The Society of Authors has slammed the government's new white paper on immigration, warning it will do "real damage" to the UK’s creative industries. The paper has also drawn criticism from the Creative Industries Federation which branded current proposals "hugely disappointing".
The paper, proposing a "future skills-based immigration system ... built around the skills that people can bring - not where they come from", was unveiled by Home Secretary Sajid Javid on Wednesday (19th December) and promises "a new route for skilled workers [that] will enable employers – in both the private and public sectors - to access the talent they need".
However a key point of contention is the proposed minimum salary threshold of £30,000 to hire prospective immigrants, intended to vet what constitutes "skilled" labour.
Chief executive of the SoA Nicola Solomon said the stipulation "completely ignores the reality of earnings across the creative sector, and seems to have been designed with the aim of keeping creative talent out of the country rather than welcoming it in", encouraging the government back to the drawing board.
"Furthermore the white paper contains little scope for freelancers from abroad to come and work in the UK," she continued. "This would be a hammer blow to the creative industries given that 35% of creative workers – including most authors - are self-employed.
"The proposals will now go out to consultation and we will be making our views known alongside other representatives in the creative sector. There needs to be a major rethink from Government if it wants the success of the UK’s world-leading creative industries to be retained."
The latest income survey from the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society, reported on in June, found average author earnings had dropped 15% since 2013 to under £10,500-a-year.
While heaping scorn on the Government for its “blindness” to the challenges that Brexit and the immigration system will impose on organisations, the Creative Industries Federation has likewise called the £30,000 salary threshold "too blunt an instrument, and not fit for purpose if applied to EU permanent workers”. It said it will be working with industry and with government during the consultation period to emphasise the need for flexibility for sectors such as the creative industries where high skills do not always command a high salary.
"Proposals to maintain the salary threshold, as well as the failure to include any measures to address the challenges faced by freelancers, are hugely disappointing. It demonstrates government’s blindness to the major strains that Brexit and the current immigration system will have on organisations’ ability to recruit the talent they need,” Alan Bishop, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation said.
"There will need to be considerable changes to these proposals if government are to ensure sectors such as the creative industries continue to thrive post-Brexit. This must be combined with an agreement with the EU which goes much further to ensure the ease of movement of talent. We will continue to gather data and case studies from the creative industries in order to advocate to government the reasons why this system must change, and what a fit-for-purpose visa system might look like.”
Also included in the white paper are proposals for 12-month visas for lower-skilled workers and a call to scrap the current cap on high-skilled migrants, with plans to phase the new system in from 2021. They all hinge on the approval of Theresa May’s Brexit deal in parliament as well as the passing of follow-up legislation before next March.