Immigration restrictions are holding the economy back says new report

Guy Bentley
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The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has become the latest organisation to join the chorus of voices calling on the government to ease visa restrictions for migrant workers.

The REC and KPMG jobs report published on Tuesday, said March saw a decline in the availability of candidates, with permanent staff availability falling at the sharpest rate since October 2004.

The situation becomes even bleaker for temporary/contract staff availability, which dropped at the fastest rate for close to a decade.

As the government attempts to limit non-EU migration to the tens of thousands, demand for staff has continued to rise strongly, with March's vacancies expanding almost as rapidly as January's 15 year high. The IT, engineering and construction sectors were the most badly affected by the lack of skilled workers.

The REC said that as well as "skilling UK workers" the government should place a priority on "addressing the restrictions on visas for highly skilled workers, which would allow businesses to access the people they need to grow and create jobs.”

Britain's labour market is performing below its potential due to a core group of the long term unemployed who do not have the skills required for many of the vacancies available, according to the report.

This stands in marked contrast to the claims of immigration critics such as UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who has said many of the roles available including those being filled by immigrants can be done by UK workers.

The REC are far from the first to warn the government about the dangers of a draconian immigration policy. In March, following immigration minister James Brokenshire's speech claiming that British workers had lost out on jobs due to immigration, there was intense backlash from business leaders.

Director general of the Institute of Directors, Simon Walker, branded the government's positioning as "feeble and pathetic" adding “the UK is an open, trading country that benefits from the skills and ideas of migrants."

The government has found it increasingly difficult to argue that its policy of a non-EU migration cap may be needed due to the economic draw backs of a more liberal immigration policy. A Home Office report published on 6 March, found that there was "relatively little evidence" that immigration displaces UK workers in a buoyant economy.

With one in seven UK businesses being founded by an immigrant and European migrants contributing £2,610 more in tax than they took out in benefits between 2007 and 2011, the opponents of a liberal immigration policy have fewer hooks to latch onto to make their case.

Not only are restrictive immigration policies holding back the UK economy, but they are also damaging Britain's influence around the world.

A report from the select committee on soft power concluded that changes to the Tier 4 student visa are negatively impacting the UK's reputation. Data from the report showed that 18 per cent of the UK's university students are foreign and contributed £17.5bn in fees in 2011.

Some on the government benches have taken this evidence to heart. Tory MP Mark Field recently launched the group Conservatives for Managed Migration, telling Sky News that the conservative party needed "a policy on migration that isn’t about headline figures."

However, the group is said to contain just a dozen members.