Number Crunching – Business needs to have an immigration plan
Immigration has been such a polarising subject of late that I’m going to quote the BBC a lot because they seem to be striking middle ground more than missing it. The first is a half remembered quote from a programme on Radio 4 about three years ago, “British people struggle with big numbers, misapply billions of pounds and only ruffle a few feathers but if you misbehave with a few hundred thousand....”
In the present Government’s mind at least, immigration is all about big numbers but, if we become too focused on the numbers, we may fail to consider the wider points. Diane Abbot, in support of Labour’s recently released proposals on immigration, points out: “As we have learnt in the Windrush scandal, if you have numerical targets for deportation, you end up deporting your own citizens. Or, you can have numerical targets for visas, and you end up excluding doctors, nurses, engineers and others.”
Recruiters and employers tell us regularly that there are not enough people in the United Kingdom to fill roles that are available. If you doubt the position, then advertising for an IT Developer in Wiltshire can be illuminating. The skills shortage is not addressed by arbitrary numerical caps for at least two reasons:
The numbers aren’t necessarily right.
The borders have not had effective systems to count migrant entries – we currently use the International Passenger Survey and so the word survey speaks for itself. People already here are not recorded in any complete way and there will be no process to do so until the autumn of this year and, circular migration – people that come in and go out many times, is very difficult to measure. Immigration Specialists are highly sceptical about there being any effective system in time for the post Brexit limits on free movement within the EU.
There is disagreement about what the numbers actually mean.
Migrant workers increase economic gains and allow UK based companies to thrive in specialist or hard to recruit for industries when they thrive they provide local employment and wealth. Many international students pay £30,000 a year for their studies alone and much of that is profit so money is coming into the UK far more than migration costs but that is not consistent with the perception. This needs to be gripped.
The BBC stated this week in Reality Checks, “if control of immigration remains vitally important to voters then it must be effective.” If we refuse visas to specialist automotive technicians then that whole industry will move to Germany – keeping numbers down to save jobs does not make sense. If the concern is that we are only a small island and will get full up, then that may be evidence of the ‘struggles with big numbers’ point as regards market forces and economics. If the UK worries that its communities will change, then remember there are no local young people inclined to pick produce. Without migration there will still be change in rural communities but in a way we cannot control, they will die on the vine. As almost daily Matt cartoons in the Telegraph remind readers there is little sense in cutting off our collective nose to spite our faces.
The focus must be on skills not on numbers and it must be based on reality. The Government has just opened up the cap to let in overseas medics for overseas doctors and nurses. In doing so there was acknowledgement that aribitrary immigration targets become moot when the situation is serious. Business must lobby and inform itself accordingly because the looming situation is also ‘serious.’
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