Current political debate about immigration needs to take into account recruitment difficulties and skills shortages faced by employers, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has warned.
The CIPD said its research showed high levels of recruitment from abroad, with employers using migrant labour to cover shortages of professional skills as well as filling low skill vacancies at a time of very low unemployment in the UK.
John Philpott, CIPD chief economist, said that “very careful scrutiny” would need to be given to any proposal that included any form of arbitrary formal quota on migrant workers.
He said: “In a dynamic labour market it is virtually impossible to plan even relatively short-term employment needs with tight precision. Migration quotas either tend to be set so high as to be meaningless or so low that they frustrate employers and risk being breached and thus discredited.”
Dr Philpott said that too-tight controls could damage business, but added that a long-term solution was needed for the UK’s skills shortages.
He said: “It is also important for those engaged in the policy debate to recognise that migrant workers, while essential in the current labour market, are a palliative for fundamental structural problems associated with skills shortages and the continued waste of millions of economically inactive people already resident in the UK.
“In the longer term, more investment is needed in training and welfare to work measures to address the skills and wider recruitment problems experienced by UK employers.”
CIPD research shows that very low levels of unemployment are creating significant skills shortages and causing real recruitment difficulties for employers. Many are looking overseas in their hunt for talent:
* Over half of all employers say professional vacancies (38%) and skilled trade vacancies (14%) have proved most difficult to fill in recent months.
* Almost one in three employers (28%) is planning to recruit workers from overseas to fill vacancies.
* Amongst larger companies (more than 500 employees), this figure rises to 40%.
* Recruitment from abroad varies from region to region – in London, 45% of employers intend to recruit from abroad, compared to only 13% in the North East.
* The public sector is most likely to turn to migrant workers – 34% of public sector employers are planning to do so, compared to 27% in the private sector and 24% in the not-for-profit sector.
* Three-quarters (75%) of employers are offering migrant workers permanent contracts, while less than 10% are offering only short-term or seasonal contracts.
* Professional skills (45%) and technical skills (22%) are the main attributes that employers are seeking from abroad.