Reduction in minimum salary for migrant workers would still 'risk labour shortages'

A report from an independent expert group was examining the planned reduction in minimum salary in the UK government’s immigration plans.
An expert report has been released examining the impact of a lower minimum salary threshold for EU migrant workers in ScotlandAn expert report has been released examining the impact of a lower minimum salary threshold for EU migrant workers in Scotland
An expert report has been released examining the impact of a lower minimum salary threshold for EU migrant workers in Scotland

Remote and rural areas of Scotland could still face a shortage of workers after Brexit despite the UK Government’s plans to reduce the minimum salary requirement for migrant workers, an independent report has warned.

The Scottish Government’s migration minister, Ben Macpherson, warned the plans would be “deeply irresponsible and costly”, while care providers warned the plans would risk “shutting the door” to care workers from the EU.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In February, the UK Government announced changes to their plans for working visas for EU migrants post Brexit, lowering the salary threshold for a Tier 2 visa from £30,000 to £25,600.

Ben Macpherson, migration minister at the Scottish GovernmentBen Macpherson, migration minister at the Scottish Government
Ben Macpherson, migration minister at the Scottish Government

It also announced the introduction of a minimum level of English proficiency, lower thresholds for those with PhDs, and exceptions to the salary threshold if a job is deemed a “shortage occupation”.

In 2019, the Expert Advisory Group – made up of academics from across Scotland – reported the plans could lead to a 30 to 50 per cent drop in migration, and despite the changes announced in February, their new report repeats those warnings.

The report states an additional 10.7 per cent of full time jobs and 8.4 per cent of all jobs would be made available to migrants under the new proposals, but that more than two-thirds of jobs would still be unavailable to female migrants.

The report states: “Clearly, a large proportion of jobs in protective service, science research and engineering, media and management would be available to migrants. In contrast, very few jobs in agriculture, caring, office and customer related occupations would be eligible

“Nevertheless, the reduction in the salary threshold would allow migrants to be eligible for a small proportion of jobs in these sectors.

“Thus, for example, whereas under a £30,000 threshold no jobs in customer services, leisure and elementary occupations would be available to migrants, a small proportion of such jobs would qualify under the lower threshold.”

Chair of the independent group, Professor Christina Boswell from the University of Edinburgh, said the proposals risk “exacerbating problems of population decline in remote and rural areas of Scotland”, despite the lowering of the threshold opening up more jobs in rural areas.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She said: “While the lower salary threshold might lead to a moderate expansion of immigration through Tier 2, remoter and rural regions will still be more adversely affected after Brexit, because of the lower number of jobs available meeting the threshold.

“For example, while around 58% of jobs in East Renfrewshire would meet the new threshold, this figure is only 31% in Na h’Eileanan Siar.

“This risks exacerbating problems of population decline in remote and rural areas of Scotland, which are the areas most in need of in-migration.

“The proposals slightly narrow the gender gap we had noted in our 2019 report, but they still suggest that female migrants would only be able to access around 37% of available jobs (as opposed to c. 59% for men).”

Migration minister Ben Macpherson called on the UK Government to “pause and reconsider” the plans.

He said: “This independent report shows that UK immigration policy is still failing to address Scotland’s distinct demographic and economic needs.

“Sectors with key workers who we have all relied upon to support us through the pandemic will be hit particularly hard by the UK Government’s policies, including social care and food production.

With just over six months until freedom of movement with the EU ends, and as we face the biggest economic crisis in decades, we urge the UK Government to pause and reconsider their plans.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Ploughing on regardless would be deeply irresponsible and costly. It is time the UK Government fully consulted with the devolved administrations and industry bodies, and tailored their approach to develop a system which recognises and meets the distinct needs of all four nations.”

Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, said the lowered salary threshold “fails to recognise” the low salaries of the vast majority of social care workers in Scotland.

He said: “There have been few individuals who have more dedicated their lives to the fight against COVID-19 than those working in frontline social care roles across Scotland. We know that a significant number of these women and men come from the European Economic Area.

“This independent report shows that the proposed UK immigration policy risks shutting the door on the ability of social care providers to recruit talented, skilled and dedicated workers from Europe and elsewhere.

“I urge the UK Government to give serious consideration to the reform of their proposals, to appreciate the distinctive needs of Scottish social care providers and to prevent the damaging consequences which will inevitably ensue were this policy to be implemented.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. Visit now to sign up.

By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.