Thursday 20 February 2020 4:15 am

DEBATE: Should business be concerned about the planned immigration curbs on low-skilled workers?

Kate Nicholls is chief executive of UKHospitality.
Steven Woolfe

Should business be concerned about the planned immigration curbs on low-skilled workers?

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, says YES.

The proposals announced yesterday are overly restrictive and will halt business growth in huge swathes of the economy. They also give very little time for business to adjust and adapt, as the government has said it must.

We are already facing record low levels of unemployment, a squeeze in young people entering the labour market, and a massive overhaul of the education system.

Restricting low-skilled immigration will have a detrimental impact on people’s day-to-day lives. Who is going to serve your morning coffee? Who will care and cater for the sick and infirm? Who will build the infrastructure that the government has promised to level up the country?

These changes will lead to a lower level of service, higher costs, and almost certainly business closures.

We need the government to think again about a temporary route, certainly in the short term. Business needs time to adapt, even if it’s just for a couple of years. Turning off the taps in 10 months is a recipe for disaster.

Steven Woolfe, former MEP and director of the Centre for Migration and Economic Prosperity, says NO.

Corporate Britain is up in arms over the proposals to restrict the immigration of low-skilled workers. They echo the warning words of the former managing director of Lidl UK, Ronny Gottschlich, who admitted that reducing cheap foreign labour would drive up wages.

Although the government’s proposals are flawed, and unlikely to dramatically reduce net migration from unskilled workers, its desire to see changes that raise wages, improve homegrown training opportunities, and build a more hopeful future for our citizens should be welcomed.

As for businesses, where is their desire to improve the financial wellbeing of some of their poorest fellow workers?

Instead of complaining, businesses should be raising wages to enable better social mobility, funding training programmes, adding working-class categories into diversity programmes, and investing in technology to improve productivity. Seeking cheap foreign labour to keep wages low is immoral in a more diverse, tolerant world.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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