Northern Ireland

Call to lower NI migrant worker salary threshold

UK border passport checks Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The proposed new post-Brexit immigration rules were unveiled in December 2018

Northern Ireland should have a lower salary threshold for migrants seeking work after Brexit, according to the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.

In June, the government commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to look at potential future salary thresholds.

It proposed a threshold of £30,000 for Northern Ireland migrant workers.

But the Northern Ireland Chamber said it had always found this incredibly high and should be lowered to £21,000.

One factor it says must be taken into consideration is that people in Northern Ireland earn less than workers in Great Britain.

Private sector earnings in Northern Ireland are 86% of the UK average.

Tens of thousands of non-UK nationals work in Northern Ireland across sectors like agri-food, social care, manufacturing and hospitality.

These sectors are fast growing and vacancies are typically hard to fill.

The Northern Ireland Chamber said there were already signs our attractiveness as a region was weakening.

It said the number of migrants from other European Union member states living in Northern Ireland fell by 26% from 2016-2019.

In its latest survey, almost one in three Northern Ireland firms (32%) said they had seen a negative impact on the employment of non-UK nationals since the Brexit vote took place.

"In a period of huge uncertainty and with acute skills shortages in pockets of our economy, we need to ensure that any migration policy boosts the diversity of Northern Ireland as a region and does not detract from it," said Christopher Morrow, head of policy at Northern Ireland Chamber.

"NI Chamber does not believe a blunt salary threshold of £30,000 is a workable solution for Northern Ireland.

"It would make accessing skilled migrant talent unaffordable which would have significant implications for a region where access to skills and its impact on productivity are already serious concerns.

"A figure of £21,000 would be more reflective of the salary thresholds facing regional economies."

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