Net long-term international migration is down. Skills drain? Or a world of opportunity?

Steve Playford, Global Director of Financial Times Careers Management, shares his thoughts on what Brexit could mean to the labour market

In the latest Migration Statistics Quarterly Report of May 2017 (published by the Office for National Statistics, the Home Office and Department for Work and Pensions), we’re told that net long-term international migration was estimated to be +248,000 in 2016, down 84,000 from 2015. A statistic that’s flagged as being “statistically significant”.

According to the report, work remains the most common reason for international migration. 275,000 people were immigrating to work in 2016 (down 33,000 from 2015 – not deemed statistically significant). A majority of 180,000 had a definite job (which was similar to 2015), but fewer people immigrated looking for work (at 95,000 it’s cited as a statistically significant decrease of 35,000 from 2015).

We chatted to Steve to catch up on his thoughts on the matter.

“There are a couple of issues really. If we do pursue a hard Brexit, and there is a determination to drastically bring migration numbers down, it’s bound to have an impact in the ability for us to move forward economically, particularly in the STEM areas. We just haven’t got enough of the right people now or coming up through the system.

We should be really proud of our record to develop things digitally. It’s not been done by just using a workforce that already resides in the UK, but by bringing all the necessary skills and traits from people from around the world. Together, we’re really innovative and creative. It’s a successful area that should result in more growth for the UK. Pushing down net migration may mean that we suffer from a lack of those skills and inhibit our opportunities.

Secondly, we’re not ensuring that enough of our own people are being trained in STEM subjects – both in schools and further education. We have a school system, or maybe even a culture, that doesn't encourage people to be scientists and engineers. In the UK we sometimes look at engineering and technology as being a fairly low level role. I think we need to change that attitude and give graduates of science, engineering and technology the same status as a doctor for example.  Other parts of Europe already do.

The same goes for IT… across all areas, but particularly when you think of all the cyber security risks that we are facing. We need to build innovative new products, processes and systems. I don't feel that we're doing enough in schools to make those kinds of subjects attractive. We need a long-term plan of maybe 15-20 years to change the perception of those subjects. If we tackle the root of the problem then our over-reliance of bringing people from outside of the UK to fill skills gaps will become less acute.”


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

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Net long-term international migration is down. Skills drain? Or a world of opportunity?