The chief executive of the world's largest advertising agency, WPP, has said that the UK and the US need skilled immigrants to provide the staff for many different sectors of the economy including the technology sector. Sir Martin Sorrell says 'If the UK wants more Sergey Brins, (Sergey Brin co-founded Google), Andy Groves (Andy Grove co-founded Intel) and Elon Musks (Elon Musk co-founded PayPal and SpaceX) and the UK wants some of its own, there needs to be an enlightened approach to policy'.
Sir Martin Sorrell was born in London in 1945. After working for UK advertising giant Saatchi and Saatchi, he took over as chief executive of WPP in 1985. WPP was then a small UK manufacturer of shopping baskets called Wire and Plastic Products Plc. It is now an advertising agency worth $5bn. It employs 140,000 people in 2,400 offices in 107 countries.
Sir Martin says that UK firms are having trouble in getting visas for the skilled international workers they need. He said 'Although recruiting from countries within the EU is relatively easy, bringing in highly skilled people from outside the region is not, as we at WPP can testify'.
UK and US damaged by restrictions on immigrationHe says that the UK and the US are being damaged by their restrictive immigration policies particularly in the IT sector. He said that immigrants bring much needed entrepreneurialism and talent to the sector. He said that a survey of 34 start-up companies in the 'Silicon Roundabout' area of London (where much of the IT sector is concentrated) had found that 25% were founded by foreign-born entrepreneurs.
He adds that research shows that, in the US, a quarter of all engineering and technology companies founded between 2006 and 2012 had at least one foreign-born founder He said that these businesses had revenues of $63bn in 2012 and employed 560,000 people.
Indeed, he said, '42% of America's Fortune 500 companies were founded by first or second-generation immigrants and those businesses have created over 10m jobs and $4.5trillion of annual revenue' (30% of US GDP).
US faces skills shortageSir Martin warns that the US faces a skills shortage without immigrant workers. He says that research by 'celebrated trend-watcher' Mary Meeker suggests that, by 2020, US companies will require 120,000 computer science graduates a year whereas US universities will turn out fewer than 60,000 such graduates.
Sir Martin says that, he also has personal reasons for favouring immigration. His own grandparents arrived in the UK from different countries in Eastern Europe in about 1900. Sir Martin would probably not have been born at all if they had not been able to migrate and meet in the UK.
He says 'under today's points system they almost certainly wouldn't have been granted entry to the country'.
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