Bribe migrants to stay, says think-tank

The IPPR says we need tax breaks to keep skilled migrants in the UK. It's either that or the weather.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Just in case the summer sunshine and the booming economy aren’t enough to bring skilled migrants flocking to UK shores, we should encourage them to stay with the promise of tax breaks, according to a new report. The study, by the Institute for Public Policy Research, argues that Britain is in danger of losing out to other countries in the ongoing battle to secure new talent. It also reckons that keeping migrants in the UK for longer is as important as attracting them in the first place – so we ought to consider incentives like simplified visa extensions and tax breaks. If only we could afford them…

Figures suggest that the size of the migrant exodus is increasing – more than 3m people who came to the UK in the last three decades have subsequently thought better of it, and left. No fewer than 190,000 migrants bolted in 2007, and this figure is expected to be much higher in 2008.

The researchers say that short-term migration is a growing problem: the number of immigrants who spend less than four years in the UK doubled between 1996 and 2007 (the weather gets to them all in the end). The report also suggests that migrants tend to arrive in Britain looking for financial stability, but often leave again due to ‘personal reasons’ relating to missing their country of origin. Clearly there’s some truth in the old adage: ‘home is where the heart is’.

The most flighty are a new breed of migrants – the ‘super mobile’. These are people who are highly skilled, well educated and have low barriers to movement; fancying themselves as ‘global citizens’, they skip from country to country. You might also recognise these as the very people who were hammered last year by the Government’s new tax on non-domiciled foreigners living in the UK. Although this went down well with the tabloids, City types were incensed by the move: Lord Digby Jones, for example, said it would threaten London’s role as a world finance centre, and would send out the wrong message at a time when other countries were rolling out the welcome mat to wealthy foreign workers.

And therein lies the problem. With the Treasury coffers so bare, the Government is much more interested in finding politically convenient ways to raise tax, rather than far-sighted tax cuts to help people who probably won’t be able to vote for them. Still, unless something is done, we may well be seeing more and more of Britain’s diverse workforce queuing at Heathrow airport to catch the next flight home.

In today's bulletin:

RBS gloomy despite being back in the black
Are women directors bad for a company's bottom line?
Editor's blog: Murdoch declares end to online free-for-all
Bribe migrants to stay, says think-tank
Be more diplomatic, with YouTube

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime