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Wednesday, 20 September, 2000, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Should immigration policy be relaxed in the UK?
The UK Government is considering relaxing immigration laws to tackle Britain's shortage of skilled workers.
Nurses, doctors, dentists, social workers, IT experts - there are thousands of vacancies which are not being filled from within these shores.
A US-style green card system could be introduced that would allow key workers to remain in the UK for the rest of their lives.
Here's what you said:
Mass immigration is impracticable until we have reduced the overcrowding in London and South East England and unless we are going to be able to direct immigrants to other locations and ensure that they remain there.
The South East is an environmental disaster with an infrastructure that cannot cope with the present population.
Tom Sargeant, UK
As someone who's now living in the US on a similar kind of scheme (green card), I can tell you it definitely works. There is a vigour in the American economy that is in no small part due to high tech and specialised immigration.
The factor mitigating against such a scheme is the little island mentality of many people living in the UK; there is a genuine and fairly deep-rooted xenophobia.
Until that levels off, the issue of this kind of immigration will become a political football that panders to the lowest common denominator and becomes self-defeating in terms of the UK economy.
Are they thinking of bringing them in because there is a shortage of skilled labour? Or is it so they can put them on short-term contracts and pay them less? I wonder.
The UK trains many thousands of people to high technical standards each year. British industry then continues to train them to a very high technical standard. British engineers and scientists are some of the most capable and effective in the world.
So why is there a problem? Perhaps because it's easy for us to leave but hard for others to replace them. Sure, let qualified people in, it works very well for the US and should work just as well for the UK. Silicon Valley is full of Brits, Chinese and Indians as well as Americans.
I think that immigration rules should be relaxed for everybody from anywhere
who has a genuine reason for trying to enter UK.
I see no reason to relax immigration policy in order to fill vacancies for skilled jobs. These vacancies cannot be filled for two main reasons: (a) there is a perception in this country that anyone over 40 is useless irrespective of their qualifications, knowledge and experience (and before you say it - no, I am not over 40, and in any case, I am not unemployed) and (b) there are very large numbers of skilled people leaving the UK and taking up employment in the USA and elsewhere, simply because the taxation is less severe and they don't feel they are being punished for being successful or good at what they do.
No, immigration should not be relaxed.
As a 41 year old with IT skills and a Higher Education qualification I cannot get job. Why? Too old and the fact I have a young child have all been cited. Therefore, a change of attitudes is needed, middle aged people can and do have talents that younger people do not have. There are many talented people in the UK so use them first!
The government should look to Britain first, our own young people, our own talent, before importing people from abroad. If taxpayers money was invested in this country as a priority then this question would not arise.
Maybe you all should moan less, and work more. There seems to be a meeting culture here where people talk away and nothing is accomplished. Get things done and pay your workers better, relax tax rules and that way you keep skilled people in their country, "importing" a plane load of people doesn't do the trick.
Relax the immigration policy? I didn't realise we allowed immigration! Getting a visa for England from Jamaica or Morocco is beyond the realms of possibility for ordinary people, who don't have fat bank accounts. Yes we should relax the rules. Thousands of people in Africa live in intolerable situations and dream of fleeing to the west, only to be barred because they aren't politicians or journalists (in which case they are viewed as politically or religiously oppressed) or because they aren't wealthy.
I think we should not relax immigration laws, we should train the unemployed in the skills that are lacking and give them financial incentives to move to parts of the country where the skills are lacking.
Part of the problem is this "either/or" mentality. Why not do both? Ease the immediate shortage by importing skilled labour with one-year work visas. This would be a short-term fix that would give the UK time to implement what is truly a long-term solution -- training skilled labour.
Britain has a well-educated population, and enormous resources both in people and wealth. It is extremely short term thinking to plunder the resources of other countries in yet another form of colonialism. My wife of 14 years has no right to enter Britain without my paying a "fee" to the Government, my children have no right to pass on their nationality, and at 46 I am not a good risk for employment in the UK. Madness!
The government is again completely missing the point; it is STUPID to relax the immigration rules. They are already to lax. Yes the vacancies should come from the UK and if there are not enough with the necessary qualifications, then put steps into place to sort out the problem. "But we need them now" If you were governing properly, you would have had the foresight to have seen the problem coming
Those of us who have Get-Up-and-Go have got up and gone. That's why Britain has a shortage of skilled employees. Why did we go? Blair, Major, Callaghan, Wilson...
The government is driving away UK IT workers with its IR35 legislation. If they dropped this and did no harm then there would be less of a shortage. It's nothing short of nonsense.
