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CIPD say migrant labour is essential

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Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) quarterly indicators say that restrictions on immigration could hinder UK firms; the warning has been supported by Ram Gidoomal, chair of the Employability Forum who has denounced calls for a migration halt as ‘nonsense’.

According to the HR professional body, employers are avoiding the upwards pressure for wage increases by choosing to invest in training and development as a means of hanging on to key staff while recruiting from a pool of migrant labour.

The CIPD’s latest Human Resources Quarterly Trends and Indicators Survey, shows that for the first time this year there is a slight easing of the labour market.

The 17% positive balance of employers expecting to employ more staff by autumn 2005 over those expecting to employ fewer is the lowest recorded in the CIPD’s quarterly survey in 2004.

Of the 1,455 employers surveyed, over half (52%) said they expect to recruit over the autumn period. Just under half (48%) predict they will experience difficulties in filling vacancies while of the quarter of respondents who said they would be conducting a pay review in the autumn, 41% said they expect no increase in average pay levels while 36% who do expect to raise pay will do so by between 2% and 4%.

Dr John Philpott, CIPD Chief Economist, said:

“Skills shortages are forcing employers overseas as they struggle to fill vacancies. This puts the heated political debate about immigration into perspective. If rules are tightened in an arbitrary way, employers across business and government could suffer.

“It is interesting to note that the majority of employers are using migrant labour to fill vacancies requiring professional and technical skills, and are offering permanent contracts – against a common perception of low-skill, low-paid and casual jobs for migrant workers.”

Recruitment difficulties are pushing almost one in three employers (28%) overseas to source workers. Professional vacancies were cited by 38% of respondents as most difficult to fill, closely followed by skilled trade vacancies (14%).

Regional variations were found to exist in approaches to plugging the vacancies gap. Just under half (45%) of respondents in London said they would recruit from abroad while only 13% in the North East were prepared to go overseas to find workers.

Differentials were also found between the private and public sector. Thirty-four per cent of public sector employers are planning to recruit from overseas with only 27% of private companies saying they would do the same.

In good news for migrant workers, the survey shows that the majority of employers (75%) are prepared to offer permanent contracts.

Ram Gidoomal told Radio Five Live:

“It is just nonsense when people start saying that we have got to stop all migration – it just doesn’t make sense.

“Across the spectrum we are seeing migrant labour not as the problem or the solution but as an option, one of the many levers open to business in a fast-changing world where there is competition for talent.”

“Migration has been with us for centuries past and it is here to stay.”

While employers look to migrant workers to fill professional (45%) and technical skills (22%) the government is faced with balancing the need to plug the skills gap not only in these areas but in schools and the health service against their election pledge to put an annual limit on the number of people allowed to come to the UK from overseas.

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Annie Hayes

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