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Migration Advisory Committee publishes initial review of new Immigration Salary List


Review recommends reduction in number of occupations on Shortage Occupation List's replacement

Date of Publication:
25 February 2024

The independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on Friday released its rapid review of the Immigration Salary List (ISL).

Picture of moneyImage credit: UK GovernmentThe 21-page review can be read online here or downloaded here.

As part of a five-point plan to cut net migration, the Home Secretary announced in December 2023 that the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) would be renamed as the ISL and the 20% going rate discount for occupations on the SOL would be removed.

On 17 January, the MAC was commissioned by the Home Secretary to undertake a rapid review of the new ISL. The MAC was asked to consider which occupations from the current SOL or the MAC's October 2023 recommended SOL should be temporarily included on an initial ISL from April 2024.

In a covering letter, the MAC summarised its overall recommendations as follows: "We have recommended 21 occupations be included on the ISL, which represents 8% of job roles eligible for the Skilled Worker (SW) route by employment. This means that the interim ISL is smaller than the current Shortage Occupation List (SOL) as, previously, approximately 30% of job roles eligible for the SW route were on the SOL. These 21 occupations consist of 18 recommendations for the UK-wide ISL and 3 recommendations for the Scotland-only ISL."

A fuller review of the ISL will be carried out by the MAC later in the year, and the MAC noted in its rapid review that more clarity is needed about the purpose of the ISL.

The MAC wrote: "[W]e require further clarity from the government on what the benefits and longer-term purpose of the ISL will be. Aside from some of the more technical aspects of the ISL, it is important for the government to lay out the role it wants the ISL to play within the wider immigration system. For example, is the primary purpose of the ISL to fill shortages in the short term with overseas labour? Or is the ISL being implemented for a wider purpose, for example, to support government priority sectors and broader government policies or to support sectors where there are broader benefits and spillovers to UK society, independent of shortage considerations?"

The MAC highlighted that the main benefit of inclusion on the ISL is a reduction of up to 20% on general salary thresholds for shortage occupations. Salary thresholds will be increasing substantially in April 2024. As announced by the Home Secretary in December, the main skilled worker threshold is increasing from £26,200 to £38,700. The minimum general threshold for non-healthcare shortage occupations will be increased from £20,960 to £30,960. The threshold for health and care workers will be set at a lower amount of £23,200.

According to the MAC, the new general threshold in effect will mean that the skilled worker route will become unavailable for many occupations.

The Financial Times (FT) reported that MAC chair Professor Brian Bell said there was a need for need for the Government to clarify its aims, as the new salary thresholds would in practice close the visa system to most non-graduate jobs.

Bell was quoted by the FT as saying: "Is the objective of the new system to make sure you can never pay less than £31,000 outside health and care [where the government has set a lower threshold, of £23,200] . . . or does an occupation need to be on the list because it's important and benefits the UK?"

In its review, the MAC also drew attention to what it called the 'widening divide' between private and public sector salary thresholds.

"There is a widening divide occurring as a result of the increasing salary demands placed on the private sector, whilst occupations that are publicly funded receive exemptions from these thresholds. The government appears to be exempting itself from any salary thresholds which would require an increase in pay for publicly funded workers and therefore an increase in funding for these public services. This widening divide poses an increased risk of exploitation for lower-paid occupations, such as care workers, as the gap between salary thresholds for private and publicly funded occupations becomes larger," the rapid review stated.