The New Immigration Bill – A Seed of Adversity

Square

The Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, introduced to Parliament in March 2020, brings with it an array of complications and elevates disparities between different groups as it aims to end the freedom of movement. The law as of January, 2021, will mean EU citizens are subject to the same immigration regulations as the rest of the world, a promise which was a driving force in the Brexit vote. A points-based system similar to Australia is being implemented, which requires migrants to meet specific criteria to qualify for a work visa. [1] This includes being classified as ‘highly skilled’, having certain qualifications (with extra points for PHD holders), having the ability to speak English and having a firm job offer with a salary of more than £25,600- and all of these should account to a total of 70 points. In early 2020, when the Bill was being passed, Britain was said to be at almost full employment and worries stemmed on the basis of great economic loss under the new Bill’s likely repercussions of a shortage of labour. 

The well-meaning change in legislation and stringency of visas supplied to prospective migrants is likely to have unintended consequences and detrimental effects on ‘low-skilled’ workers, women and BAME groups.  

An initial problem comes with the subjectivity of the label high vs low skilled work and which professions are best described by each term. Apart from being offensive, a major issue is the trivialisation of certain labour which could prove damaging to the UK – such as care workers. [2] While the effects will be low on doctors who are highly skilled, other healthcare professionals like porters could be severely held back, despite the importance of immigration to the NHS as 13% of the workforce are foreign nationals. Almost 1 in 10 doctors are from the EU and nursing roles are present within the shortage-occupation list so there would be somewhat greater ease of gaining the 70 points that are required. However, this should be put into the context of the vacancies in the NHS, as 1 in 12 jobs are left unoccupied in England, and training is time consuming, and so a steady supply of doctors and nurses are needed from abroad at present. In addition to this, the social care sector where salaries are comparatively lower (on average under £20000), the Bill has adverse effects. ⅙ of care workers are migrants in England and the help they provide to the elderly/ disabled individuals is essential. Applicants from abroad will now fall short of the required points and the issue is amplified as the role is not present in the shortage-occupation list, despite 1 in 11 posts being unoccupied. 

Other essential industries such as agriculture and construction have deep concerns over the impact of strict immigration laws. According to the British Poultry Council, 60% of its 23000 workers are EU nationals and the new rules “completely disregard British food production and will damage national food security”. This will be accounted for by quadrupling the seasonal-workers scheme this year, although its effectiveness is debatable. In construction, migrants account for 10% of the workforce – 8% from the EU and 2% from the rest of the world. With the coronavirus pandemic and a promised fiscal package, there will be high demand for construction workers in roles that are not highly paid and Britons do not (statistically) usually take up. 

A major reason for implementing these new rules is the poor productivity growth in the UK which some believe comes down to firms employing cheap foreign labour rather than investing in technology. There is also the view that manual labour is poorly paid because of the flow of labour from the EU. While investment is important it is relies on the labour provided by foreign nationals and this leads to a rise in the wrongful and fundamentally xenophobic idea that immigrants ‘take our jobs’. Contrary to this belief, immigrants create jobs due to increased domestic demand and encourage further investment. They stimulate the economy rather than restrict growth. 70% of European Union workers currently in Britain would not have met the new requirements, and therefore the overall number of immigrants will probably fall short in the future. Furthermore, in an attempt to stimulate the economy the opposite could happen as suggested by [3] a 2019 report from The Entrepreneurs Network Think Tank which shows, ‘49% of British fastest-growing startups have immigrant co-founders and 42% of these are EU-born. Nine of the UK’s 14 unicorn – startups worth more than $1bn (£770 million) – have at least one foreign-born co-founder.’

Social justice will be impacted as described by Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, who said Britain’s government had ignored warnings that such a system would “disadvantage women because of the global gender pay gap.” This will mean fewer women have access to England for work visas and instills greater gender inequality in a country where there has been little to no progress in the pay gap in 20 years. 

[4] A disproportionate number of black people will be impacted as shown by the Windrush scandal, when British citizens’ parents who were a part of the Windrush generation in Jamaica were denied free healthcare, kept in detention centres and deported in 2016. The detention regime’s discriminatory impact on BAME groups is displayed by the statistic which states that a third of the deaths within centres are from those ethnic backgrounds.

While the future is uncertain, the foreseeable effects of the new Bill seem bleak in terms of economic growth, especially at a time when ‘wars’ are being waged to achieve social equality.


References

[1] U.K.’s New Immigration Rules Will Restrict Low-Skilled Workers- Stephen Castle- Feb 2020- https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/19/world/europe/uk-immigration-low-skilled-workers.html

[2] Immigration: Eight ways new laws will affect industry- Feb 2020- https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-51560370

[3] The UK’s points-based immigration system will scare off tech founders- Alex Lee- Feb 2020- https://www.wired.co.uk/article/uk-points-based-immigration

[4] Government’s ‘cruel’ immigration laws ‘disproportionately impacting Britain’s black community’- https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/governments-cruel-immigration-laws-disproportionately-impacting-britain-black-community

Author

Leave a Comment