In view of the prevailing global economic recession where we are witnessing unprecedented massive amount of job losses cutting across every notable sectors of the UK economy, there is a veritable need to review the migration policy for the renewal of stay or extension of visa under the Highly Skilled Workers (point-based tier) category.
UK and indeed the developed economy have recorded both skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled massive job losses in the banking, engineering, retail, manufacturing, building and construction, media, health and allied health sectors. Majority of these job losses affected local indigenous people with widespread social and family livelihood consequences.
It is estimated that 2009 will record potentially another 600,000 further job losses. “According to the IMF’s most recent World Economic Outlook, published on October 8th, the world economy is “entering a major downturn” in the face of “the most dangerous shock” to rich-country financial markets since the 1930s. The fund expects global growth, measured on the basis of purchasing-power parity (PPP), to come down to 3% in 2009, the slowest pace since 2002 and on the verge of what it considers to be a global recession”
( The Economist – http://www.economist.com/finance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12381879).
“Britain’s economy shrank at the fastest rate since 1990 in the third quarter, largely because of sharp falls in output from hotels, restaurants and the financial sector, as well as manufacturers including carmakers. The UK’s gross domestic product fell by 0.6% in the July to September period, not by 0.5% as previously reported, the Office for National Statistics said this morning. The annual growth rate of 0.3% was the weakest since 1992”
The situation is so severe across boards that there has been calls for economic bail out and desperate economic stimulant measures. An evidence of that also is in the massive reduction of Bank of England base rate in rapid successions to its current 2%.
According to the Economist magazine, “that is why the world’s central banks have been administering emergency measures, including a round of co-ordinated interest-rate cuts on October 8th. With luck they will prevent catastrophe. They are unlikely to avert a global recession. The British economy, which stalled in the second quarter, is now unmistakably falling into recession. The IMF’s forecasts suggest that Britain will see the worst performance of any big economy in the year to the fourth quarter of 2008”.
It is very ironic that, in the same climate of persistent job losses and economic malaise that migrant holders of Tier 1 Highly Skilled Workers visa looking for extension of stay or renewal are required to show proof of employment with earnings of £35,000 per annum after 2 years of arriving in the UK and maintainance fund of £800 bank balance monthly.
When many jobs are not available to even local residents, it is pertinent to ask the question from the UK government whether, really jobs and employment that is capable of paying £35, 000 pa is available to UK citizens in the various sectors that the HSMP holders are suppose to contest for jobs, let alone the same job being offered to them after 2 years of living in the UK.
If such jobs were available, the employment law in the UK has stipulated that UK jobs belong to British citizens, meaning that it is almost impossible for anyone with a 2 year Tier 1 Highly skilled worker visa to even be considered for an interview for such jobs, let alone securing employment. If such jobs or employers are available and willing to pay that much, in recent times, the UK government would not record a large increase in the number of citizens who have lost their employment and consequently signing up for welfare support funds/benefits.
Harshly, this is a kind of support that is not available to any Tier 1 migrant. Evidence have shown that Tier 1 migrant HSMP holders are severely suffering under this current climates of global recession with additional pressure coming from the immigration policy that binds their status in the UK. Many have struggles endlessly without any success in sight to look for employments. Anecdotal reports have shown that, many have not secured any gainful employments and those who have been lucky to be in one form of employment or another, are not been paid anything near the required £35,000 that will make them eligible under the current policy for visa extension.
This is a worrying situation, many migrants are under so much pressure with consequent psychological strain. The NHS is recording increasing number of complaints bordering on anxiety, stress, depression, adjustment disorders, enduring personality changes as a result of low self esteem, loss of confidence in one competencies following persistent disappointment from job applications.
