New Survey Shows Challenges Faced by BN(O) Immigrants in the UK
A recent survey conducted by British Future, a think tank, and the Welcoming Committee for Hong Kongers, has shed light on the difficulties faced by BN(O) immigrants from Hong Kong in the United Kingdom. Since the introduction of the scheme in 2021, an estimated 123,000 to 160,000 individuals have moved to the UK. The survey reveals that this immigrant group is experiencing high levels of unemployment and underemployment, despite many holding undergraduate and/or postgraduate degrees.
According to the survey, only half of BN(O) immigrants are currently employed, often in low-skilled jobs that do not match their qualifications and experience. Many respondents over the age of 45 with professional qualifications reported feeling that their qualifications were of no use in their current job. Language barriers and lack of experience were cited as the main obstacles to finding suitable work, although two-thirds of respondents rated their spoken and written English as good or very good.
In response to the survey findings, Heather Rolfe, research director at British Future, suggested that the UK needs more educational institutions that offer higher-level English language classes. Rolfe believes that BN(O) immigrants could help fill skill gaps in sectors such as wholesale and retail, information technology, education, and hospitality. She argues that since the UK government is unlikely to increase immigration, employers will have to make use of the existing pool of migrants, including those from Hong Kong who are generally well-educated.
However, there appears to be a lack of awareness among British employers about the potential of BN(O) workers. Rolfe proposes that the UK government should ensure that the National Careers Service and Jobcentre Plus meet the needs of migrants. The survey revealed that more than three-quarters of BN(O) immigrants had not received any career information or guidance, despite two-thirds expressing a desire for it.
The issue of job mismatch faced by BN(O) immigrants is not easily resolved. Unlike those admitted on work visas, BN(O) immigrants are admitted based on their former colonial status rather than their job qualifications. This means that it is not surprising that they are struggling to find suitable employment or are stuck in low-wage jobs in the UK.
The BN(O) scheme, which allows individuals to apply for permanent residency after living in the UK for five years, is seen by some as less generous compared to the immigration routes offered by countries like Australia, Canada, and the United States. This has led to concerns that BN(O) immigrants may not have their future in the UK guaranteed. As anti-immigration sentiments become a significant election issue, it is likely that future British governments will use the 5+1 rule to screen out immigrants who are deemed to contribute little to the economy and society.
The survey findings highlight the need for further support and resources for BN(O) immigrants in the UK. As the number of returnees from the UK to Hong Kong is expected to rise in the coming years, it is crucial for the Hong Kong government to prepare by ensuring that there are enough public schools and public housing available to accommodate them.
More detail via South China Morning Post here… ( Image via South China Morning Post )