Companies founded by migrants employ 1.16m out of a total 8.3m people, the Centre for Entrepreneurs said. In addition to this, the Economic Foundation claimed that if all migrants stopped working for one day it would cost £328m (four per cent of GDP).
Migrants are thus a huge contribution to the economy that we cannot afford to lose. However, the arguments surrounding migration are nuanced, requiring carefully considered analysis, not myths.
There are certain sectors which are heavily reliant on migrants; seasonal agriculture, construction, food manufacturing, technology, the NHS and hospitality – all of which would be severely impacted without them.
One excellent example of where migrants add value is in the construction industry. This industry employs in excess of 2.93m people and generates nearly £90bn annually (6.7 per cent of GDP). The Construction Industry Training Board, whose role includes addressing skills shortages, said the forecast rise in UK building activity between 2015 and 2019 means the industry’s headcount must increase by almost 224,000.
Additionally, in some geographical areas and sectors, such as London and technology, skilled migrants drive up wages. In the NHS and care industry, a shortage of workers will impact the health of people that are in the most need.
The central argument, however, is that employers cannot get UK workers into these jobs. Higher education is also one of Britain’s outstanding export industries which has already been impacted by the student visa regime – and if we continue going down this path, it will only make things worse.
Today, migrants play a crucial role in this industry. They are literally building the UK. Where will the UK find these workers from if we are unable to recruit migrant workforces?
The UK government acknowledges there is a skills shortage. The regulated sponsorship regime and the Shortage of Occupation list confirms which occupations such as engineers, IT business analysts, software professionals, nurses, doctors, teachers and social workers are roles that are hard to fill.
Mobility matters. We need to create employment opportunities and UK companies need to be open to the rest of the international arena. There needs be a comprehensive and managed migration policy that allows skilled workers to be welcomed into the UK, not an arbitrary cap. The status of EU migrants needs to be clarified now and the anti-migrant rhetoric stopped.
For the UK to achieve long term economic and social prosperity it must continue to attract migrants. This is even more important as the UK divorces itself from the EU, forges new relationships and reshapes itself as a leading centre of commerce.
Monica Atwal is managing partner at Clarkslegal
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