Government opens door to foreign workers

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The Independent Online

The Government plans to make up for a lack of skilled British workers by relaxing immigration laws to allow 100,000 foreign workers to settle in the country, writes Jo Dillon.

The Government plans to make up for a lack of skilled British workers by relaxing immigration laws to allow 100,000 foreign workers to settle in the country, writes Jo Dillon.

As revealed in The Independent in July, ministers plan to make the most significant changes to the immigration system since 1971 to respond to the shortage. Workers have long been prevented from coming into Britain, other than asylum seekers and those with relatives already living here.But in a speech next Monday, the Home Office Minister Barbara Roche will outline details of a pilot scheme to enable foreigners to live in Britain, providing they can meet certain requirements.

A points system will be introduced based on age, education, language skills and family ties. Priority is to be given to those thought most able to benefit the economy.

"The minister will talk about immigration controls and the action the Department of Education and Employment has already taken to streamline the work-permit programme," a Home Office source said last night. "There will be an acknowledgement that there are shortage areas.

"Mrs Roche will talk about how the immigration policy might develop in the future. and about the operation of the points system. She will reiterate the need to deter bogus asylum applications but, beyond that, she believes that we do need to look at wider immigration issues."

Ministers are especially concerned by the growing shortages of specialist skills in such areas as health and information technology.

Research carried out by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development has shown that about a quarter of Britain's population will be over the age of 65 by 2050. By that time there could be as few as two people of working age for every pensioner.