Last month, Conservative MP Stephen Crabb admitted the UK government needed to be open and honest about the need for more migrant workers in the British economy. With a growing demographic of Brits leaving the workforce through ill-health or early retirement, there is a gaping hole to be filled.
In fact, the talent gap is partly to blame for spiralling inflation, with employers growing increasingly desperate to pay more to recruit top talent. Crabb acknowledged it is currently “incredibly hard” to argue in a “positive and progressive” fashion for more migrant workers in the British workforce, however much it’s needed.
The UK’s ageing population is partly to blame
In December 2022, the Social Market Foundation (SMF) posted a paper suggesting a pattern of 1 million+ migrant workers coming to live and work in the UK each year is one that’s likely to stick around. The SMF also pointed to the UK’s ageing population, as well as crucial skills shortages in certain areas, requiring migrant workers to fill the void.
Jonathan Thomas, senior fellow, SMF, believes “skills partnerships” should be the route the government takes in the coming years. Thomas says by supporting the training of workers in partnered nations the migrants could then train and skill UK-based workers further down the line, delivering mutual benefit.
The challenges surrounding the recruitment of overseas talent
One of the major hurdles for UK businesses is that employers’ awareness of how to recruit migrant workers to the British Isles has diminished in recent years. Any business looking to employ professionals from overseas requires a sponsor licence. This used to be known as a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence, permitting firms to award Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to eligible overseas applications under the Skilled Worker visa terms.
Today, the process of securing a sponsor licence is more stringent and rigorous than ever before. The application process requires businesses to have sufficient human resource infrastructure in place to enable employers to meet their obligations as a licenced sponsor. Businesses also have several hoops to jump through to prove their suitability for the licence. They must be legally operating, have no former immigration offences and prove their ‘Key Personnel’ have the utmost integrity.
Failure to meet any of the above criteria can result in a refusal of the sponsor licence application. Thereby stunting the growth of the business. In some cases, legal representation can help to accelerate the process and provide clarity for employers looking to take their operations to the next level.
It’s fair to say the UK’s attitude towards foreign workers has evolved markedly in the last two decades. That’s based on recent results from a survey of 24 countries regarding economic migration. The World Values Survey reveals a seismic shift in positive sentiment towards migrant workers. In 2009, almost two-thirds (65%) of Brits surveyed felt jobs should be prioritised for local people. However, this figure has more than halved to 29% in 2022.
In fact, the UK now ranks fourth out of 24 countries regarding the belief that immigrants can have a ‘quite good’ or ‘very good’ impact on the wider economic development of their country. Only Nigeria, the Philippines and Canada rank higher, with the likes of America, Germany, Australia and France positioned much lower in the table.
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