Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Britain puts up more barriers for non-European workers

S Kalyana Ramanathan / London September 08, 2009

The British government today accepted the month-old recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to provide better access to jobs for local workers before allowing non-European workers to tap work opportunities here.

This comes just two days after it promised, with other industrialised nations at the G-20 finance ministers’ meet, to go easy on protectionist policies.

The Home Office, in a statement here today, said the government has accepted the MAC recommendations to tighten the rules controlling migrant skilled workers taking jobs in the UK under the government’s points system. Job openings in the UK will be advertised for four weeks for local workers, before considering a non-European worker for the same position.

“This will mean that from next year, all jobs must be advertised to British workers in Jobcentre Plus for four weeks, extended from two weeks, before companies can seek to employ individuals from outside Europe. This will ensure that British workers are not only first in line for jobs but also now have more time in which to apply,” the Home Office communication said.

The government will also extend the qualifying period for all those overseas workers who want to transfer to work at the UK base of their company: they must have worked for their company for at least a year prior to the move, rather than the present six months.

The minimum annual salary that will allow an individual to qualify as a skilled worker and be eligible to work in the UK will also rise from £17,000 to £20,000.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said: “The introduction of the points-based system has radically improved our ability to respond quickly to changing economic circumstances. We have now accepted all of the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations and we will continue to work with them to make sure that we use the flexibility in the points-based system to the best advantage of society and the economy. These changes will ensure that businesses can recruit the skilled foreign workers the economy needs, but not at the expense of British workers, nor as a cheaper alternative to investing in the skills of the existing workforce.”

A total of 16 recommendations were put forward by the MAC, all of which will now be put in place to ensure the points-based system does more to support UK workers, while continuing to facilitate the levels of trade, travel, and study that benefits the UK.

This new policy that favours local workers comes in the wake of rising unemployment that has now reached a record high level of 2.5 million. Further, a general election is due by the middle of next year, with the ruling Labour government expected to fight hard to stay in power.

India, along with other Bric economies — Brazil, Russia and China — have not spared any opportunity, including the G-20 platform, to remind the US and the UK that it expects the developed countries to go easy on protectionist trade policies and provide higher quota and voting powers in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. G-20 countries had agreed to this view in its communique issued on Saturday.

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