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Government immigration plans will stifle Northern Ireland economy says CBI

The full impact on the Northern Ireland economy of Government plans which could restrict businesses from employing overseas workers earning less than £30,000 has been laid bare in new CBI analysis.

Post-Brexit immigration system proposals currently under consultation could prevent firms employing workers on salaries of less than £30,000 for more than a year under a new visa system.

However, a CBI study published today (February 12) has outlined the severe difficulties businesses would face if the salary threshold recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee is introduced:

  • In Northern Ireland, 71% of workers earn less than £30,000 per year and the median private sector wage is £22,016, below the UK average of £24,006.
  • The manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland – where 72% of workers earn under £30,000 – would be particularly impacted. For example, in food and drink manufacturing, more than a third (39%) of workers are EEA nationals.

Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland Director, told Business First: “We know that Northern Irish businesses are creating jobs, but many are already struggling to fill vacancies and are suffering from a growing skills shortage.

“Continued access to overseas workers after Brexit is vital to drive growth, innovation and prosperity in Northern Ireland. The Government’s current proposals risk causing significant harm at a time of uncertainty for business.

“A one-year limit on workers earning less than £30,000 would encourage firms to hire a different person each year, needlessly increasing costs and discouraging migrants from integrating into communities.

“Leaving the EU should be an opportunity to develop an independent immigration policy that works for business by being both open to allow our economy to grow and controlled to restore public confidence.”

Ms McGowan added: “The Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee has confirmed there is little or no evidence to show immigration has any impact on jobs or wages for local workers.

“Our Agri-industry, hospitals, housebuilders and retailers are just a few examples of major employers already struggling to find the people they need at salaries well below £30,000.

“Installing further barriers via these proposals will make Northern Ireland poorer. Regional research carried out by CBI NI last year suggested that a 50% reduction in EU inward migration could reduce local GDP by more than 5% by 2041.

“The Government must use this 12-month engagement period to listen to our businesses and go back to the drawing board. Otherwise calls for a bespoke regional immigration solution for Northern Ireland will only grow louder.”