TIGA, the network for games developers and digital publishers and trade association representing the video games industry, has submitted written evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to inform their review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). TIGA has called on the Government to enable games businesses to recruit non-UK workers to fill high and medium skilled roles after Brexit, while continuing the development of a highly skilled domestic workforce.
In June 2018, the Government commissioned the MAC to carry out a full review of the composition of the SOL. The SOL comprises occupations and job titles held to be in shortage across the UK. Job titles on the SOL are not required to undertake the Resident Labour Market Test or meet the five-year salary threshold for settlement.
The UK video games industry suffers from skills shortages due to three principal reasons: an undersupply of highly skilled graduates; an undersupply of experienced specialists in a rapidly expanding digital sector; and technological and commercial change. Skills shortages could be exacerbated once we leave the EU, therefore it is imperative that the SOL is regularly updated and that the Tier 2 visa system provides an effective way for games businesses to recruit highly skilled people. Currently, 15 per cent of the UK video games industry’s workforce comes from the EU and a further 5 per cent from the rest of the world.
In TIGA’s submission to the MAC, we propose that the Government should consider the following measures:
- retain the existing roles relevant to the video games industry on the SOL (e.g. Programmers);
- update the SOL by adding more roles for which there is currently a shortage (e.g. Audio roles/Sound Designer, Community Management, etc);
- consider introducing broader categories to the SOL to encompass a wider range of roles (e.g. ‘Games Developer’ could be added to the SOL, covering roles in programming, art and animation, games design, digital marketing, etc.);
- introduce a fast track (14 days process) visa programme for roles on the SOL to enable UK employers to recruit quickly and signal to foreign skilled workers that they are welcome in the UK;
- language skills should qualify as essential criteria in roles where native language skills and cultural country knowledge are crucial (only native speakers in specific languages can carry out some jobs in Community Management because they require deep cultural knowledge, but these roles are classed as ‘low-skilled’ jobs under the current migration framework and so do not fit the requirements of the current Tier 2 system or other visa programmes);
- make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to recruit workers via the Tier 2 points based system;
- refrain from increasing the Tier 2 salary threshold from circa £24,000 (e.g. Programmers and software development professional) to £30,000. Many overseas workers in the UK video games industry are in medium skill roles and so could be adversely affected by this proposal.
Dr Richard Wilson OBE, Chief Executive Officer of TIGA, said:
“The UK video games industry is a high skilled, high technology, export focused sector that is currently growing at 7 per cent per annum. Our industry recruits highly skilled people from the UK and invests in skills and training, but when faced by skills shortages we need to recruit the very best global talent.
“If the UK games industry is to remain world leading after Brexit, then our industry needs to be able to hire non-UK workers to fill high and medium skilled roles via the Shortage Occupation List. This will help to minimise skills shortages, protect jobs and investment.
“It is good news that the MAC has called for contributions from stakeholders to inform which occupations and job titles should be added to the SOL. It is important that the Government properly understands potential skill shortages across the UK video games industry, and the UK labour market as a whole, once free movement of people comes to an end.
“We hope the Government will take on our recommendations to ensure the video games industry continues to thrive after Brexit. We await the MAC’s response with great interest.”