The late and great Brigadier Enoch Powell said all that needed to be said over thirty years ago. It is time that the English, Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish stood up for their great nation and dismiss these evil advocates of the new world order in which money and individuality come before moral integrity. I believe that it is high time that Great Britain shut its doors to those who seek to plunder what generations of people in this country have worked so hard to achieve.
Certainly not! It's time to reach out and give a chance to the people already there and re-train them in the skills that are needed. Reduce the people that are claiming benefits because they don't have the skills to support themselves. How ridiculous can it be to bring in more people and have their families feed off the few that are already working.
I would be happier for people to come to the country to earn an honest living, rather than stowing away in a lorry, train, boat, etc and then expecting handouts from the government. If Immigration is the answer to this, then its fine by me!
I am a midwife. There are lots of us around but we are treated so badly by unsympathetic managers that we feel we can not stay in the profession. A service manned by so many women needs to be more family friendly. It's not just an issue of pay.
PJ Wilson, UK
What the government should do is let the young people in the UK gain an education. And I mean a proper education and training, not some scanty 6 week training scheme. University fees should be scrapped. There should be more emphasis on getting school leavers into universities to become tomorrows UK's skilled workforce.
The primary reason for the skills shortage, in the first place, is the lack of incentives for people to work in the depleted areas. In IT, while other countries are offering tax incentives, this government is implementing draconian tax regimes under the banner of Disabled Rights (IR35), while a Nurse with 3 years training will earn only £12k. IT people leave the country bound for Holland, the USA or New Zealand, and Nurses would rather work supermarket checkouts. Rather than pondering new and contentious solutions to skill shortages, why not consider a fair deal for the people who are already here, waiting to do these jobs.
Paul Cormack, UK
Can we not learn to share? I feel that all we have is given to us to use wisely and with a loving caring attitude. Do we feel that excluding someone due to their place of birth or colour is fair?
The whole time that there is unemployment in this country, it cannot be fair to bring in others from abroad.
This country is half the size of France with the same sized population (which is getting bigger all the time). We are getting to saturation level.
The other problem is the ease with which our welfare system is being abused.
Sort these things out first then look at the external market.
There is an increasing tendency for European IT companies to simply move to where the talent is, rather than go through the rigours of trying to import qualified personnel to vacant positions. Ask Nokia and Ericsson why so much of their vital research is being conducted in Hungary these days (to name but two examples). One thing is certain, and that is that the Finnish and Swedish economies have not benefited from restrictive immigration policies with regard to these two telecom giants.
NO!!! The entire population of the EU is entitled to come and work here, plus many Commonwealth citizens. Isn't that enough to be going on with?
This appears to be a London problem and the London Government is once again going to disadvantage the rest of the country by implementing a solution to suit the capital. There are many unemployed people who are being ignored in the North and Midlands and could be retrained. What incentives are being given to companies to relocate from London? None.
We have already seen the decline in engineering, shipping, mining, textiles
and banking - most of these people would willingly retrain for the jobs out there. We have four million out of work in this country and bringing in others
is not the solution. Retraining is the answer, but the Government do not offer good incentives for employers to do so. If these so called 'poorer countries' can provide the trained professionals, why can't we?
This Government is going mad.
Like all expatriates in Qatar, I work under a Residence Permit system. The RP is required to allow me to own a car, have a telephone, purchase alcohol... RPs need to be renewed annually upon payment of a fee, thus neatly avoiding the need to support an immigrant population when their skills are no longer required. Perhaps a similar system would satisfy those British citizens worried about being inundated by immigrants.
I am another victim of ageism in the UK. I was unable to get my foot on the ladder between the ages of 28-30, despite having a first class degree in European Business and the willingness and flexibility to have a go at anything. I left Britain in January 1997 to work for a German software company, where I've changed my job title 3 times. Ageism in the UK market is a wasteful and destructive evil. Britain should learn how to make the most of its own human capital, young and old, black and white.
I don't really see why it is more important to use local labour than to import it from abroad. In nearly all the discussions on this page, the assumption seems to be that it is up to those in favour of immigration to prove that it is significantly preferable to developing local talent. I say that it is up to those against immigration to show that there are significant advantages in tightening Britain's control over immigration.
The skills shortage is not an issue of immigration. It is the failure of British businesses to train people to do the job.
You have to have so much experience before you can get a job in Britain. The skills shortage is caused by firms who will not train their own and the Government should not let them off the hook.
It seems to me that in this debate migrant workers are simply being regarded as wealth-generating machines that can benefit the economy and not as human beings whose culture greatly enriches our daily life in the UK. I think that the "Green Card" system which would create a peculiar category of permanent residents who are nonetheless denied voting rights, is only the latest expression of a dangerously subtle form of racism. When will the Government understand that migrants deserve respect?
