC must supplement this consultation process with a proactive, full, and most importantly not onerous engagement process with key sectors and employers.

511. Whatever the outcome of this consultation process we would like the process for reviewing the SOL to ensure there is a formal role for the Scottish Government and Scottish Ministers in commissioning and determining the occupations that are in shortage in Scotland. The process for revising and reviewing the SOL must become more agile and responsive to the shifting needs, particularly given the current context and uncertainty regarding businesses and the economy and must reduce the level of demand it places upon employers.



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