Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced that the UK will close its borders to "low-skilled workers" as part of a tough new immigration system that will come into force in January 2021.
The government's proposed Australian-style points-based system will judge applicants based on their salary, qualifications, ability to speak English and the type of job they are planning to do. This means migrants from EU or non-EU countries won't be able to come to the UK without a firm job offer, except for a handful of exceptional candidates, such as world-class scientists.
Under the proposed system, applicants will need to gain 70 points to be eligible for a visa from 1st January 2021. After Brexit, people will need to earn more than £25,600, have a job offer that is at a "required skill level" and speak a certain level of English.
The new rules were announced on Wednesday, fulfilling the government's election manifesto pledge of ending freedom of movement and overhauling the country's immigration policy.
In the government's policy statement, the Home Office told businesses they should end their "reliance on cheap, low-skilled labour" and train up British workers to fill vacancies. But critics have said the proposals could be an "absolute disaster" for the social care and hospitality sectors, due to the number of EU migrants who make up a large proportion of employees.
Patel, who spoke to Nick Ferrari on LBC on Wednesday morning, admitted her own parents may not have been allowed into the UK under her new immigration laws.
Sophie Walker, chief executive of Young Women's Trust, said: "These immigration proposals, designed to shut out ‘foreigners’, in fact barricade millions of women into a life of poverty, as the government designs another system that gives paid job opportunities to others based on forcing women to pick up unpaid caring, cooking and cleaning work.
"Once again the ‘unskilled’ work of care is classed as undesirable by those who don’t do it or need it. Until we value and invest in care we can never build a balanced and thriving economy – no matter how many walls and borders we build.
"One million young women across England and Wales live daily on the edge of poverty because they are out of work or trapped in low-paid jobs – left behind by sexist workplaces that don't factor in the support women need to balance access to paid work against the demands of their unpaid work.
"Investing in social infrastructure is vital not just so young women can flourish – but because without it the government will never resolve our national productivity problem or end the skills shortage it is so worried about. Economic justice for women is the foundation of a fair society and a thriving economy."
Lisa Leysen started on a trainee salary of £17,000 in digital marketing when she moved to the UK from Belgium in 2016. She told Refinery29: "It's really hard to get a permanent job in journalism and media in Belgium so I had to apply for a role in the UK. I was hoping an employer would take a chance on me and they did. The company didn't sponsor me but I was able to move to the UK within three weeks and gain new skills."
Had I not been given this opportunity, I wouldn't have existed. I wouldn't know all the people I know and experienced all I have.
Lisa Leysen, 30
Despite speaking four languages, including English, Lisa wouldn't qualify for a visa under the government's new immigration system. "I don't have a PhD, I wasn't sponsored and there isn't a job shortage in my industry. My salary didn't meet the government's threshold. It's really sad because had I not been given this opportunity, I wouldn't have existed. I wouldn't know all the people I know and experienced all I have."
Lisa is still working in the same industry but now earns nearly twice as much thanks to her training and working her way up the career ladder. She added that she was deeply offended by the government's term "low-skilled".
"Yesterday I felt valuable. Today I feel less valuable. You feel like you've been put in this box which you never thought you belonged in and now you think you have to get a PhD or earn over a certain amount. But it's unattainable," she added. "I feel like people look upon EU migrants as just claiming benefits but we work. I make a huge contribution to the job market.
"It's heartbreaking because I've learned so much and I'm a completely different person because of my experiences. I've met so many people and learned so much about British culture – good and bad – and it's just so sad. People won't even look for jobs knowing there will be a strict system. It's discouraging for young people. The UK will miss out on fresh talent."