Has anybody given any thought to the 4 million or so British Citizens who are not allowed to work in the UK? Namely, the holders of British National (overseas) passports, most of whom reside in Hong Kong.
Britain's conservative society naturally resists change.
The country's growth and competitiveness has been stifled by its history and pride. The introduction of skilled non-Caucasian workers and further European integration has long been overdue. British society must begin to see the emergence of a multi-racial and multi-lingual society not as a threat
but an opportunity to compete in this ever-changing world.
Enough is enough. The population of the UK is already at an absurd high. Surely there are enough unemployed in the UK to fill these gaps. Relaxing immigration laws is a short sighted solution.
I think, you should start a Green Card system. That will help you to fill vacancies as early as possible, and you will be having qualified people. If you want to give training to your people it will take years to be qualified.
Skilled immigrants have shown in the past how much they can contribute to the nation. Nevertheless, this country is hugely overpopulated as house prices and traffic congestion demonstrate.
Instead of encouraging immigration, the government should look at a more proactive training programme to benefit those not currently in work. This would have a beneficial effect on the economy in the long run, help to reduce unemployment (which is still high and seems to have been ignored here). You never know, savings in the economy, may result in this government reducing the tax burden on fuel.We live in hope.
IR35 - What the hell is the government playing at. I run my own IT consultancy and have two main customers. The government has introduced a new stealth tax called IR35 which threatens my business. It could force me to either move abroad or take a permanent position. Yet now I read that we have an IT skill shortage and they want to entice people from abroad to come here. Where is the sense in that?
Why, when ever increasing numbers of students are passing their 'A levels' at ever improving grades, is there a shortage of qualified staff on the market?
Thousands of vacancies....Tens of thousands of students
Right now, free movement of specialists from one country to another will do a lot of good, stimulating the competition and improving the results and quality of services and products. Europe is lagging behind US and needs a lot of skilled labour, a lot of specialists. I think it's obvious that to catch up with America, the immigration laws must be relaxed - otherwise the UK and Europe will be left out in the dust.
Dmitryi S. Sizonenco, Mexico
If it is a skills shortage that is the
problem, rather than requesting
employers and the government to
train (as this is at the tax payer's
expense) how about implementing
a tax break for employers who train
their staff. A tax break of say 150%
on all training. This way, if an
employee were sent on a £2,000 course,
the company would be able to deduct
£3,000 from their tax encouraging
the training of British Nationals.
I am yet another "Ancient Briton" (47) unable to get a job "over there" but inundated with offers "over here"!! Yes, I'm afraid that ageism is unfortunately alive and well in UK so USA gets one more balding engineer to power their economy even further only because they are prepared to hire me when my own country won't...
The people worth employing from overseas have already migrated from their own countries and gone to the USA for a better life so why should they go to the UK for low pay and long hours. If UK industry/government would wake up and start taking care of its own people in terms of pay, conditions and taxation then the Brain Drain would stop and the skills shortages would be much reduced.
Getting professionals to immigrate to this country can never be a disadvantage, but an asset in the short and long term.
As a Hungarian living in the UK I still find it amazing that so many British people imagine immigration as dirty, uneducated and poor bunches of people arriving illegally from countries deserving of their suspicion and living purely on benefits. This is all down to ignorance. The quality of education, and notably the health service, in my home country is light years ahead of Britain. You get to see well-trained specialists the next day, and most people learn at least two languages to a high level.
Daniel Prince, London, UK
The crisis in IT would be lessened if the prejudice against those with 20-30 years' IT experience was overcome. Too many employers want their IT staff to be aged 25-35.
If Britain needs a number of skilled professionals and immigrants are a strength to Britain's economy it can relax immigrant laws. It is an era of globalisation and professionals all over the world should be given opportunities to get jobs in different countries. For example, I'm from India and I teach English in Kigali, Rwanda.
As a 42 year old with 12 years experience in the industry, I am finding it hard to change jobs, compared to colleagues 10 years younger who are able to job hop almost at will. The shortage is a direct result of ageism in job agencies and personnel departments and could quite easily be rectified with a more flexible approach to recruitment of IT staff.
As a foreign IT worker in the UK, I'd like to add to the discussion that in my experience UK-born IT workers ARE exceptionally well trained. If I had to guess, I'd say that the skills shortage here is due simply to schools not churning out enough graduates to meet industry demands. It's an issue of quantity, not quality.
