…wear it, as the saying goes.
This week I thought I’d take a look at the controversial issue of capping overseas workers looking to the UK for employment – and the Coalition Government’s interim restrictions on people seeking UK residency – sometimes referred to as ‘protectionism’- i.e. protecting local jobs from competition from abroad.
To me this invokes a classic case of policy collision.
On the one hand there can be considerable public concern about the increasing size of the UK population – for example research by the University of Leeds covered by an article in the Daily Mail (July 2010) projected that the population of the UK could reach nearly 80million by 2050. Such headlines can act as a catalyst from extremist, xenophobic, politics – such as witnessed by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham in the 2006 local elections.
On the other hand, private sector business (and parts of the public sector) has voiced concerns about capping policies as we often rely, as a nation, on specialist overseas skills to fulfill the requisite talent pool for niche jobs. In an online article by the BBC’s business editor Robert Peston (17 September 2010) he comments “…the pool of highly talented people just isn’t wide enough or deep enough in the UK”. Even the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, in the same article said the Government’s interim capping policy is doing “huge damage” to the UK’s economy – adding he had a file full of examples of companies considering relocating jobs overseas because they could no longer bring in key staff to British business.
Taking a pragmatic approach there seems to be sense to ensuring that anyone seeking residence in the UK has a job to go to and housing arrangements in place – this is important not only for the individual’s wellbeing but also reduces the burden on the benefit system – noting the reduction in welfare benefits announced in the 20th October 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review.
Perhaps it’s a case of balancing the cap, rather than actually wearing it – can we afford not to fill key worker roles that will aid UK economic recovery, or provide essential public services?