Brexit, Oxford, and a World-Wide Workforce

The Brexit Shadow of doubt

Brexit has cast shadows of doubt and uncertainty over everything in financial and immigration sectors in the UK.  Increasing numbers of EU migrants in the UK are worried about their status due to the wait to find out what deals will be struck.

It’s fair to assume that the EU will want to trade off with insisting the UK accepts free movement of labour in return for access to the market.  That’s not going to happen, though. Politicians are far too concerned with appeasing voters and their demands that immigration numbers are controlled.

So let’s take a simple look at what the situation could look like.

How much are people really paid?

Currently 10.6% of the UK work force – that’s all working people in the UK – are migrants.  This number is made up of EU and non-EU/EEA workers.  In numbers, it comes out as 3.34 million non-UK nationals, of which 2.15 million are EU migrants.  The remaining 1.19 million are non-EU migrants, and only skilled workers are allowed to apply for a strictly limited number of places.

Hourly Rate Salary
Tier 2 Gen £10.67 £20,800
UK Living Wage 25+ £7.20 £14,040
UK Min. wage 21-24 yrs £6.70 £13,065
UK Min. wage 18-20 yrs £5.30 £10,335

Some financial facts about the UK workforce and salaries:

Under the current system, to make an application for a Tier 2 (General) work visa you need to have at least £20,800 to make an application. The table shows the minimum possible income for full time workers in the UK, compared with the required minimum for a non-EU, skilled migrant.

Non-skilled native .v. skilled foreign workers

If we compare this to the salaries of UK nationals it makes for some interesting reading.  The median non-graduate worker earns about £27,200 for a full time post and £22,000 for all jobs.  The table above shows the minimum wages for different age groups of British citizens.  It is pretty clear that the expectation is high for anyone wishing to come to the UK.

In April 2016 Theresa May proposed to raise the threshold to £35,000, which is far above the national average salary. It could also result in numerous individuals with long-standing jobs and careers in the UK suddenly being told to pack up and return to their non-EEA countries, despite having spent years making the UK their home.

As a totally unscientific guess, I would say that of all industries that could hit hardest it will be in the arts, and the BBC news gave an example of a flautist from the US who earns only £17,000 a year.  Despite her secure lifestyle, superb talent, substantial community and benevolent work, a mere salary number could see her cast out of the country.

Should we not be valuing people as more than a salary figure?

Priced out of the market by political bias

Now consider the possibility that such treatment of work visas could transfer, even if only in part, to EU nationals in this post-Brexit action plan.  Our government is so dead-set on reducing numbers of immigration that it could blind itself to bigger issues.  Indeed be something that we have to submit to as the politicians make arbitrary decisions just to appease the media-led public.

Political bias aside, the simple fact is this: immigration brings a positive net value into this country of over £2 Billion a year.  Furthermore, immigrants do not have easy access to public funds so their “drain” on the public purse is far lower than a substantial number of British born citizens stuck in the benefits trap.  While this is not the place to enter into the benefits argument, it is a fact that immigration is not the cause of that national problem.

In short: “all they do is come over here and take all our jobs” is simply not true.  When the plans for Brexit come into full force it could be even less true.

We might end up having the world’s leading university poised to attract world-wide talent at the greatest level, but be unable to attract such students and experts because they are just priced out of the market.

The UK needs to secure investment for the future.  If we become too expensive for the most valuable asset – a world-wide workforce – opportunities could be missed to make the most of future investment.

Guardian article on workforce