Scotland's workforce may reduce under UK immigration proposals, says expert group chaired by SPS professor
The UK Government’s immigration plans could reduce the number of workers in Scotland by up to five per cent over the next two decades, found an expert panel chaired by Professor Christina Boswell.
That is in contrast to the rest of the UK, where the working age population will grow even as UK policy changes cut the number of migrant workers, according to analysis by a panel advising the Scottish Government.
The Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population, chaired by Professor Christina Boswell of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science, was asked to give independent expert advice to the Scottish Government on migration, population growth and demographic change.
The report reveals the harm UK Government proposals would have on Scotland, reducing migration by up to 50 per cent, thereby jeopardising Scotland’s economy, public services and future population growth.
The advisory group also highlighted the disproportionate impact of the UK Government’s proposed salary threshold, under which people earning less than £30,000 would not be allowed admittance to the UK.
The group estimated 63 per cent of workers in Scotland currently earn below that level, and that it would exclude a greater proportion of women than men as well as younger people at the start of their career.
Professor Boswell said: “As the UK Government elaborates its proposals for immigration policy after Brexit, it is vital that we understand the effects of changes to migration on Scotland’s economy and society. Our report examines how the proposed changes would impact the scale and composition of future migration flows, and looks at the potential effects for the labour market, population trends, tax revenues and public services, as well as impacts on local communities.
“If the UK Government’s proposals are enacted, we are likely to see a substantial fall in net migration to Scotland over the coming decades. But importantly, the effects of this reduction will vary across different sectors and local areas. The report considers the particular challenges for sectors reliant on non-UK workers who earn less than the proposed £30,000 threshold - such as accommodation and food services, manufacturing, and social care.
“It also considers the particular challenges for rural and remote communities, which are especially reliant on in-migration to sustain economic livelihoods and public services – but which will be most affected by the proposed salary threshold. The proposed transitional arrangements for short-term migration are also likely to lead to higher churn and integration challenges in local communities.
“We also find that the proposed changes would have gender impacts, potentially leading to a lower proportion of female migrants. We suggest that discussion on the UK’s future immigration system needs to be underpinned by more comprehensive analysis on the range of effects, across different sectors, local areas, and by gender.”
Angela Mathis, Chief Executive of ThinkTank Maths Limited, said: “We do have real concerns regarding the UK Government’s proposed new immigration rules. It will have a negative impact on our ability to compete globally and to recruit the highly specialist mathematical skills we require.
“The reality is that we have lost key research team members since the EU Referendum, who have returned to their home country with their families. In addition, since the EU Referendum, applications received from candidates resident in EEA countries have dropped significantly from an average of 10 per week to zero.”
The Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population full report is available here.