Fall in skilled migrant worker numbers damages UK business, says Cable
Government polices designed to reduce net migration have greatly reduced the international talent pool available to British businesses, according to a report.
The number of highly skilled European workers arriving in the UK had fallen by 28 per cent between 2007 and 2013, to a total of 242,000.
The report from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford suggests that there has been a 39 per cent drop in hires from outside Europe since the introduction of major immigration policy changes by successive governments.
Highly educated workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) – EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – have been most affected by government policies: migrants from these countries decreased from 155,000 in 2007 to 94,000 in 2013.
Experts suggest that the goal to cut immigration levels by “tens of thousands” was having a detrimental effect on UK businesses.
"The net migration target, which was not government policy, has clearly had a damaging impact on UK plc by reducing the talent pool available to companies based here," business secretary Vince Cable said.
"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."
However, figures also show that recent economic events such as the 2008 downturn and eurozone crisis might have prompted the significant rise in the number of highly skilled migrant workers arriving from within the EEA. There were 53 per cent more workers in 2013 than in the two preceding years.
Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, co-author of the report suggested that efforts to reduce non-EEA skilled migrant workers, had led businesses to look closer to home for migrant talent, but these efforts did not translate to the boardroom.
The number of highly educated migrant workers occupying manager, director or senior official roles was at its lowest level in 2010, with just 79,000 people recorded in these positions. This increased only slightly in 2013, but still a 22 per cent reduction from the 125,000 levels recorded in 2007.
“There has been a significant decline in the number of recent migrant workers in the UK who have the highest levels of education and who are in top occupations since 2007, but this decline is driven by a decrease in non-EEA migration,” Vargas-Silva said.
“Since 2011 the number of these recent migrant workers who are from EEA countries has increased.
“Policy makers need to look at whether this has been caused by a “balloon effect” where policies designed to squeeze one sort of migration lead to another sort increasing in size,” he concluded.