Monica Atwal, managing director of Clarkslegal
Monica Atwal, managing director of Clarkslegal, explains why immigration is important to UK business and the sustainability of our economy...
For the UK to achieve long term economic and social prosperity it must continue to attract migrants. More so as the UK divorces itself from the EU, forges new relationships and reshapes itself as a leading centre of commerce.
As UK businesses know, the ability to recruit workers is fundamental to their success, and that includes talent from overseas. Migrants are required to fill skills gaps, and once here are instrumental in the transfer and improvement of skills to the UK workforce. The collective and diverse talent spurs on innovation.
The Centre for Entrepreneurs reports that migrant entrepreneurs are behind one in seven of all UK companies. In the SME segment migrant founded companies employ 1.16 million out of a total of 8.3 million people. In addition to this, The Economic Foundation reported in February this year that if all migrants stopped work for one day it would cost £328m a day (4% of GDP).
There are certain sectors which are heavily reliant on migrants; seasonal agriculture, construction, food manufacturing, technology, the NHS and hospitality, and without their migrant workforce they would be severely impacted.
The arguments of migration are nuanced requiring considered analysis, not myths. Overall, its contribution at all levels is positive, it does not impact unemployment in the UK and migrants contribute more in taxes than they receive.
The construction industry is a great example of where migrants add value. It is an industry generates almost £90bn annually (6.7% of GDP) and employs in excess of 2.93 million people. Migrants play a crucial role in this industry, they are literally building the UK.
The Construction Industry Training Board, whose role includes addressing skills shortages, says that the forecast rise in UK building activity between 2015 and 2019, means that the industry’s headcount must increase by almost 224,000. Where will the UK find these workers from?
Additionally, in some geographical areas and sectors, such as London and technology, skilled migrants drive up wages, in other sectors, and in the lower wage category, such as seasonal agriculture they may have an impact on wages but the central argument is that employers cannot get UK workers into these jobs. In the NHS and care industry a lack of workers will impact health of the people that are in need the most.
Higher education is also one of Britain’s outstanding export industries which has already been impacted by the student visa regime and if we continue going down this path, we can only make things worse.
The UK government acknowledges there is a skills shortage, and we have the regulated sponsorship regime and the Shortage of Occupation list confirms which occupations such as engineers, IT business analysts, software professionals, nurses, doctors, teachers and social workers are hard to fill roles.
Mobility matters. We need to create employment opportunities and UK companies need to be open to the world. There needs to be a comprehensive and managed migration policy that allows skilled workers to be welcomed into the UK, not an arbitrary cap. The status of EU migrants needs to be clarified now and the anti-migrant rhetoric stopped.
The education system coupled with employers and industry needs to address skills, mindset and how to obtain an ongoing range of experience and expertise. There needs to be the mapping of future skills requirements – the delivery of continuous learning and development programmes to ensure that employees skills remain relevant to the workplace at all times or that they are able to move on to other careers.
Reciprocal visas are crucial so UK workers can work overseas engaging in a global market place. All these measures will ensure that the UK remains attractive and open to all.
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