Britain needs migrant workers, but only if they are on checklist

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Britain needs to hire engineers, maths teachers, ship pilots, ballet dancers and sheep shearers from around the world, the Government's immigration advisers have concluded.

But employers will not be allowed to look beyond Europe when they try to recruit doctors, midwives, social workers, computer specialists and most types of care worker.

The Home Office's Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) yesterday published its first list of the kinds of job that it believes can be filled by migrant workers of any nationality.

It spotlighted a series of areas where employers are struggling to attract skilled workers and have such little hope of recruiting within Europe that they will have to look further afield.

However, the proposals will reduce the overall number of posts available to workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) from one million to 700,000. Currently about 130,000 of the one million jobs are filled by migrants, of whom some 70,000 are from outside Europe.

Ministers are certain to endorse the recommendation which will underpin an overhaul of immigration laws to bring in a points-based system for migrant workers.

The effect of the proposals will be to reduce by almost one third the number of posts available to non-Europeans.

There was also controversy over the decision to allow foreign care workers into Britain only if they are paid at least £8.80 an hour. David Metcalf, the MAC chairman, said: "Don't think we are a soft touch. There are rather more jobs which we have excluded from the list than we have included."

The list of jobs his committee believes should be open to non-EEA workers is headed by all types of civil and chemical engineers, as well as quantity surveyors, physicists, geologists and meteorologists.

Permission to enter the country will be given to qualified ship and hovercraft officers in response to a revival in the merchant fleet. The MAC has also identified specific skills shortages among vets, ballet dancers, sheep-shearers and jockeys.

Job shortages in Scotland mean that frozen fish filleters, nurses in elderly units above a certain band and speech and language therapists will also be allowed to work in the country.

But secondary school teachers will in future only be admitted if they are qualified in maths or science and visas will only be issued to a small range of specialist nurses. Skilled senior care workers will only be admitted if they are earning at least £8.80 per hour, while the MAC has responded to warnings of shortages in Indian restaurants by setting a minimum pay of £8.10 for chefs.

Liam Byrne, the Immigration minister, said the points system was flexible and would ensure that "only those we want – and no more – can come here to work".

Dominic Grieve, the shadow Home Secretary, said a points-based system was pointless unless accompanied by an annual limit on immigrant numbers. He said: "The Government need to understand that sound immigration policy is not just about admitting the right type of people to Britain but the right amount."

Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "Restricting entry only to so-called highly-skilled migrant workers is likely to leave care homes facing closure, fruit and vegetables left unpicked in the field, the hospitality and catering industries seriously short-handed, and construction projects slowed down or halted altogether."

The English Community Care Association, which represents independent care homes, said the proposals on care workers were "entirely inappropriate".

Professor Metcalf warned that unscrupulous employers who tried to evade the system by falsely claiming workers would do jobs identified on the list risked being banned from sponsoring any migrants.

"There have been some employers – particularly on the cusp of skilled and less skilled, such as the care sector and chefs – who have tried to bring in less skilled people ostensibly saying that they are skilled," he said.


Ballet dancers

Shortage of the most skilled. Plenty of applicants, but few have the "artistic excellence".

Civil engineers

Many vacancies take at least three months to fill. Also shortage of chemical engineers.

Quantity surveyors

Large numbers about to retire. Could be a shortfall of 2,600 over next decade.

Sheep shearers

Need to recruit from Australia and New Zealand during shearing season.

Ships' and hovercraft officers

British merchant fleet is expanding and training programmes struggle to respond.


Doctors and Nurses

Problems with recruitment occur only in posts such as consultants in psychiatry and operating-theatre nurses.


Advisers said they did not receive enough evidence of shortages.


Recruitment problems blamed on poor pay. Non-Europeans allowed in if earning £8.80 an hour.


It is not considered that the teaching sector faces serious shortages other than in maths and science.

Textile workers

Recruitment problems exist, but industry believes shortages can be tackled in UK.