Article by Ian Birrell
It is hard to think of a better pin‑up for the modern Conservative Party than these superb examples of entrepreneurial drive, which crop up across the country, from inner cities to the Scottish Highlands and former troublespots in Northern Ireland. Yet this is now an industry suffering a crisis that is hotting up, with at least two restaurants closing down each week. Owners are turning outlets into flats, staff becoming Uber drivers. And with cruel irony, the key cause is the government’s myopic determination to crack down on immigration.
Amid fierce competition from new chains and nationalities, curry houses are being forced out of business by a shortage of chefs. There are doom-laden warnings that as many as one third could close. And the core issue is that attempts to hire skilled new cooks from abroad are hampered by rules that prevent them coming from outside the European Union unless earning more than £29,570 a year and working in an establishment that does not offer takeaways. But this is some £5,000 higher than standard pay for such chefs and most curry houses offer take-home meals. As so often, government meddling with the labour market has backfired. Even temporary hirings to plug gaps are thwarted.
This is the problem with the idea that you can restrict immigration to a set of skilled professionals that are in shortage. It is not possible for the government to micro-manage what skills are needed within the economy at any one time. The government could, of course, start issuing more work permits to chefs, but then they would only find that some other profession was needed.