Making migration work: New rights and responsibilities to learn English
- Over the next 10 years it is anticipated that there will be 13.5 million job vacancies in the UK labour market, but only 7 million new labour market entrants to fill them. It is increasingly becoming clear that we need to look beyond our existing workforce if we are to fill these gaps and migration is one of a number of sources which can provide a positive contribution.
- Overall, around 850,000 people in England and Wales are considered ‘non-proficient’ in English. This is a major barrier to integration and inclusion. However, reductions in funding and increased eligibility restrictions have resulted in a dramatic drop in participation in ESOL learning. This has fallen from an estimated 500,000 learners in 2006/07 to 139,000 in 13/14.
- This is further compounded by poor utilisation of migrants’ existing skills due to poor advice and guidance and a lack of recognition of their qualifications. We also have an immigration cap in place that prevents our businesses capitalising on the skills of students from overseas and high skilled migrants.
100 Day Actions
- Everyone in a household in receipt of any benefit should be required to learn English if they need to. This would extend the current requirement for Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants to other benefits, such as Housing Benefit. This requirement should also be built into Universal Credit as it is rolled out.
- Expand the number of English classes. The existing £130m English for Speakers of Other Languages budget should be refocused to expand entry level classes. People should be encouraged to contribute to the costs of learning above this level, including by giving access to income-contingent Learning Loans, already in use for Level 3 and 4 learning among those aged over 24. We estimate this new market will be valued at between £150-200m.
- Government should lead the way, establishing a pilot to improve English language proficiency of workers in the publicly-funded Social Care Sector inspiring and informing similar activity in those sectors with a higher representation of migrant workers.
Continuing our series of blogs discussing the ten policies we would like the next Government to introduce in its first 100 days, Shane Chowen makes a powerful case for an Apprentice Charter.