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Immigration brings benefits to UK, but business cannot have “tin-ear” to concerns

22 May 2015
  • Government right to address public unease, but response must target the real issues
  • Fewer than 4 per cent of IoD members cite cost as reason for employing migrants

Responding to the Prime Minister’s speech on immigration this morning, Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said:

“The Government must address public concerns over immigration with real solutions, but they must be equally clear about what the issues actually are. IoD members do not employ immigrants because they are cheaper, with fewer than 4 per cent saying cost has anything to do with it. Indeed, our members overwhelmingly pay even their most junior staff above the Living Wage. When they do employ people from outside the UK it is because they need the skills or value the different experience.

“The IoD will never support the small number of rogue companies who employ illegal workers, or set out to exploit migrants by paying less than the minimum wage. This is criminal behaviour which is shunned by all responsible businesses.

“But the Government’s approach of wedding themselves to a net migration target is very hard to understand. Policy makers have no control over how many UK citizens leave each year, and if the economy were faring worse and more people were emigrating, the net figure would be lower. By setting a target that is neither achievable not desirable, they have only undermined faith in the whole system. 

“International students and highly skilled individuals from abroad bring substantial benefits to the UK, but business groups cannot have a tin-ear to the widespread public unease about immigration. Companies need migrants to be able to fill skills gaps, but that is a different issue to making sure immigration law is properly enforced, including cracking down on the small number of bad employers who break the rules.

“IoD businesses have considerable links with the EU and value our membership, but they also agree with the Prime Minister that reform is absolutely vital. This must include working with struggling states in southern Europe to make their labour markets work better so that fewer people leave to find employment.”

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