The Migration Advisory Committee has recommended against having a full Australian-style points system

Construction will be among the sectors most affected should an immigration system proposed by the independent Migration Advisory Committee be introduced.

The committee, which provides research-based advice to the government, does not propose having a full Australian-style points system and instead recommends a mixed system, which would rely on a minimum salary threshold for those coming to the UK with a job offer, and a points-based system for those coming to the UK without a pre-arranged job. 

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The MAC said the construction industry would be among the 20 sectors facing the largest employment impact from its proposed thresholds. In its report, published this week, the MAC suggested lowering the £30,000 minimum salary threshold to £25,600.

The MAC has said that its recommended thresholds will result in an 8% employment drop in the construction sector. It said this was because of a relatively high share of European Economic Area (EEA) migrants in the sector’s workforce combined with a very high share of self-employed workers.

Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry said the proposals for a temporary visa route for lower-skilled remained a concern. “This route will need to have a path to permanent settlement, otherwise many workers will simply choose to work elsewhere,” he said. “The government should consider giving temporary migrants the opportunity to complete training and settle on a skilled visa while remaining in the UK.”

How the system could work

The Migration Advisory Committee has recommended a mixed system, which would rely on a minimum salary threshold for those people coming to the UK with a job offer, and a points-based system for those coming to the UK without a job.

  • The MAC has suggested lowering the existing salary threshold to £25,600 from the previously recommended £30,000.
    • There could be different thresholds depending on the worker’s occupation, with more highly paid occupations having higher thresholds.
  • The points-based system would apply to those coming to the UK unemployed, with the MAC recommending it be an expression of interest arrangement used in several countries including Australia.
    • It said applicants would register their interest in moving with invitations to submit a full application being sent out on a monthly basis based on a quota.
    • Selecting who to invite to apply would be based on the applicants with the most points.
    • It also recommended there should also be an absolute minimum number of points.
  • The MAC said younger workers should attract more points because it offsets the disadvantage young people face in demonstrating potential and because younger individuals can be expected to have longer working lives before retirement.
    • It also said qualifications were important with higher level qualifications attracting more points, assuming they are of an equivalent UK standard.
    • The MAC said extra points should also be given for having studied in the UK and for the potential to work in priority areas such as STEM and creative skills.

The report said that EEA nationals who arrived since 2004 represented a higher share of the construction workforce, at around 6.5%, than they do on average.

 This increased in the capital. The report cited analysis of self-assessment tax returns that found nationals from the new EU member states represented 55% of filers who indicated they worked in the construction industry in London.

In some good news for the sector the report recommended adding several construction job roles that were not set to become eligible when the tier 2 (general) visa is expanded to include medium-skilled jobs.

It has been recommended that air-conditioning and refrigeration engineers, skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors and carpenters and joiners all get added to the approved skills list.

The MAC has also suggested the addition of glaziers, window fabricators and fitters, plasterers, floorers and wall tilers, painters and decorators, construction and building trades supervisors.

Construction firms made up just 6% of the individual organisations that responded to the call for evidence.

The government is not required to accept any of the committee’s recommendations but is expected to base future immigration policy on the findings.