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UK’s migration advisory committee recommends abolition of shortage occupation list

MUMBAI: In its recent report, UK’s migration advisory committee – which is the government’s independent advisory on immigration policy, has recommended abolishing the shortage occupation list (SOL). The SOL is the official list of skilled jobs that have been assessed by the committee to be in shortage. UK employers who hire overseas workers to fill in such shortage occupations, benefit from a lower salary threshold, which is GBP 20,960 or the market rate for that role whichever is higher. When an occupation is on the SOL, visa application fees under the UK’s Skilled Worker routes are also reduced by 25-35%. Berry Appleman & Leiden, a global immigration law firm, in its communique states that in the last two reviews (in 2019 and 2020), the migration advisory committee had called for expansion of the SOL, but this time it has recommended its abolition. This recent review is the first since the COVID-19 pandemic and UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. The committee noted that, despite those two factors, the current number of foreign workers in the UK is the highest in history.? The UK saw net migration of 6,06,000 people in 2022, with 1.2 million people arriving in the country and about half that number leaving. The SOL system is one of the primary ways employers are filling jobs in sectors facing labor shortages. The migration advisory committee, however, said that employers should not be allowed to pay below the going rate, which protected resident workers from undercutting wages and reduced exploitation of migrants, adds Berry Appleman & Leiden. Fragomen, a global immigration law firm, adds that the migratory advisory committee has stated that in the event the UK government does not agree to abolish the SOL, it should abolish the benefits that allows employers to pay salaries that are below the market rate for occupations on the SOL and reduce the number of occupations currently on the SOL to only eight occupations in the UK. These occupations include: Lab technicians, pharmaceutical technicians, care workers and home carers, senior care workers, animal care services occupations and several occupations in the construction industry such as bricklayers and masons. “The migration advisory committee justified its recommendations by stating that allowing employers to pay salaries that are below the market rate undercuts local labour and creates the risk of exploitation of overseas workers. If its recommendations are adopted, UK employers who relied on the inclusion of occupations and current benefits of the SOL to employ overseas workers to fill shortages would have to review their assessments,” states Fragomen.