26 March 2009

England’s high tech and agricultural industries dependent on UK visa holders

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According to Cambridge News Online, if UK visa holders do not continue working in the Cambridge and Fens areas in the East of England, then their economies will be under threat.

UK visa holders are still needed to work in the UK in the East’s high-tech and agricultural industries, as confirmed by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA).

Since 1997, the East has welcomed a 124 per cent increase in the number of people working there on a UK visa, and research suggests that for the area to maintain its competitiveness with Europe in these areas then they would have to maintain a high level of skilled migration to the area.

The research concluded there is "a medium risk that the city of Cambridge will continue to struggle to recruit sufficient numbers of highly skilled migrants to guarantee its place as Europe's leading high-tech centre".  It also confirms that the Fens, which is an agricultural area, is dependent on UK visa holders filling the employment gaps.

Deborah Cadman, chief executive of the business-led EEDA, said that while businesses realise the importance of building the skills of the local workforce, during these times of economic stress employers need to rely on UK visa holders with the right skills to make up the staff numbers.

"We need migrant workers to plug employment gaps in the East of England. Where the right workers are not available locally, employers must be able to draw on a wider pool of international workers.

Dr Jill Rutter, senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) shared similar sentiments.

"Our research in the East of England has shown that many businesses, from agriculture to high-tech, depend on workers from other countries to survive and grow. Often this is because there are not enough local workers with the right skills and experience.

"In other cases migrants provide vital, flexible labour where British people can't do the job for practical reasons or simply don't want to do it. So if the availability of migrant labour decreases, the economy could be at significant risk."

The British Home Office has recently amended their UK skilled migration programme, making it tougher for foreign workers to get a UK skilled visa to live and work in Britain.  The new system, which has been gradually introduced over the past year, is now a points-based system in which applicants must pass a points test in order to have their UK visa approved.

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