The new coalition government will impose a permanent immigration quota next year, promising to cut levels of migration to rates last seen in the 1990s and dramatically reduce the numbers of non-Europeans allowed to live and work in the U.K. It’s long been a flagship cause for the country’s Conservative Party, which leads Britain’s governing coalition and bitterly complained in opposition that unchecked immigration had strained public services, distorted labor markets and fueled social divides.
British Prime Minister David Cameron won much attention on his recent trip to the United States with his program of savage spending cuts. He’s also been sharpening his shears on another front: immigration. But business leaders warn the immigration quota could leave the country short in vital industries — leaving some areas without adequate medical staff, stalling efforts to meet deadlines to build new nuclear power stations, and leaving care workers needed for a growing elderly population in short supply.
It means the crackdown will target workers from Africa – who make up the largest group of non-European migrants working in the U.K. and Commonwealth countries such as India, Pakistan and Australia. Citizens of Commonwealth nations lost preferential treatment from Britain on immigration in the 1970s. Americans, who number about 80,000 working in the U.K., will also face new difficulties. Unemployment in Britain stands at 7.8 percent, a slight fall from recent months. But 7.82 million workers are in part-time employment, the highest rate since records began in 1992.