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The loss of UK migration and its impact on British business

UK immigration has increased rapidly during the last 20 years, but that’s changing now, and it can have a dramatic impact on British businesses.
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The latest figures on net migration, released by the Office of National Statistics in February, show that net UK migration has dipped below 300,000 and now stands at 273,000 for the year to September, a massive drop of almost 50,000 from the previous year and a large portion of those people come from the EU. 

Whilst these results are not surprising given the result of the Brexit vote and the anti-migrant rhetoric that we’ve seen since the Referendum, when you look beyond the decrease in UK migration, the devastating economic impact of this decline is clear to see.

UK migration – did you know:

  • Fact: Two-thirds of migrants coming to work in the UK already have a job offer when they arrive.
  • Fact: Migrant workers pay more in taxes than they take out in state benefits. That contribution, valued at £2bn a year, is helping to fuel Britain’s economic growth.
  • Fact: More than 50 per cent of migrants are already graduates when they arrive in the UK.
  • Fact: If every migrant withdrew their labour for a day, it would cost the UK £328m – four per cent of the country’s GDP.
  • Fact: 16 per cent of the UK workforce was born overseas.

As a migrant myself, it’s not surprising that I strongly believe that healthy UK migration is a positive for Great Britain. Specifically though, it is the key to innovation in the technology sector.

I am the co-founder of one of the top fintech startups, Azimo, which launched back in 2012. Earlier this year it was named as one the country’s most talented tech firms.

That success, without doubt, is due to diversity in our workforce. 38 per cent of our 90-strong team were born abroad and have since embraced UK migration. This helps us to understand the different cultures and backgrounds that we deal with every day as part of our global financial network and keeps us grounded as a team. 

We’re not alone, of course. The founders of fellow startups such as Citymapper, YPlan and Farfetch also moved to the UK, built multi-million dollar businesses and created many jobs along the way.

Although London has long been regarded as the fintech capital of Europe, the stark reality is that this position at the top is now under serious threat.

We’re already facing a chronic digital skills shortage in the UK, at an annual cost to the economy of around £63bn in lost income, and it’s estimated that at least another 750,000 digitally skilled workers will be needed to meet the rising demand from employers over the next few years.

Anecdotally, I’ve had conversations with other Polish entrepreneurs and there is a very definite reluctance to move their business to the UK post referendum.

They won’t be the only European business owners feeling this way and, combine this with the tech skills gap we already have here in the UK, and we could be seeing serious damage to the British business industry, with a natural knock-on effect on our economy. 

From my own personal experience, I’ve always found Britain a friendly, welcoming place to live and work, and I have no regrets about choosing to start my business here. In fact, I’m very proud to have set up my business here.

But, while we can’t undo the EU vote, we can counter the fact that skilled migrants no longer want to come here.

We should be focusing on welcoming and nurturing talent, rather than pulling up the drawbridge – it’s better for British business and, ultimately, better for the country as a whole.

Marta Krupinksa is co-founder and GM, Azimo

Image: Shutterstock

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