Increasing migration restrictions in the UK: working holiday visas

The UK Government has been on a five year journey to lower the number of migrants arriving. To this point, they are failing spectacularly given recent economic growth and migration numbers are higher than at any point in the Cameron government. Despite this, they continue to believe in a fantasy of reducing these flows to under 100,000 per year.

The latest strategy is to “tighten the rules” on working holiday visa holders from outside European Union countries.  As Jacquelin Magnay points out in the Australian:

“Current unrestricted movement throughout the EU has resulted in more than 318,000 new migrants in the past 12 months. Fewer than 16,000 Australians now arrive in Britain each year to work, well down on the 40,000 of a decade ago.”

The new rules will create a backlog, a deliberate queue to try and stop these people arriving.

Just like trade barriers, further increasing migration barriers in an increasingly globalised world will have a range of effects. The most insidious will be the long-term lack of good will on migration policy amongst countries. This British rule will place substantial limits on a soft institution that hundreds of thousands of past Australians have enjoyed.

More troubling, this will likely be used by future Australian governments to go down the same track. As we see on the citizenship debate, the “reforms” to British citizenship have been rolled out as an example and justification for the current push for more restrictive policies and increasing executive power.

Australia has one of the most open working holiday visa programs in the world. This comes with a range of policy issues which have long been ignored but at its essence, it is a positive program that can foster closer ties between individuals, communities and countries.

When one country unilaterally imposes migration barriers, reciprocity in a global system will take a hit. This is another example of the increasing trend for countries to impose more barriers to people movement in contrast to everything else we hear about an ever more globalised world.


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