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Low skilled often means little more than low paid

David Anderson/Holyrood

Low skilled often means little more than low paid

The lustful fantasies of the ardent Brexiteers were finally made a reality when the UK Government unveiled its new immigration policy.

It’s astonishing how quickly an “Australian-style points-based system” went from being a mere glint in Nigel Farage’s eye to the flagship policy of post-Brexit Britain.

The new rules on immigration, which are set to be implemented in 2021, will see a clampdown on so-called “low skilled” migrants from living and working in the UK.

Under the new system, both EU and non-EU nationals will have to reach a threshold of 70 points before they are eligible to apply for a visa. The criteria include having a job offer that meets the “required skills level”, being able to speak English and – for skilled workers – having a minimum salary of £25,600.

There are some exceptions to the rules for those who have a job offer in a specific occupation that appears on the government’s “job shortage” list.

Even around his cabinet table, Boris Johnson is not alone in his lack of real-world skills

As I read through the criteria, I quickly realised that had I not been born in the UK, I – like so many others – wouldn’t be eligible to apply for a visa to work here. According to the Home Office, some 70 per cent of the existing EU workforce wouldn’t meet the criteria to apply for a skilled worker visa either.

“Low skilled” often means little more than “low paid”. The value we place on different jobs is based largely on what kind of people traditionally undertake these roles and how handsomely they are compensated for their time.

Less emphasis is put on the measurable contribution people make to society or the real skills necessary for those jobs that are so shamefully undervalued and underpaid.

Care workers are a prime example. These are the people entrusted with looking after our most vulnerable loved ones. The hours are long and the work is physically and mentally exhausting. Our society couldn’t function without care sector workers, yet we pay them a fraction of what they are worth and – under this new immigration system – label them “low-skilled” to boot.

It should be of no surprise that the Conservative Party – which is crammed full of privileged, privately-educated posh boys, each with their own drawerful of silver spoons – attaches such little value to low-paid jobs.

If his demonstrable ineptitude in using a mop didn’t automatically disqualify him, the lack of care or seriousness he has shown throughout his career would

I wonder if our own PM could manage to do any of them. “Low-skilled” suggests that your average Joe – or average Alexander Boris de Pfeffel – could walk into any of these industries and get the job done without breaking a sweat.

But how would Boris Johnson fare in the hospitality industry, forced to serve somebody other than himself for a change? His infamous short-temper and thin-skin would surely be tested to the limit as customers vented their frustrations on him. How would he cope with being on his feet for an entire shift, given he is a man too lazy to turn up to TV debates, brush his hair, or even do his shirt up correctly?

He wouldn’t last two minutes as a hospital cleaner. If his demonstrable ineptitude in using a mop didn’t automatically disqualify him, the lack of care or seriousness he has shown throughout his career would. He isn’t a man that could be trusted with something as serious as infection control.

Boris Johnson couldn’t cut it as a nursery assistant either. It’s not like he has any transferable skills in that area. He might be the father of an unspecified number of children but there’s no evidence he has any experience with the practicalities of caring for them. Still, it would be entertaining at least. Imagine Johnson sitting in front of a group of three-year-olds, espousing the virtues of being honest, kind, and playing nicely with your friends. Kids are canny. They’d smell his insincerity a mile off.

Even around his cabinet table, Boris Johnson is not alone in his lack of real-world skills. Those same skills that his government is willing to sacrifice on the altar of being seen to be tough on immigration.

None of his assembled bunch of unimpressive misfits and weirdos would last a day in any of the professions they so cynically present to the public as unskilled.

It is characteristic of Boris Johnson’s government to favour the headline over the details. As his ministers obligingly took to the airwaves to explain how this policy “delivers on the wishes of the British people”, they were unwilling to be drawn on the specifics of how it would work in practice, or the impact it would have on the economy.

As freedom of movement comes to an end and these draconian immigration rules are implemented, we will see the gulf between what Scotland voted for – in both 2014 and 2016 – and what our future now looks like under this Brexiteer government widen further. Our ageing population and existing problems with inward migration will mean that the change will be keenly felt across our public services.

Nicola Sturgeon has said “it is impossible to overstate how devastating this UK Government policy will be for Scotland’s economy” and she reiterated her call for immigration powers to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Will the other Scottish party leaders back Sturgeon? Or are they willing to gamble on the short-sighted ambitions of our low skilled prime minister?

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Employment

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