Monday, March 5, 2012

UK side-stepping immigration cap

David Cameron, Prime Minister
Photo subject to Crown copyright
From a report in the Guardian on British companies using intra-company transfers to work around the government limits on immigration:
Figures from the Home Office's migration advisory committee show that the numbers coming to Britain under the "intra-company transfer" scheme have surged in the past two years and now outnumber those coming into Britain on work visas by three to one. The rise has rendered the cap on skilled overseas migrants redundant, with fewer than half the work visas available under the annual limit being used.
The UK government doesn't appear to have any problem with this, but that's largely because David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the UK, can now tell the voting masses that he's putting the brakes on immigration, while telling business that they can import anyone they want. He's not stupid: the UK, like much of Europe, needs skilled labor. Even if the public demands an end to immigration, business is still going to need workers capable of doing the job.

It's interesting, though, to see the British Tories flail around on this issue. The UK detested the Labour Party after years of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and the Tories managed to acquire power in a manner not dissimilar to the US Democrats: with a "we're not them" platform. It's hardly an inspiring platform and the free market Tories are running around trying to hand the keys of the kingdom over to CEOs and bankers (though not quite as blatantly as US Republicans). This has led to quite a bit of backlash against them and in a stunningly stupid move, the Tories have not only alienated much of the voting youth but also hurt their country's long-term economic prospects by jacking up university tuition rates at a time when students can least afford it. I suspect it's not a coincidence that their graduation rates are plummeting at the same time.

So the UK is technically making it harder for you to emigrate there, despite the fact that they need skilled labor (and skilled Labour, but I digress) more than ever, but the government is letting workers sneak in the side door because they really don't have a choice.

It's like the US state of Georgia gutting their economy in a bid to keep out illegal aliens. Georgia lost a billion dollars last year due to their anti-illegal alien fervor (almost 6% of their annual revenue) and are on track to lose $800 million a year and wreck their agriculture industry because — gasp! — immigration issues are complicated.

Sadly, trying to convince the general public to not support simple-minded solutions to complex problems seems a lost cause.


  1. Maybe the reason why UK don't accept workers from other country because they want to use their own human labor power. It is better if they do it to give jobs to their people instead to the people outside their nation.

    1. That's a very nice theory, but it has the same drawback that country after country realizes: you need highly skilled labor. I was initially brought to the UK a number of years ago because the skills I have are in demand, hard to find and hard to acquire.

      Your choices: tell companies who need my skills to suffer a competitive disadvantage to foreign firms or to bring in more people like me. You can't even fall back to the "educate the locals" argument because many people find my job boring, don't have the aptitude for it, or can't afford the education to attain these skills. Even if you could overcome these issues, that's presenting a solution for several years from now and employers are facing empty seats today.

      So what do you want to tell British firms who need those high-demand skills but can't find British workers for?

    2. They can hire workers from the EU. That is extremely rare that they will want to hire someone who is not from Europe. You should be a guru with no equals in the world only then you will have some chances. Usually my phone conversation went like this: Hello, I am blah-blah.... What is your nationality? Hmm... My client/We don't sponsor. Sorry. Thank you. Bye! I gave it up a long time ago. They only wasted my time.

  2. "Using your own labor power" is a nice idea but it presumes that your labor is an exact match for what is needed by business. Alas, all too often this is not the case. And, as Curtis points out, it takes time to train people - you can't produce engineers, doctors and other highly-trained professionals overnight (assuming that your people actually want to put in the years of study to get those qualifications). A lack of these people means that other jobs leave as well. If engineers are needed to support manufacturing and the company can't find them locally then all those jobs (engineers, technicians and factory labor) will have to go somewhere else. This is what happened with Apple. According to Steve Jobs, Apple couldn't find the 30,000 engineers necessary to keep all their facilities in the U.S. They found them in China and created 700,000 jobs there. Today there would be hundreds of thousands of more jobs created in the U.S. if Apple had just been able to import talent easily. Makes you think, doesn't it? Our local jobs just might depend on someone getting that work visa.