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23 March 2018 0 Comments
Posted in Employment, Opinion

Too much immigration, or skills gap precipice?

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Immigration is a topic making media headlines on a regular basis. It is a key issue for the government to consider and something which affects both businesses and individuals.
Opinions are hugely divided regarding how immigration issues should be addressed, with the opposing Brexit campaigns being a recent and ongoing example of this.

Over recent years the government has tried to reduce net immigration by imposing stricter rules through a points based system.

Unless individuals are arriving as refugees or are coming to the UK temporarily as a student, in order to be able to move to the UK now from outside of the EEA, individuals generally need to be highly skilled or able to invest into UK businesses. Highly skilled migrants also need to be sponsored by an employer in order to obtain a visa and there is a cap on the number of migrants coming into the UK through this route each month. For the last few months, this cap has been reached, showing that the needs or wishes of overseas workers and UK businesses currently exceeds the limit currently set.

With Brexit, the position in relation to EEA nationals’ ability to move freely within the UK, is also likely to become more complicated.

Immigration – too much or too little?

From a UK business perspective, many  organisations are telling us that they are struggling to recruit. Unemployment in Oxfordshire is low and the candidate pool therefore small.  Finding people with the desired skills and experience is difficult and businesses are having to look further afield and outside of the UK.

Certain sectors including healthcare are finding recruitment and retention particularly difficult. For example, with relatively low salaries and high levels of responsibility, positions as carers are ones which individuals are turning down or walking away from in exchange for jobs in retail which offer similar pay for what is seen as a less stressful role. These types of organisations have therefore needed to expand their recruitment options by securing a sponsor licence from the home office which allows them to employ migrants from outside of the EEA.

Other sectors have been impacted by the Brexit decision with businesses in areas such as manufacturing, leisure and hospitality telling us that their European workforce are walking out of jobs and moving to their home countries due to the uncertainty about their future immigration rights in the UK.

From an organisational and employment perspective , certainly within Oxfordshire it seems that there is a strong argument for needing immigration and free rights of movement into the UK.

On the other hand, from a housing, benefits and public services perspective, many will argue that the UK simply cannot sustain unlimited immigration. Although unemployment is low in Oxfordshire, this is not a situation which applies across the whole of the UK and unlimited immigration could lead to greater competition for roles, increased unemployment and resentment in communities and workplaces.

The debate

The issues are complex, arguments are often emotive and there is no answer which will suit everyone.

On Sunday 25 March  Journalist Sarah Baxter and social and political philosopher Professor Christopher Bertram will debate the issues relating to immigration and whether people should have the right to move freely around the world. The discussions will be chaired by philosopher and author Dr Stephen Law.


If you have any immigration queries or would like to attend the debate, please contact Kate Benefer, Employment and Business Immigration Partner in Oxford. Spaces at the debate are limited but there are currently a small number still available.

01865 792 300     Email us

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