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General election 2024: immigration and global mobility

Posted: 24/06/2024

Both Labour and the Conservatives say net migration is too high and they are committed to bringing numbers down. Pleasingly, neither have given a specific number to target. While Labour avoids giving a target completely, the Conservatives’ policy is for the Migration Advisory Committee to advise the government each year, based on annual immigration figures. The challenge here would be whether there would be enough time to engage with industry sectors and digest the evidence in time to report annually.

Overall, immigration has become a political football, which is not helpful. While parties are under pressure to make commitments, in reality immigration numbers need to be industry specific. Take AI, a fast-evolving area. It is impossible to say how many highly skilled and innovative specialists we need to grow our key sectors. Immigration policies therefore need to be fluid enough to deal with the economic needs of the country, which is not helped by the current rhetoric. Clients are looking for the right talent to fill their vacancies and grow their business; immigration is far from a cheap and easy solution.

While Labour says it will focus on skills growth in the UK to tackle the need for immigration, this is what many previous governments have promised. There needs to be a clear plan for investment in skills but this will take time and will not be an overnight solution. Both parties focus on growth, but how can we grow the economy without the right skills?

Work advising clients on how to bring employees into the UK has become increasingly complicated. In April 2024, the Conservative government introduced changes to immigration that have not yet had their full effect. The need to pay higher salaries among other raised barriers is causing some international businesses to question whether the UK is where they want to be.

Neither party has committed to introducing a youth mobility scheme for EU nationals, this would benefit UK and EU national young people and benefit businesses.

For many universities who recruit international students, immigration student policy has become complicated and onerous and has damaged the UK’s reputation as a destination for study.

For the UK to grow the skills it needs, all political parties need to ensure policies do not reduce our chances of competing on a global scale.

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