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UK proposed 2021 immigration plan threatens tourism businesses
12 February 2020 (Edited 12 February 2020)

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In October 2019 UKInbound published a repirt entitled A Perfect Storm? The End of Free Movement and its Impact on the UK Tourism Workforce.

The report is a response to a new skills-based immigration policy that the UK government has proposed to put into effect in 2021 under which many tourism jobs currently held by workers from Europe would be classified as "low-skilled" and thus of low priority for UK visas.

Key points of that report include:

  • Tourism and hospitality jobs require a range of skills not available in the current native UK labor pool.
  • Tourism and hospitality jobs tend to be unattractive for UK citizens because of low pay - mean of 17,000 GBP/year - and poor perceptions of the industry.
  • Accordingly, the tourism industry is more dependent on EU workers than are other UK industries.
  • Lower-paid jobs are harder to fill than higher-paid jobs because recruitment is impacted by factors outside the control of employers like affordable housing and public transport infrastructure.
  • Ten percent or more of the employees - over 50% in the lodging and tours sectors - of nearly 60% of UK tourism and hospitality businesses are EU citizens.

Now in 2020, this situation has not improved. The low-skilled job category includes jobs like travel agents, tour guides, bus conductors and reservations staff - most of whom earn less than the 30,000 GBP minimum salary required to avoid the low-skilled category under the proposed new immigration policy. Business owners - 65% UK-wide, 73% in London, 88% in Northern Ireland - say they believe they will have to stop operating if the 30K GBP minimum salary comes into effect as a visa requirement.

In addition to the salary threshold, non-UK citizens wanting to work in the UK would have to be sponsored by an employer. EU nationals currently living in the UK would have to apply for "pre-settled" or "settled" status, depending on how long they've been in the UK.

Current status is: on 28 January 2020 the Home Secretary's Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has presented a report which you can see here: .

Transmittal letter of the latest MAC report from MAC Chair Professor Alan Manning says in part:

"We do not believe that occupations on the SOL [Shortage Occupation List] should have lower salary thresholds, as it exempts them from pressure to increase wages, or improve conditions, which could exacerbate any existing shortages. Any current analysis of shortages based on the existing data risks being irrelevant when the very different, new migration system comes into operation. We do not feel this is the
right time to review the SOL and it may be that it has no place in the future immigration system,
though any such review should wait until there is some data on how the new system is working."

That's not cause for optimism in the tourism industry.

How will this play out? Stay tuned.

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