There are social sequalea to these difficult situations, increasingly there are records of relationship strains as a result of sudden change in personal economic circumstances, migration-induced poverty, children of migrants under this category are faced with persistent hunger, neglect, stress and poor parental attention and input, emotional absence from parents who are pre-occupied with multiple concerns, namely, how to get a job that will pay them enough, how to feed themselves and family, how to look for the fees for the extension and also how to manage to keep the required maintainace fund £800 in the account for the 3 months leading to the extension, what would happen if the eligibility criteria is not met before the visa expires and if application failed etc
These are barrage of concerns which in itself are almost a recipe for mental stress and leading to major mental health breakdown. Majority of the lucky few who have managed to secure any form of employment or another are in the earning category of £16,000-£22,999, which only attracts max of 15 points. One would then wonder, what is the percentage of these lucky few in the entire population of the Tier 1 HSM holders? Even with this level of earning, the likelihood of success at the time of renewal is very low given what the eligibility criteria says.
Hence, in a situation where 90-95% of a group of migrants would not be qualified for an extension of stay under the Highly Skilled worker programme policy of the UK government, would it not be right therefore to say that, it is a failed policy and it requires a wholistic and objective overhaul, particularly, given the prevailing global economic climates that has not discriminated between migrants and indigenes?
Definitely, if highly skilled indigenes are loosing jobs in their thousands across all the major sectors where the Tier 1 are suppose to be looking for earnings and jobs, what hope then do any Highly skilled competent migrant have? Even, in the current climate, indigenious semi-skilled or unskilled workers are equally affected. We have evidence of massive job losses in the banking sector due to the credit crunch, the same has been recorded in the retail, IT, Construction and manufacturing sectors.
Employers are not recruiting new staff, rather they are downsizing rapidly to cut cost and maximise profit so as not to be taken into administration. According to Guardian Newspaper for example “The deepening recession in Europe and the US yesterday forced Electrolux, the Swedish domestic appliance maker, to cut more than 3,000 jobs around the world. The group, which employs 600 staff in Britain and has a head office in Luton, is shedding 5% of its global workforce”
The UK government needs to realistically review this renewal policy, particularly now that the effect of reccession is out there for all to see and it has not exempted indigenes and migrant, even the government have had to pro-actively bend over to salvage a number of its key sectors and this has still not stemmed the pace of job losses and massive scale back of expenditure across various sectors.
Renewal of the Tier 1 migrant visa should not be based on any unrealistic, discriminatory and arbitrary sets of earning criteria or funds in an account. How many UK citizens with well paid employment with family responsibilities and statutory responsibility can boast of £800 in their account or savings at the end of the months after paying all the bills? How many can confidently show an account balance without an overdraft facility with such amount? if it is not a possiblity for citizens with jobs, why should the same be expected of migrant workers, who really are not gainfully employed in the UK economy after 2 years of sojourn here? Many of these people will have to first and foremost pay heavily for re-training, studies and period of voluntary work to be even eligible for any consideration of jobs.
During that period, there is virtually no income for them rather they are paying out from the little maintainace money they have brought into the country, they are investing, in real terms, on themselves and their future in the UK, so that they can be competitive in the job market, since UK job experience is key to any successful job appllication. This is an experience many of the Tier 1 don’t even have making the percentage of applications turned down to be alarmingly high. There are so many angle to this matter, whichever way one look at it, for the innocent, good-willed highly skilled migrants, it appears that it is a no win situation for them and this has been even worsened by the prevailing global economic situation.
It will not be far-fetched therefore, to appeal to the UK government to graciously review the current policy about the Tier 1 point-based Migrant worker programme with a view to reflect the current situation and show some compassionate leanings towards the plight of this growing number of honest professionals from across the world who have come here to contribute to the socio-economic development of the Great Britain. UK can take a cue from the USA and Australian immigration policy where once you have a green card, you are not under any pressure to show proof of earnings as a prerequisite for continued stay in the country.
They simply trust that naturally majority of skilled workers on migrant visa, with proven work record from their country of birth would naturally seek appropriate employment for continued survival, to support his family and self-development, pay the statutory tax and have no recourse to public fund. It will be fair to suspend or outrightly abolish the restriction placed on migrants by the renewal criteria or point-based renewal policy, so that people can face the challenges of day to day living in the UK just like the citizens, without the albatross of fear about their chances during renewal time.
Dr Olayiwola Ajileye is aMental Health Practitioner, he writes from Birmingham. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org