Leading recruiter says UK immigration tightening has caused acute skills shortages

Alistair Cox, chief executive of Hays, said the UK was rapidly losing its internationally competitive position due to employers facing numerous disincentives to hire, including rising taxes, red tape and skills shortages.

"There are more than 8 million non-working adults in this country and yet many of the employers we speak to daily are suffering severe shortages of staff with the appropriate skills," he said.

Hays has released a joint report with Reform, the centre-right think-tank, which urges the next government to freeze and then reduce national insurance contributions and to declare a moratorium on further employment legislation.

"We see clients who are nervous about recruiting staff because they just don't know what the future holds from a tax or a legal perspective," Mr Cox said.

The report also calls for the impact of the agency workers directive, which will give temps the same basic pay and conditions as permanent staff from October 2011, to be limited by clarifying the guidelines.

Hays says there are acute skills shortages in healthcare and social work and a need for more qualified workers in engineering, technology, oil and gas and construction.

They say vital jobs are becoming more difficult to fill because UK immigration controls have been tightened, and certain key roles removed from the Migration Advisory Committee's exemption list.

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge UK Visa applications with the British Embassy.