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Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 00:47 GMT
Indian builders earn 3 a day in UK
Indian builder
Third world workers earn a fraction of British workers
By BBC Industry Correspondent, Stephen Evans

Skilled workers brought to Britain from India are earning 3 a day on a UK building site - just 30 pence an hour.

Stone masons from the sub-continent working on a temple in Wembley are living in a shack on site and earning a fraction of their British colleagues' wages.

The workers are still earning double what they would get back in India but now want the British legal minimum - 3.70 an hour.

We are only bringing in the very brightest and the very best

Employment Minister Margaret Hodge
But spokesman for the Wembley Hindu Temple, Dr Harish Rughani, said they worked for the builder's sister company in India and it had drawn up the contracts.

"The contracts for their work have been made in India and they are seconded to us for a particular job for a particular amount of time."

Wembley's problem demonstrates a bigger global picture.

The government has just relaxed rules on foreign workers coming into the country to fill skills shortages.

Big firms can now issue their own work permits to foreign workers. Permits will be for five years, up from four, and there is no need to advertise for British workers first.

All kinds of skills are available in the developing world and big developed world companies are hungry for all of them.

Low costs

Particularly as figures show one in five British workers cannot read or write properly.

Talent strategist for Nortel Networks, Steve Green, said his company is interest in talent from abroad.

"Talents we would be interested in would be India for software engineers, Philippines for engineering skill and South Africa again for engineering skills," he said.

Employment Minister, Margaret Hodge, said the workers were not cheap labour.

"We are only bringing in the very brightest and the very best to fill those key skill shortages in industries that matter to our domestic economy."

Britain needs more skilled worker to keep costs down.

Developing world workers and wages will increasingly compete with developed world ones.

As more and more people take their skills around the globe those tensions will become more acute.

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