Employing migrant workers



 
 

Providing skills

Skills are essential to productivity and profitability. For UK businesses to compete in an increasingly global marketplace, the workforce must be equipped with the skills to produce high quality goods and services. Countries such as China and India currently compete on the basis of lower labour costs, but with over 20 million graduates in China each year alone, these countries are increasingly competing on expertise too1;. The UK has real skills shortages. Over 85% of respondents to a recent CIPD survey reported difficulties recruiting, with over two-thirds of these citing a lack of specialist skills as the cause2;.

The Department for Educations and Skills' Skills Task Force projections3 show the need for an additional 500,000 jobs in the care sector, 252,000 science and technology professionals, 257,000 teachers and researchers, and 95,000 health professionals by 2010. Skills shortages in skilled construction and metal trade occupations were highlighted in another DFES report4;.

The Work Permit system is designed to enable employers to fill medium and high-skilled jobs where UK and EU citizens are not available: the system is entirely demand-led, and a labour market test applies. Looking at new EU citizens who registered to work in May and June 2004, 34% were employed in hospitality and catering, 17% in agriculture, 17% in administration, business and management5;.

The Work Permit system facilitates recruitment for recognised shortage occupations, for which the labour market test is waived. The Home Office's Highly Skilled Migrant Programme selects skilled, adaptable individuals likely to make a substantial contribution to the UK economy. There are a small number of low skill schemes, targeted at sectors with clear evidence of labour shortages such as agriculture and hospitality.

Facts and figures

  • In September 2004 the employment rate was high and the number of unemployed people fell to 1.41 million, the lowest level since comparable records started in 1984
  • A Manpower survey found that London and the East are predicting the largest increase in staffing levels, whilst the sectors of Transport & Communications, Finance & Business, Construction and Manufacturing predicting are predicting the largest increases in staff (between 16% and 21%)6
  • In 2003 employers reported 679,672 vacancies, with 40% being 'hard-to-fill'7. One in five employers would consider employing someone from the new states in the EU to fill their labour gaps8
  • New EU citizens: 34% were employed in hospitality and catering, 17% in agriculture, 17% in administration, business and management9
  • The construction industry has real skills shortage problems: the Construction Industry Training Board's 2003 'Skill Needs Survey' highlighted that nearly 70% of employers find difficulty in recruiting.10
  • Migrant workers are more likely than others in the UK labour market to be qualified to degree level (19% compared to 15%);11
  • Those who are not born in the UK and are in employment are more likely than the UK-born to be self-employed (14% compared with 11%)12
  • International expertise in science and technology is vital, with a net inflow of 5000 professionals and researchers in 2001 provided valuable skills and ideas. 10% of work permits in 2001 were for engineers and technologists13
1 DfES Skills White Paper, 'Getting on in Business, Getting on at Work'
2 Recruitment, Retention and Turnover (2004) Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development
3 Labour Market Trends Vol. 110 No. 1 (2002)
4 Labour Market Trends Vol. 112 No. 3 pp 10 (2004)
5 Home Office statistics
6 Manpower Employment Outlook Survey UK: 3rd quarter 2004
7 Employers Skill Survey (2003) Department for Education and Skills
8 Manpower press release 15 June 2004
9 Home Office statistics
10 CITB Annual Skill Survey 2003
11 Migrants in the UK: their characteristics and labour market outcomes and impacts (2002) Home Office Occasional Paper 82
12 Migrants in the UK: their characteristics and labour market outcomes and impacts (2002) Home Office Occasional Paper 82
13 Set for Success (2002) Report of Sir Gareth Roberts' Review

 

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