Are skilled workers valued in the UK?


Last weekend I stopped dead in morning rush-hour pedestrian traffic when I opened my copy of the Guardian and saw my own face plastered on page 36. I had been asked by a reporter two weeks previously to weigh in on the changes to the Tier 2 Non-EU Skilled Workers visa, as I will be effected, but hadn't heard anything since. Suddenly I found myself staring at myself, torn between pride and the perhaps selfish feeling of injustice.

Finally I was featured in a main stream news source. But it wasn't covering the exceptional concerts I had given that week, or the great strides that the organisation I founded (Play for Progress) has made this month in helping children who have been traumatised by conflict. It didn't cover the competition my contemporary music ensemble (Ensemble x.y) won recently, or praise the Kings Place debut of the young professional orchestra (Ensemble Eroica) of which I am a member and a director.

Instead, the article was covering the change in UK policy regarding Tier 2 Skilled Workers Visas, which means that I may be deported from the country come September.

In the aftermath of the Guardian article, a surprising number of colleagues, friends, and strangers admitted that they had no idea that this policy was even proposed let alone that it was about to be implemented.

For all of those would-be supporters, I present you with my own research. I've compiled statistics and facts that detail the policy, what it means for whom, the impact it would have on British society, and the priorities of the UK that it implies.

What this policy means

The new policy means that all persons on a Tier 2 Skilled Workers visa must have an income of at least £35,000 annually when they apply to settle. This is higher than the entry income threshold of £20,800.

Head of the Home Office, Theresa May MP said in a written statement to Parliament in

2012, “in future, we will exercise control to ensure that only the brightest and best remain

permanently."

If immigration rates need to be decreased or otherwise controlled, it makes sense to keep those most valuable. In an attempt to simplify the screening process, the Home Office has chosen to measure this ‘value’ by income. Fundamentally, does income accurately reflect the value of ones work? Considering that nurses and teachers will be among the most affected by this new regulation, the answer is a resounding “NO”.

The Royal College of Nursing said: "The new rules will deprive the NHS of experienced nurses when demand for them is greater than ever before." Even in 2015, the NHS released a report

showing that the loss of trained Non-EU workers would cost the NHS millions.

From the same article, the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) chief executive and general secretary, Dr Peter Carter, said: “The immigration rules for health care workers will cause chaos for the NHS and other care services. At a time when demand is increasing, the UK is perversely making it harder to employ staff from overseas."

The National Association of Head Teachers union (NAHT) shared the same viewpoint, saying: "We strongly question the wisdom of deporting highly-trained staff in the midst of a teacher recruitment crisis. Far too many overseas-trained teaching personnel fall well below the £35,000 income threshold."

This begs the question: If these jobs, which are clearly integral to the functioning of British society, aren’t accurately ‘valued’ under the £35,000 regulation, what other oversights are being made by this policy? Furthermore, why aren’t these vital jobs being paid an adequate amount (or an amount that indicates value and success in the mind of the conservative government) in the first place?

As one can see from the statistics above, this policy seems wrongheaded both in terms of who it affects and on several levels on which it will operate. One sure result of implementing this policy is that women will be disproportionately affected due to unequal pay between men and women.

According to a report published by HMRC on personal incomes statistics in 2013-2014, median gross pay for all is £21,900 in 2013/14. Needless to say, that is substantially less than £35,000 required of foreign nationals. What's more concerning however is the unequal distribution of income between men and women at the peak of their professions. Men at their peak (40-44 age range) make £30,600 while at their peak women make only £22,600 (age range of 35-39).

I would like to draw special attention to the inherent gender inequality in regards to rates of pay between men and women at their professional peak.

I hope you will continue your own research and educate yourself further on this issue. I hope that you can join the ranks of Stop35k.org and stand up for your neighbours, friends, teachers, hospital workers, musicians, and artists, who will be deported.

You can see Alyson's story here, as well as meet her and other Skilled Workers affected by this at our Leaving Party for Skilled Workers this 6th April at The Red Lion Pub.

Further blog articles from Alyson, coming soon, will examine the micro-view, and the specific impact on the arts and non-profit organisations.


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