FAME is proud to report that the Migration Advisory Committee has recommended that archaeology jobs be included on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) based upon the evidence we provided, in cooperation with CBA and CIfA. You can read our full response here.

The Migration Advisory Committee recommendation is:

“We recommend including archaeologists within SOC code 2114 (social and humanities scientists) on the SOL. The occupation ranked fairly low (83rd) in the shortage indicators and the vacancy rate is below average. However, the quantitative evidence captures the entire SOC code and not individual job titles and we received compelling evidence suggesting there is a shortage of archaeologists.”

In layman’s terms, archaeology is categorised in a broader grouping of occupations: the social and humanities scientists. This broader occupation is ranked very low in terms of job shortage needs: 83 out of 108 broad occupations that might qualify to be on the SOL. Because of this low ranking archaeology would not normally be able to qualify to be on the Shortage Occupation List. However, we were able to provide compelling evidence that showed that archaeologists deserve to be on the list.

The report cites our joint labour market report (with CIfA) as a key piece of data:

“The majority of stakeholders citing jobs in archaeology referred to the archaeological market survey 2017-18. The report stated that there is a growing demand for archaeologists since 2014 due to a number of projects which include Crossrail, EA, one cable route for North Sea wind farms, A14 improvements and High Speed 2. The report suggested that there are more archaeologists working in the commercial archaeology sector than ever before, with the workforce increasing by 12.8 per cent in 2017/18 alone.”

It also quoted some of the analysis and numbers provided by us:

“…these measures led to meeting 65 per cent of the job demands and the remaining 35 per cent were covered by recruiting from the EEA.”

What does this mean for the Sector?

Currently, nothing. The government will have to implement these recommendations and although the board has recommended that the government do so as soon as possible, there is still the chance they could decide not to. It could also be months before they do. If they do, this will help the sector retain talented staff.

What does being on the SOL mean?

This applies to those looking to work in archaeology on a Tier 2 visa i.e. non-UK, non-EAA citizens (for a few months, this might change) and those without other options to work in the UK. In confers the following benefits onto those looking to work in UK archaeology on a Tier 2 visa:

  • There is no need to conduct the resident labour market test;
  • Job titles and occupations on the SOL are prioritised if the Tier 2 (General) limit of 20,700 is reached;
  • There is no requirement to meet the £35,800 salary threshold required for settlement after five years. This requirement is waived if the job title has been on the SOL at any point in those five years;
  • Applicants (and their families) face lower visa application fees if their occupation is on the SOL.

In the case of the 20,700 limit, being in a PhD level occupation has meant this has never applied to archaeology, but the other aspects of these benefits will be critical in helping archaeology employers to hire new staff or retrain current staff.

How many Archaeologists will be affected?

Currently, FAME is only aware of three archaeologists on Tier 2 visas. While it might help, this is likely coming too late for them. It is unlikely that this will affect many archaeologists. The minimum salaries are £24,000 and £30,000 a year, depending on the length of the visa, so a portion of the jobs will not be covered by this.

This change will affect archaeologists working in America, Canada, Australia, Mexico  etc.,  or current and former students, from non EEA countries, who would like to work here. So the numbers will grow but it is unlikely to reach much above a 100 for a long time, if ever, with this group.

However, it has the potential to affect 15-20% of our workforce, depending on whether Brexit occurs, how it occurs and what final agreement is offered to EU citizens. The elimination of  £35k minimum to get permanent leave to remain could have a huge impact on our workforce with non-UK citizenship.

Will this Solve the Skills Shortage?

NO, the numbers are just too small to affect the shortage. However, combined with investment in training, better working conditions to attract and retain archaeologists and other programmes, it can play a part. There is likely no single solution to the problem, this is just one component, among many, to help.

I am a new Archaeologists, will they take my job?

NO, the minimum lowest possible pay is £24,000 while the starting salaries in commercial archaeology are between £20-21,ooo. They will not be able to take many entry level fieldwork jobs.

Will this depress wages?

NO. The Migration Advisory Committee found that those on Tier 2 Visas are paid 9% more than comparable workers*. Migrants in the current system do not depress wages.

Will migrants take my job?

NO. The Migration Advisory Committee report lays out the economics of migration and it does not negatively affect the abundance of jobs. It shows that the ‘lump of labour fallacy’, is just that, a fallacy.

If it is not affecting lots of archaeologists, then why is this important?

It is not about the number of archaeologists but the quality of their lives. This change will remove many degrading and dehumanizing barriers for some of our colleagues. It will make the sector more welcoming and a place were more people can have a career. It will help employers retain members of their team, where previously they have not always been in a position to do so. This is an important step to improving our sector.


*Note on higher wages. This is true of all sectors except Nursing and Doctors. The medical fields have a policy to pay all migrant workers on the lowest rung when starting. With medical fields included the average pay is 4% higher, without them it is 9%.