EU migrants are ‘job creators’ not ‘job takers’, experts tell government

27 Oct 2017 By Emily Burt and Hayley Kirton

CIPD and IoD warn access to overseas workers will be critical post-Brexit as skills shortages bite

An open approach to EU immigration has helped create jobs, rather than take them away, and is critical for the UK to thrive post-Brexit, experts have warned the government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

Home secretary Amber Rudd commissioned the MAC to carry out a review into EEA migration to the UK in July. The committee then called on interested parties, including employers and businesses, to submit evidence. The call for evidence remains open until the end of today.

In papers shared with People Management, both the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the CIPD urged the government to avoid any post-Brexit immigration policies that would cut the flow of immigration to universities, businesses and the public sector.

“For employers, access to migrants and uncertainty about the future status of their immigrant employees already resident here, or their British employees working overseas, are among their foremost concerns,” the IoD wrote in its evidence to the MAC. “There are, simply put, not enough skilled people across the workforce to fulfil the demand of growing businesses.”

According to the IoD’s research, two-thirds (67 per cent) of its members have at least one employee from outside the UK working in their organisation, with 70 per cent of members saying businesses need the skills of immigrants to compete on a global scale. More than half (59 per cent) of employers said immigration had allowed their business to become more productive, leading to higher economic growth and employment.

“If much of our public debate around immigration gives the impression that immigrants are job-takers, the stats suggest that the term ‘job creators’ might be more appropriate,” the report read.

Meanwhile, the CIPD stressed that employers were seriously concerned about organisational survival should Brexit place strict restrictions on EU workers, particularly in low-skilled roles. “Many organisations say that employing EU nationals is essential as they cannot find local applicants to fill the role because of the unattractiveness of the role or the tightness of the labour market,” the submission stated.

Research by the CIPD and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, published in June, warned that UK employers were being forced to turn to EU workers to fill low and semi-skilled jobs, with more than a third (35 per cent) of companies in low-paying industries having hired EU staff after being unable to find UK-born workers.

In a briefing note that accompanied the call for evidence, the MAC discussed several possible options for what the immigration system for EEA workers would look like post-Brexit, but concluded that some sort of selection policy – such as by occupation, age or region – was likely to be introduced.

But in his evidence to the MAC, Professor Guglielmo Meardi of Warwick Business School argued that any implementation of migratory controls following the UK’s exit from the EU must be carefully prepared and researched. Meardi’s previous studies of immigration control in Norway, Switzerland and Canada suggested that sudden restrictions to work immigration can damage businesses without raising working standards for native or foreign labour.

The MAC call for evidence comes at a time when reports also suggest that EU nationals are already preparing to leave, or are actually leaving, the UK ahead of Brexit. A study by the CIPD, published in February, revealed that more than a quarter (27 per cent) of employers had already seen signs of their EU27 staff planning to leave their organisation, or the UK entirely, in 2017.

And figures from the Office for National Statistics published in August found that UK net migration had dropped to a three-and-a-half-year low of +246,000 for the year to March 2017, down 81,000 compared with the year before, and the lowest it has been since March 2014.

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