The government’s new points-based immigration system poses a threat to the construction industry, industry experts have warned.

The new system announced today, which is due to take effect from January 2021, will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions. Visas will only be awarded to those who gain enough points.

The Migration Observatory estimates that 9% of workers who come from EU countries currently work in skilled construction and building trades, and this new system could restrict access to the UK for EU construction workers.

Home secretary Priti Patel this morning said that while the government was “no longer going to have a route for low-skilled workers to come to the UK”, she denied this would be the end of European builders arriving in Britain, who will be able to get jobs with construction companies rather than being self-employed. 

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “Today’s announcement that there will no longer be a route for ‘low skill’ workers to come to the UK after next year will hamper the construction industry’s capacity to deliver on key projects.

“We will need general labourers as much as architects or surveyors. They are a core part of the construction industry and it’s simply unrealistic to assume the domestic workforce will fill this gap in the next nine months.”

How Will This Affect Homebuilding?

The homebuilding industry has enjoyed a strong start to 2020, with housing named the best performing area of the construction sector, and 37% of builders predicting higher workloads over the next year.

But this announcement has caused concern that the valuable construction workers needed to build homes could be restricted. Tom Hadley, director of policy at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said: “We need access to workers that can help us look after the elderly, build homes and keep the economy strong.

“Jobs the government considers ‘low-skilled’ are vital to wellbeing and business growth. The announcement threatens to shut out the people we need to provide services the public rely on.”

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) also warned that the construction industry, alongside care, hospitality and food and drink companies, could be most affected by the changes. 

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