Poorer people are hard working. They'll put in long hours in their work so they can make more money to educate their children, take care of their own and extended families.
A person of this calibre is a great asset to any organisation.
In short, I think immigration laws should be relaxed to enable whoever is skilled or experienced to get a job wherever they can earn a decent living.
Robert Stewart, Glasgow
Bringing in skilled workers from abroad, (especially outside Europe) seems like a quick solution to our shortage of skilled professionals but it's never as easy as it sounds! We invite a Doctor to live in Britain because we need them. Then an unskilled wife/husband comes with the package. Within a few months applications are in for their parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters and probably any children they have. Most of these will end up being supported by the state. In the long run was it worth it?
I just find the way in which the issue has been handled appalling - it is encouraging rampant racism and prejudice.
Matt Chapman, UK
I think we should train our own population to do the jobs where there is a skills shortage.
Failing that use the existing work permit system.
I think we should encourage
immigration, so that who oppose
it on racist and selfish views are
made into a minority.
We have been enriched both culturally and industrially by further immigration. The question should not be: should we have immigration? But: How could we have been so stupid that we tried to stop immigration?
I don't understand how the Government on the one hand introduces the tax law IR35, which drives people abroad or into permanent employment, then has the bright idea to invite people from other countries to take their place? Weird!
The country is full. With each new person who arrives, the lives of many are effected. Forests are being cut down, farm land destroyed by new residential housing and supermarkets. Highways are killing the countryside and the roads are a parking lot.
Additionally, the poor attitude to foreigners makes the UK unattractive for skilled foreign workers. Finally, no matter what many of your readers say, most people in any country (including the UK) are not prepared to sacrifice the time or effort get the appropriate training or professional degrees even if the government spent huge sums of money on them.
Dr. Muhammad M. Zaman, UK in US
Companies should be encouraged to pay the wages required to retain key staff, wages which would incentivise people to pay for the training for technology based careers in the first place.
London is also losing talent because even people in so called high paid jobs can no longer afford housing. Increasing the population will lower wages and increase housing prices.
Why not train up British People to do these jobs? How is it that the British educational system is failing to produce the raw material that our industry needs.
We are already in a housing crisis which has knock on ecological effects, why make it worse by introducing 1000's more who will require housing?
In the US and Canada the 'grey hairs' are still alive and well in industry. I am a 50 year old Brit, who shocking as it may sound, implements large software systems along side younger and OLDER staff than myself. I wouldn't even get an interview in the UK. You just haven't got a clue over there.
I've worked in IT for over a decade. The government seem to be missing the point. Due to rapidly changing technology, IT workers face a constant uphill struggle to keep
their skills up-to-date. The country IS suffering a skills shortage, not a people shortage. Training is required, not more people.
Also, in industry it is well known that "buying people in" rather than offering promotion is the best way to foster dissatisfaction and unrest - so what happens when the bubble bursts? More mouths to feed, more suffering for all, and unreasoning resentment against the immigrants.
Mike Allum, England
This government should stop spending money
training doctors, IT people etc immediately, then
simply get people from other (hopefully poorer)
countries to come here. That way we get all
the qualified people we need without
going to the expense of having to train
The factor mitigating against such a scheme is the little island mentality of many people (but now all) living in the UK; there is a genuine and fairly deep-rooted xenophobia.
Until that levels off, the issue of this kind of immigration will become a political football that panders to the lowest common denominator and becomes self-defeating in terms of the UK economy.
Why do you need such conflict? Compromise is the key, both training for national candidates and recruitment of skill International labour would be ideal. Let us look at this as an opportunity to utilise the movement of world-wide skilled labour to the benefit of all parties.
Definitely not, we already have race relations problems why exacerbate things. Why can't we train up our own population to do these jobs?
Riad Mannan, UK
The government wants to encourage overseas IT experts into this country while it is actively creating a brain drain of homegrown talent with IR35.
There's nothing wrong with encouraging people in from abroad but don't chase your own people out at the same time.
We shouldn't have to adopt a "green card" system here, but
we do need better control over the amount of people arriving in the UK each.
This can be done quite simply, by introducing a more efficient monitoring system.
I think that relaxing the immigration laws is extremely short-sighted.
The skills shortage problem we have within health care and teaching is fundamentally due to the unattractiveness of those careers - a lot of hard work but very poor pay.
Yes. Clearly the EU is not big enough with 350 million people, and there are too few children. It is time to let Russia join the EU and allow the 160 million Russians free access to Western Europe - after all it is the world's largest reservoir of pure mathematical talent.
A European Union to Vladivostok with free movement of people. This is the answer!
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