What’s the point?

7 months ago Comments Off on What’s the point?

BRITAIN’S Conservative Party was languishing in opposition when, in 2005, it hit upon a winning idea. If elected, it would introduce an “Australian-style points system” for work permits. So popular was the pitch that a Labour government created such a system three years later; the immigration minister, Liam Byrne, even flew to Sydney to launch the scheme, although it did not last long. Campaigners for Britain to leave the European Union repeated the promise this year. It was their most detailed policy proposal, and may well have carried them to victory.

“There’s something deep in the British psyche about the Australian system,” says Mr Byrne. But points-based immigration regimes look most attractive from a distance. The countries that invented them concluded some time ago that they are flawed, and have tweaked them radically. They have also discovered that points systems do not completely cure xenophobia.

Canada created the world’s first points system, in 1967. Would-be immigrants who scored highest on youth, education, experience and fluency in English or French were offered permanent residency. In 1979 Australia created a similar…

The Economist: International