New study finds UK needs more highly skilled migrants

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A new study finds that the United Kingdom will need to attract more highly skilled workers from abroad in order to "secure the future" of its high technology sector.

The study, authored by Katerina Rüdiger of non-profit think tank The Work Foundation, says that a climate of hostility towards immigration has the potential to hinder the ability of UK firms to attract the talent they need.

In 'Towards a Global Labour Market?', Rüdiger finds that the principles of free trade have not affected the movement of people in the same way that it has affected trade in goods and services.

According to her report, while world trade increased by a factor of seven between 1975 and 2005, the number of global migrants has only increased by approximately 2.5 percent.

The UK currently employs the third largest number of professionally and technically skilled migrants at 715,000, behind the United States (4.1 million) and Canada (918,000).

Indians are by far the largest group of highly skilled migrants in the UK with nearly 45,000 entering the country in 2005. They were followed by workers from the United States (25,000), the Philippines (10,000), South Africa (8,000), and Australia (6,500).

Rüdiger feels that current concern over high levels of immigration is unwarranted.

"At present, despite the hype, numbers are relatively low — only 167,000 high skilled workers came to this country on official figures from 2005," she said. "Politicians need to actively make the case for highly skilled migration."

The UK recently updated its immigration policy with a new points based system to cover all work, training, and student based migration into the country.

"The new points based system in the UK will not be enough on its own," Rüdiger stated.

"Global firms need more global people —- not just to fill shortages, but for the sake of enabling firms to innovate," Rüdiger said. "The UK's best bet for making the most of globalisation is to tap the increasing flows of highly qualified people around the world."

"In an increasingly globalised world, international experience, combined with language skills and an outlook shaped by learning from other places, is increasingly important," she added. "The UK needs to be seen, along with the US, Canada and Australia, as being among the most open and attractive places for highly skilled people to want to move."