UK mulls easing visa policy
LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — Britain said Thursday that it was mulling an easing in visa access to help address labour shortages, which have been partly sparked by its tighter post-Brexit immigration rules.
The Government adopted a points-based immigration model following its exit from the European Union in January 2021.
“We work… to ensure our points-based system delivers for the UK and works in the best interests of the economy, by prioritising the skills and talent we need and encouraging long-term investment in the domestic workforce,” a Government spokesperson said.
“This includes reviewing the shortage occupation list to ensure it reflects the current labour market.”
The shortage list seeks to relax visa access for professions in short supply.
Many British companies have long called for the Government to ease its visa policy.
The hospitality, road haulage and agriculture sectors have been hit particularly hard by European labour shortages sparked by Brexit and exacerbated by COVID fallout.
The UK currently has about one million unfilled jobs, according to recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
That figure has been pushed higher by including numbers of Britons choosing to leave the labour market as a result of long-term illness or early retirement.
The ONS published survey data Thursday showing that more than a quarter of UK firms with 10 or more employees were experiencing shortages in late February. That was broadly the same as in late January.
“Many [businesses] will have little option but to increase wages to attract and retain staff,” said Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown.
“This piles on yet more pressure at a time when higher energy costs and rising prices of goods are still causing headaches.”
The UK Government and the Bank of England have urged employers to show restraint, warning that big pay hikes would jeopardise attempts to tame inflation.
Strikes have, however, multiplied in Britain in recent months as workers protest over salaries that have failed to keep pace with decades-high consumer price inflation, worsening a cost-of-living crisis.