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Labour’s Updated Immigration and Migration Policies for 2024

Labour’s immigration framework has been a significant topic of discussion as they reveal their plans for managing legal migration effectively. This article delves into the key policies Labour has introduced, focusing particularly on aspects pertinent to employers and the broader economic impacts. Here, we outline the proposed changes and their potential effects on various sectors within the UK.

Labour’s Strategy on Net Migration

One of Labour’s prominent pledges is to ‘reduce net migration,’ aiming to balance it to a ‘couple of hundred thousand a year’. This approach stems from the belief that not setting a specific net migration target allows for flexibility while still managing the inflow effectively. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast in March 2024, net migration is expected to stabilise at around 350,000 per year over the next five years, influenced by current Conservative policies. Labour’s strategy focuses on the economic benefits of migration, noting that the fiscal impact could help reduce public sector borrowing by approximately £7.4 billion by 2028-2029.

Focusing on Employment

Labour has clarified that they do not intend to cap immigration routes outright but will implement ‘appropriate restrictions on visas‘. Their immigration policy is closely linked with the national skills agenda, aiming to address key shortages in sectors like construction, IT, and engineering by reforming the apprenticeship levy to better skill/up skill resident workers. This approach includes a focus on fair pay agreements and stringent conditions for companies that sponsor workers, ensuring they contribute effectively to workforce training.

Enhancing the Skilled Worker Visa Framework

The party plans to overhaul the Skilled Worker visa system by investigating the impact of recent salary threshold increases and adjusting policies to mitigate skills shortages without overly restricting entry. They also propose to remove certain occupations from the Immigration Salary List where sectors fail to engage with workforce plans, providing flexibility through opt-in exemptions for companies that demonstrate compliance.

Health and Care Visas

Labour is committed to establishing a new body to enforce employment rights and scrutinise the exploitation of migrant workers, particularly in the social care sector. They also address the restrictions on family accompaniments for Carers and Senior Carers, aiming to balance the needs of the healthcare system with fair treatment of migrant workers.

Creative Workers and Youth Mobility

Labour may explore new arrangements with the EU to facilitate the movement of touring performers, acknowledging the increased administrative burdens post-Brexit. Although they currently have no plans to negotiate a youth mobility scheme with the EU, they recognise the potential benefits of a more liberal approach to address labour shortages in sectors like hospitality, retail, and childcare.

Seasonal Workers

Proposed legislation by Labour aims to protect seasonal workers, vital for maintaining the UK’s agricultural productivity and food security. They plan to continue monitoring the welfare of these workers closely, ensuring they are not exploited and that their living conditions are safeguarded.

Student and Family Immigration Routes

Labour acknowledges the significant contribution of international students and seeks a more integrated policy that considers both their economic impact and their role in net migration figures. For family immigration routes, they support a review of the minimum income requirements, aiming for a more comprehensive approach that considers social and economic factors in family reunification.

Addressing Asylum Rights and Immigration Fees

Labour’s review of work rights for asylum seekers could lead to more inclusive policies, allowing them to work in a broader range of occupations. They also plan to evaluate the steep increases in immigration fees and the Immigration Health Surcharge, aiming for a balanced approach that considers the financial burdens on migrants.

Maintaining Commitment to Human Rights

Labour intends to remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, underlining their commitment to uphold human rights and political freedoms within the UK’s immigration policy framework.

Labour’s immigration policy for 2024 presents a balanced approach that seeks to manage migration effectively while fostering economic growth and protecting workers’ rights. By focusing on strategic restrictions rather than outright caps, Labour aims to address sector-specific needs and integrate migration with broader economic and skills policies. This approach not only supports the UK’s labour market but also ensures that immigration contributes positively to the public sector and the economy at large.