There are growing concerns that the UK government’s attitude towards immigration could have implications on international investments and businesses. But is there any convenience for Britain in shutting its doors to business, foreign workers, or even international students?
It is not a secret that the government has been attempting to reduce net migration, setting an ideal target below 100,000 a year before the next elections in 2015. A strategy supported by home secretary Theresa May, who has questioned the sustainability of immigration and argued that it limits the chances of British workers to be employed. Similarly, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has openly linked uncontrolled mass migrants to rising housing prices and increasing pressure on public services.
Notwithstanding the government efforts to justify its policies as a means to protect national interest, recent statistics have shown that only 13% of new jobs went to foreign nationals. This, according to the Guardian, can explain why the publication of official figures on the immigration impact on UK native employment has been delayed by Downing Street, despite the pressures from opposition leaders.
The recently published document reports “relatively little evidence” of immigration impacting UK native labour market, but it also finds indications of displacement on UK employment in the recent years, particularly for low-skilled British workers.
Opinions on immigration are frequent and tend to polarise views which, however, are seldom informed by evidence. Most critics tend to emphasise the cost of importing labour from overseas and link migration to lower wages. By contrast, they often fail to recognise the net contribution of immigration to the UK economy. Immigrants, as revealed by a CFE/DueDil-funded research, are responsible for creating 14% of jobs in UK, and one out of seven businesses – principally in the SME segment – is started by an immigrant entrepreneur. This is even more significant in consideration of the extra challenges and cultural barriers that foreign businesses have to face.
Entrepreneurial migrants, the study adds, also tend to be more diverse than UK–born as they include a greater proportion of women starting businesses. The dynamism and creativity of non-native entrepreneurs, as acknowledged by MP Vince Cable, have also brought measurable improvements to the UK economy.
Most importantly, an open debate on immigration should consider the opportunity to use highly-skilled labour force to reduce the skills gap and talent shortage – two enduring challenges that have been universally stressed by British employers in the recent years. David Rudick, VP International Markets at Indeed.com, claims that “an increasingly globalised world opens up new opportunities for both employers and job seekers, particularly in industries such as oil and gas, engineering and healthcare”.
Though progress has been made in Britain and in other Western economies, Mr. Rudick adds that more can be done to “encourage the hiring of skilled workers across international borders” since immigration policies can “limit the practice of sourcing skilled talents from overseas, with the consequence of missing opportunities and a widening skill gaps in strategic sectors”.
Global hiring is therefore “a key element in ensuring that employers are giving themselves the best chance of finding candidates with the right skills for the job”. A forward-thinking immigration policy should hence find a balance between protections of national interest with the economic opportunities provided by hiring a highly-skilled migrant workforce.
Sergio Russo, HRreview Journalist