Major review of Shortage Occupation List

The Migration Advisory Committee has published its 2023 review of the Shortage Occupation List.

11 October 2023

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has been commissioned by the government to carry out a major review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). It has made a number of recommendations that will - if accepted - see significant reductions made to the number of roles on the list. 

In the report, the MAC says it is not convinced the list provides a sensible immigration solution to UK labour shortages and the government should abolish it going forward.

Instead, it suggests that in future it could be commissioned to examine individual occupations or sectors where labour market issues seem particularly acute, possibly as part of a cross-government approach.

The report includes the following recommendations from MAC: 

  • The Shortage Occupation List is renamed to Immigration Salary Discount List (ISDL) due to the current name being misleading and to reflect the purpose of the SOL.
  • Care workers and senior care workers are to stay on the SOL, UK-wide.
  • The government removes the going rate discount and that all occupations on a national pay scale where the going rate is above the general threshold for the skilled worker route are made ineligible for the SOL.
  • If an asylum seeker is granted the right to work, they should be able to work in any job eligible via the skilled worker route, not just roles on the SOL.
  • Of the 92 occupations that were eligible for review, the committee recommended eight occupations for the 2023 UK-wide list - including care workers, lab technicians, bricklayers, roofers and animal care services - but said going forward the scheme should be scrapped.


The SOL lists occupations where there is a shortage of suitable skilled labour in the UK, and where it is sensible to fill those shortages with migrant workers through a skilled work visa. Inclusion on the list grants an occupation more favourable migration conditions, with the aim to increase the number of applicants for certain roles and reduce labour shortages.

The list is designed to help people from overseas fill vacant jobs on lower visa fees and allows their employers to pay them 80 per cent of the role’s usual rate, down to a minimum of £20,960.

A large number of occupations are now considered ineligible for the SOL because salaries are above the general threshold – and therefore were not able to submit evidence for this review. This means that occupations that may have been included previously, are now excluded from the SOL, for example healthcare roles such as nurses.

During the consultation NHS Employers advocated for the inclusion of care workers, lab technicians and pharmaceutical technicians following the evidence received from employers.

NOTE from MAC 

The MAC has stated: "This recommendation does not mean that we believe these occupations are not in shortage or that we do not recognise the public value of many of these occupations. Rather, inclusion on the SOL would not help these occupations use the immigration system any more effectively to address shortages."

While Prof Brian Bell, the government's independent migration adviser, says: "We are not convinced that the SOL is an effective tool to address labour shortages across different occupations and sectors. If ministers accepted this key recommendation, it would mean most of the roles currently on the list are no longer eligible as they would receive only a “negligible benefit” by being included."

Future of the SOL

At this stage these are recommendations from MAC, the government will now consider the recommendations and respond.

For further information and to read the full report please visit the GOV.UK website.