- Escape to the city
- Mobile middle class
- Big data, big impact?
- Feeding the 9 billion
- Countryside in Crisis?
- The Energy Water Food Stress Nexus
- Unsustainable Fishing
- Keeping pace with a digital revolution
- Global health in the 21st Century
- Adapting to an urban future
- Educating for tomorrow
- Digital technology in Africa
- Persistent poverty in Britain
- Can the UK ever be sustainable?
- Plastic pollution in the oceans
- Natural disasters: how to improve?
- Not In My Back Yard
- Digital Divide in the UK?
- Importing goods, exporting drought?
- Britain’s ageing population
- Engineering our climate
- The future shape of Capitalism
- Migration: skills and the job market
- Razing the Rainforest
- London under water
- Concreting the countryside
- Future of low carbon energy
- Africa in the 21st Century
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Issues of migration
Watch the talks from Migration: skills and the job market [November 2008]
Issues of migration are currently high on the political and public agenda in the UK and other developed countries across the world.
Opinion is often varied on these issues, with recent debate on whether to limit the number of migrants allowed to enter the UK each year.
Migration in the UK
Until 1982 there was a net outflow of migrants from Britain. Since then this trend has reversed, with the net inflow of migration to Britain increasing, especially since the mid 1990s.
Modern migration to the UK increasing follows an economic pattern; as people continue to seek better economic opportunities and are often willing to migrate to other countries to take advantage.
Over the past two decades, immigration to UK has been stimulated by growth in the demand of lower skilled migrant workers in the UK.
Increasing migrant numbers entering Britain has lead to pressure on the government to apply effective policies to manage this issue. Some are now concerned that the scale of current migration is too high, and that annual numbers should be limited. Among those voicing concern are the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee and independent bodies such as MigrationWatch UK, who advise against leaving migration numbers unchecked.
Benefits of migration
Economic opportunities no longer stop at national borders; it is normal and desirable for people to move around to work, whether within the UK or internationally.
It is often argued that a more mobile workforce can make the economy more flexibility. This can enable the economy to adapt faster to change, improving both growth and stability.
Philippe Legrain, author of 'Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them', maintains that migrants’ diversity and dynamism often stimulate competition, innovation and enterprise. This in turn raises long term growth and can benefit the economy of the host countries.
Migrants are a self selected minority, who are often young, hard working and enterprising. This is because like starting a new business, migrating is a risky enterprise and hard work is needed to make it pay off.
— Philippe Legrain, 21st Century Challenges event, November 2008
He argues that history has shown that migrants, rather than following conventional wisdom, can often see things differently
and as outsiders are often more determined to succeed.
A good example is Silicon Valley, USA, where Google, Yahoo and eBay were all co-founded by immigrants, who arrived in America as children. Similar circumstances can be found in Britain, such as Sir Jack Cohen, founder of Tesco's supermarket, whose father was an immigrant from Poland.
In a briefing paper, 'Immigration - a business perspective', The Institute of Directors (IoD) state that 'increased supply of labour from migration could work to reduce inflationary pressures and help boost the productive potential of the UK economy.' The majority of their members agree that immigration should be 'encouraged to alleviate skills shortages and widen the labour pool for employees'.
Limiting the scale of immigration
While many agree with the principle of immigration to plug the skills gap in UK, many are becoming concerned at the scale.
The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee is one of the five permanent investigative committees in the House of Lords. The group is made up of thirteen cross party members. On 1 April 2008, the committee published a report entitled 'The Economic Impact of Immigration'.
The reports' findings showed that net immigration was of little or no benefit to the UK economy, and that population increase on this scale is unsustainable. It also stated that competition from immigrants has had a negative impact on the low paid and training for young UK workers, and has contributed to high house prices. The Committee advised the government that it 'should have an explicit target range' for immigration and set rules to keep within that limit.
The findings of this report are supported by Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of MigrationWatch UK, who believe that immigration should be brought down to the level of emigration. Sir Andrew maintains that the scale of migration into UK is producing a huge strain on public services and on society, with little or no benefit to the wider population.
While supporting immigration to fill skills shortages, the IoD recognises the need for various limits on the immigration process. They state that their members 'overwhelmingly disagree with the view that immigration
should be completely unrestricted'.
Immigration points system in the UK
Throughout 2008, the UK government has been rolling out the first stages of a new points-based system for migrants wishing to enter UK from outside the EU. This new system is aimed at simplifying the previous system, aligning it with Australia’s immigration system.
The Home Office states that the aim of the system is to ensure that only those with the skills most in need gain entry to the UK. Attracting migrants with the right skills to boost the UK economy, while easing pressure on local public services.
The system does not apply to European Union (EU) workers which are governed by free market rules that allow British people to move and work around the European continent. There are now five so called ‘tiers’ within the points scheme which people applying to work in the UK will be categorised.
• Tier 1: Highly skilled individuals to contribute to growth and productivity;
• Tier 2: Skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in United Kingdom labour force;
• Tier 3: Limited numbers of low skilled workers needed to fill temporary labour shortages;
• Tier 4: Students;
• Tier 5: Youth mobility and temporary workers: people allowed to work in the United Kingdom for a limited period of time to satisfy primarily non-economic objectives.
The newly formed Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will recommend independent, evidence-based advice to government on labour shortages in the UK economy which can sensibly be filled by migrant labour.
Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)
Criticism of the points system
The points system being introduced does not include restrictions on EU workers. Conservatives, such as shadow immigration minister Damien Green MP, have called for a more ‘sensible’ policy, recommending an inclusion of an annual cap on the number of migrants able to come to the UK.
Opposition to this system is based not on the right type of people but a disagreement over the acceptable amount. Liberal Democrats have argued the points system is going to discriminate against people working in lower skilled sectors.
Migrant workers in sectors such as the restaurant trade or care sector are unlikely to get a high number of points in this newly introduced system.
Watch the talks from Migration: skills and the job market [November 2008]