When it comes to generating growth and reducing the budget deficit, job creation is unquestionably the best economic policy.
Increasing employment across all sectors and regions of the economy is essential for the wider recovery.
Of course, creating jobs at a time of austerity measures is easier said than done. But last week’s ONS figures showing that unemployment fell by 17,000 in the three months to the end of February were a step in the right direction.
Significantly, around 300,000 more jobs were created in the private sector than were lost in the public sector year-on-year in December. And an increasing proportion of these extra jobs were full-time. This data offers welcome signs of recovery.
The scale and liquidity of the City’s financial services cluster is helping to support such growth among both our largest firms and the 4.8m SMEs across the UK. The private sector has a crucial role to play in delivering investment, wealth creation and jobs as public spending cuts begin to bite.
But as always there is room for improvement. It is clear that many consumers and firms have been crying out for more competition in the industry. It is only right, therefore, that the Independent Commission on Banking investigate the options available to achieve such an outcome as long as it does not compromise the City’s international competitiveness.
Competition for business, deals and jobs is the cornerstone of the City.
So at a time when immigration has been in the headlines again it is vital that we ensure City firms can continue to fight for the best global talent on a level playing field.
Immigration is an emotive issue given its impact on jobs and communities. The Government is understandably working hard to keep its pledge to reduce net migration. But one of the City’s greatest strengths has always been its openness. The UK financial services industry reflects its client base by being internationally owned, staffed and managed.
We welcome highly skilled individuals from all corners of the globe, as demonstrated by the fact that this summer’s City of London Festival will celebrate music and arts from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. The Festival’s Trading Places theme reflects that our business and cultural ties transcend nationality.
That is why even though significant concessions have already been made regarding skilled non-EU workers and intra-company transfers we cannot afford to be complacent about immigration.
I know from personal experience that the UK and London have always promoted an open business environment. This is precisely why the best international companies choose to do business in the City: because they know it is the place to do business best internationally.
Michael Bear is Lord Mayor of the City of London