Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report Shortage Occupation List to be further reduced

The Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) has set out proposals which will effectively revise the current Shortage Occupation List. The report has concluded that the number of specialist UK jobs which need to be filled by non-EEA workers is indeed falling. This will come as a boost to the UK Government who have made clear their intentions of reducing net migration figures in the coming years.

 The MAC’s latest report has found that:

  • Before the MAC started advising on the Shortage Occupation List in 2008, total employment in occupations covered by the list was in excess of 1 million.
  • The number of migrants taking up jobs through this route, each year now represents only about 1 in 400 of all immigrants to the UK.
  • The MAC has removed over 100 job titles from the List over the past 4 years.

 The MAC believes the current process is working, but their report has also proposed recommendations which include the following: 

  • A reduction in the number of jobs listed on the UK’s shortage occupation list down to 180,000 employees, which is understood to be less than 1 per cent of the total workforce.
  • For the second year running, the MAC recommends an increase in the number of engineering jobs on the list.
  • The removal of 19 jobs in the health sector from the list.
  • Recognition that the government may wish to impose some time limit in order to focus the minds of employers on the need for up-skilling in certain sectors.

 The MAC was also asked to advise the government on proposals to automatically remove a job from the shortage occupation list after 2 years – the so-called “sunset clause”. The MAC opposed such a proposal, arguing that either the status quo or a 4 year time period with an opportunity to appeal against removal would be more proportionate. The report concluded that to have such a clause would be disproportionate and an automatic removal will cause significant difficulties to key areas of employment for the UK.

The government also asked the MAC to examine whether or not there should be a separate route within the Tier 2 visa system for creative occupations that do not require the National Qualifications Framework level 6 (NQF6) – the usual skill level needed to qualify for a Tier 2 visa. The MAC suggests maintaining the present system whereby some specified creative occupations do not have to pass the skill threshold – these include actors, authors, dancers and choreographers.

The Chairman of the MAC, Professor David Metcalf CBE, said:

“Overall, migration through the Tier 2 visa route is already limited – which means our new reduced shortage occupation list will have only a limited impact on overall migration volumes.

We strongly support the government’s up-skilling agenda which has been very successful in bringing down the number of health jobs on the list. But the increasing demand for specialist engineers continues to outstrip supply.

Our research shows that attempts by employers and public bodies in this industry to address the engineering skills deficit have so far proven inadequate. Therefore, we recommend the government add around 20 new engineering sector job titles to the list this year. Although there are a number of initiatives to help boost science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills, we emphasise the need for greater strategic thinking around delivery of these.”


Employers are urged to review their current work force to evaluate the number of sponsored employees who are currently holding Shortage Occupation Listed jobs. There is a special need to check the visa expiry dates and whether an extension of their employment will be required.

If you regularly employ workers who fall under the Shortage Occupation List and are planning to bring workers in under this route we would advise that you contact a member of our team to make an assessment of how best to move forward with minimal disruption to your workforce.

What remains to be seen is how the UK government will interpret the MAC’s recommendation to impose a time limit on the employers in use of the Shortage Occupation List route and also how they will help employers to up-skill in certain sectors.

For access to the MAC’s report “Full review of the recommended shortage occupation lists for the UK and Scotland, a sunset clause and the creative occupations”  please click on the following link: