Government urged to reduce migrant salary threshold

The report comes at a time when many farm businesses face ongoing labour shortages
The report comes at a time when many farm businesses face ongoing labour shortages

A committee has urged the government to reduce the salary threshold for migrants by more than £4,000.

Currently, skilled non-EU migrants are required to have a job offer with a minimum salary of £30,000.

But the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) new report calls for the expansion of eligibility to include medium-skilled occupations.

It has advised the government to reduce the salary threshold for immigrants from £30,000 to £25,600.

The MAC also calls for a review of the shortage occupation list (SOL) - an official list of jobs for which there are not enough resident workers to fill vacancies - once the new system is in place.

Responding, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said the recommendations are a 'positive step' in recognising that industry requires a balance of skilled and unskilled migrant workers.

But the rural group said the report does not go far enough in 'securing the needs' of the rural economy.

It added that if the report’s recommendation to not support lower salary thresholds on the SOL is accepted, it will be 'vital' for government to put forward recommendations on how to meet labour shortages from the domestic supply of workers.

It comes as many farmers and rural firms face ongoing labour shortages, threatening to damage businesses and limit economic growth.

CLA President Mark Bridgeman said: “It is government’s job to ensure rural businesses have access to the workers they need to operate.

“Furthermore, a new immigration system must move away from a definition of skills based solely on qualifications to a more flexible definition, including skills that are not necessarily quantified with a certificate.”

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said the minimum salary threshold is a 'step in the right direction'.

Tim Rycroft, Chief Operating Officer of FDF said: “Nevertheless, we would urge government to consider going further by adopting the ‘going-rate’ system outlined in the previous Home Secretary’s letter to the MAC.”

This system would also allow employers the ability to recruit the talent they need at all skill levels.

The trade body also called for a new immigration system that is 'accessible' for food and drink firms who will be recruiting via an immigration system for the first time.

EU nationals currently make up a quarter of the food and drink industry's 430,000 person workforce, and a survey of FDF members showed that 95% employed EU nationals without the need for visas

“Many of these will be small or medium sized businesses who are unable to afford expensive legal fees and the new system must be streamlined to reflect this,” Mr Rycroft said.