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Comments from Dr Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, on today’s changes to migration policy announced by the Home Secretary.

04 Dec 2023

Family income threshold 

“The decision to raise the family income threshold to £38,700 is the biggest surprise of the day, and one of the parts of the package announced today that could have the most significant impacts on individuals. This threshold determines whether British citizens can bring a foreign partner to live with them in the UK, and the level has been more than doubled. Family migration makes up a small share of the total, but those who are affected by it can be affected very significantly. The largest impacts will fall on lower-income British citizens, and particularly women and younger people who tend to earn lower wages. The income threshold will also affect people more if they live outside of London and the South East, in areas of the country where earnings are lower.” 


“The part of today’s package that is likely to have the largest impact on the number of people who qualify to come to the UK is the decision to prevent care workers from bringing dependants. Available data suggests that health and care workers are more likely to come with partners or children than people on other work visa routes. It is difficult to predict how it will affect the number of care workers themselves who come to the UK. Some will no longer want to come if they cannot bring their immediate family, but the number of people around the world who are willing to come to the UK to do care work is potentially very substantial, so the impacts on employers’ ability to recruit from overseas might not be very big. Restricting care workers from bringing children in particular may bring fiscal benefits, due to the costs of school education. However, restricting dependants could make care workers in the UK more isolated. There is growing evidence that exploitation on the care worker route is a problem, and support from a partner is one factor that can help workers to escape exploitative situations.” 

Salary thresholds 

“A salary threshold increase from £26,200 to £38,700 sounds like a big change, but the exemption for health and care workers means that most people getting long-term skilled work visas won’t be affected by it. Over the past year, almost half of long-term skilled work visas over the past year went to care workers. Another fifth or so went to health or teaching roles that are not affected by salary thresholds because they have their own system for setting pay. And of the minority of jobs that remain, many are already paying workers at least £40,000 or often substantially more. The main impact of the threshold increase is thus likely to be to sharply reduce work visas in middle skilled jobs such as butchers or chefs, where workers currently tend to get less than £30,000.”  



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