Immigration: is the government keeping people out instead of serving the economy?

The government's attempts to bring down net migration mean businesses are less able to recruit the talent they need from outside the EU.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 19 Jan 2016

Immigration is a big populist drum the government just won’t stop banging, even more so with the recent success of UKIP and its foreign worker scaremongering. Now new research supports what companies have always said: putting limits on non-EU migrants is shrinking the talent pool they can draw from, no matter David Cameron’s insistence it doesn’t stop the ‘brightest and the best’ coming to the UK.

The number of migrants educated until they were at least 21 who have been the UK less than three years fell 10% to 242,000 between 2011 (when stricter immigration controls came in) and 2013, according to the report from Oxford University’s Migration Observatory. It was as high as 338,000 in 2007, before the recession hit.

Businesses have been turning to the EU to make up some of the shortfall, with a 39% fall in highly-educated workers from outside the union from 2011 to 2013 partially offset by a 53% rise in those coming from ‘old-EU’ countries (France, Spain, Italy, etc), whose economies are for the most part in a worse state than the UK’s.

Source: Migration Observatory (RMW - recent migrant workers)

That helps to explain why net migration was pretty much static at 212,000 in the last quarter of 2013, more than double the 100,000 figure the government is fruitlessly targeting.

Business secretary Vince Cable, who has continually clashed with hard-nosed home secretary Theresa May over immigration, described the findings as ‘deeply worrying’.

‘The harder we make it for international companies to employ the very best executives, the harder it is to sell the UK as a place to do business and foster employment opportunities,’ he said.

IoD director general Simon Walker was not impressed either. ‘I think it should cause real soul-searching in the Home Office because [their] intransigence on this issue is damaging the UK economy,’ he said. ‘They see their role to keep people out rather than to serve the broad economic needs of the UK as a whole.’

If the Tories really want companies to stop hiring non-Brits they need to get us studying the skills they need. It’s a simple case of supply and demand.


Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime