The UK government are about to remove approximately 40,000 Tier 2 skilled workers who do not earn over £35,000 pounds per annum. This number includes teachers, IT workers, artist, musicians, charity workers, scientist, university lecturers, and researchers, basically, people who contribute to our nation’s richness and form the very fabric of our society.
The legal status of non-EU skilled workers in the UK depends on something called a Tier 2 Worker Visa. The visa lasts for five years after which you have to either leave the UK or apply for settlement known as indefinite leave to remain (ILR). From April 2016 if you apply for the settlement you need to earn over £35,000, or you will not be allowed to remain even if you have spent tens of thousands of pounds contributing to the UK university system, worked as a skilled professional and paid your taxes.
The £35k settlement threshold punishes people who have already been working and contributing to the UK economy for several years. It does not take into account that many skilled, valuable industries such as teaching, charities, and universities do not pay highly skilled, valuable roles anywhere near the £35,000 threshold. However, Tier 2 shortage occupations or those who have PhDs will be exempt.
“The average UK salary has been estimated at £25,600 by the Office of National Statistics. However if you exclude the top 10% of earners then the average is roughly £12,800.” Source: http://www.stop35k.org/
Immigrants of the UK and their children are sewn into the fabric of this country’s past, present and future from centuries ago. We are part of what made this country the 5th strongest economy in the world and a global hub and powerhouse of innovation, art, culture and business. Britain will continue to enjoy this position of might as long as our society attracts the best the brightest and the most passionate from all over the world.
At Britain’s height in 1922, the Empire controlled over 458 million people. This was a fifth of the world’s population and one-quarter of the Earth. Countries formerly part of the British Empire have included North American, India, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the Union of South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong, Burma and large parts of Africa.
Trade, labour and other resources such as cotton, tobacco, spices and even tea were sourced from the Empire. They helped Britain grow from a largely agrarian economy into the world’s first industrial economy. An expansion in trade allowed for the improvement of British infrastructure such as roads, railways and the building of canals. The British Empire not only controlled most the world trade, but at one point it was labelled a workshop of the world.
With the resources and human cost of the Second World War and the steady loss of its empire, Britain found itself with a heavy skills shortage in the 1960’s and turned to recruiting the best and brightest from its former empire. What we now know as the former British Commonwealth.
My father who came to the UK in the 1960’s would now be classed as Tier 2 worker. He arrived in the UK in 1963 with £5 in his pocket and one shirt, leaving two tiny daughters and a wife back in Bangladesh – formerly India and after partition, it became known as East Pakistan. It’s a story I hear of many Commonwealth immigrants from the 1960’s who built this nation when the UK suffered from a skills shortage. My father was what you would call the 1960’s version of a Tier 2 immigrant; a biochemist who decided to widen his skills and train as a pharmacist at Manchester University, earning a few pounds a week in a restaurant to make ends meet to pay his university fees and rent. He went on to have a 30-year career as an extremely loved and valued community pharmacist.
Out of all my siblings, I was the one that gave him the most trouble. I did terribly at school. It was my dad’s story of the £5 and one shirt, the job in the restaurant and his immigrant determination to take risks and serve his community that made me decide that I could do better. My school system wrote me off at 11, I went to four secondary schools, suffered bullying and racism, then played truant as a result. I gained 2 O’levels and 1 CSE. All I wanted to do was be a success like my dad and have his drive and courage to succeed. So with my father’s immigrant ethos and drive, I went on to gain a BA Honours in Modern Languages, a PGCE, and three masters degrees, and led national projects in reducing youth crime and educating women against extremism.
That’s why I am proud to be the daughter of an immigrant and will never see skilled immigrant workers in the UK as a burden to our society. They are the very foundation that makes us one of the most dynamic, diverse, forward thinking countries in the world. Resilient to economic crashes and crises. Unlike many countries in the world, we base a person’s value in the workplace on their skills and knowledge. Not based how much they earn or their national origin.
I believe if I don’t stand up to this policy I am devaluing my father’s legacy and my tie to my country of birth – Britain. The government that encourages second and third generation immigrants to follow British values and be more British should respect that I and generations before me are the legacies of skilled non-EU immigration that has contributed to this country being strong and prosperous.
The £35,000 threshold is not only a ploy at dangerous social engineering that will do Britain more harm than good, but it also highly discriminatory and unrealistic. Even in national and local Government posts where salaries are relatively high, many skilled civil servants do not earn more than £35,000. Despite Britain’s legacy of gender rights, the Suffragettes fighting for the vote, the female workforce at Dagenham in the 1970’s fighting for equal pay; discrimination based on gender still exists and the gender pay gap is still a huge issue. That’s not even taking into account the low pay of carers, who are part-time workers and predominantly women. People with long-term disabilities or from ethnic minority backgrounds also suffer from low wages and discrimination in the workplace and encounter the glass ceiling regarding promotion, progression, and barriers to earning £35,000 per year.
This policy should consider the Equality Duty 2010 and the impact of a £35,000 salary threshold on the people from the protected characteristics. Public bodies have a legal obligation to carry out an equality analysis on all their policies, projects, functions and key decisions. They must assess the risk of discrimination on the protected characteristic; consult with stakeholders and the public. They should gather data on the groups of people that may suffer discrimination as a result of the policy. They must then monitor the effects of the policy over a period. They have three choices if the policy does carry a risk of discrimination against a group of protected people; stop the policy, amend the policy or reconsider the policy. Outside a very narrow band of industries many highly skilled people can’t get even near a salary of £35k.
Britain has for decades suffered a skills shortage. The skills employers need in many professional jobs that do not match how we prepare our younger generations for the job market, or how we re-train our British workforce at times economic crisis. It’s also a fact that the speed of technological change and innovation means we need scientists, researchers, academics, teachers, and IT specialist to keep up with technology and innovation. When we disregard and take for granted the benefits Tier 2 workers bring to the UK we are in fact slowly contributing to the cultural and economic death of our own country’s prosperity and wealth.
Four hundred British citizens emigrate every day, 1.3 million university graduate go overseas to fill skills shortages in other countries, because we are a fluid global economy. As a nation that has thrived due to the economic migration of skilled workers, we are forgetting the millions of Britain around the world using their skills and abilities, paying taxes in other countries and sending their wealth back to the UK to feed their families and pay their mortgages. If we close the door to educated, the dedicated and skilled workers of the world, shouldn’t the rest of the world have the right to do the same to us?
There is something inexplicable that will tie me to this land until my dying day. Whether it is the endless opportunities it has offered me, the culturally rich and powerful language I speak or the fact that my father is now buried here I will fight for a better society. One that is based on fairness, opportunities for all, kindness, and compassion. Even the challenges I experienced as a child made me more resilient and determined to find the good in the country I was born in. It’s provided me with an incessant willpower to fight for a better, fairer, and multicultural society in which every one of us brings the best we have from where ever we have come from.
I hope the children of immigrant pioneers from the 1960’s and 1970’s will now stand up and fight for the rights of the generations of immigrants to come. Especially the skilled, cultured passionate, and hardworking Tier 2 workers that make this country the land of opportunity that it is.
Please donate what you can to this cause so that Stop35K.org can challenge the Home Office on this policy.
Everything you need know about Stop35K.org
The law affects anyone who is on a Tier 2 visa and:
- Does not make an annual wage of £35,000
- Is not on the shortage occupation list
- Obtained their first Tier 2 visa after April 2011
- Does not already have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)
- If the above applies to you, a friend, or a family member then the £35,000 settlement threshold will affect you.
- If you intend to move to the UK at any time in the future, this affects you.
- If you employ or intend to employ a non-EU skilled worker, this affects you.
- If your children are in school, this affects you.
- If you rely on a professional carer or the NHS, this affects you.
- The MAC predicts that in the ten years alone, this will cost the UK GDP over £761million. The Home Office’s own estimates predict that it will be lower, between £181million and £575million.
Simple ways you can help
- Donate! We need donations to keep the site running and would like to pay for the time of our specialists on the case. We need £7,000 to get the legal side done!
- Write your elected Member of Parliament. This should only take ten minutes
- Share our campaign everywhere you can!
- If you or someone you know is affected by this settlement threshold, tell us your story, we need to hear from you.
- Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Shwetal Shah’s Story
Shwetal has been organising events and community projects in the UK , alongside her studying and a full-time job. Shwetal will be forced to leave the UK if she doesn’t earn £35,000.
Author: Alhambra Womens Network Blogger
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