Migrant workers bring £2.5bn into UK economy, says CBI

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The Independent Online

Immigrants make an "important contribution" to the economy and neither take jobs from native Britons nor drain public expenditure, according to Britain's business leaders.

Backing the Government's proposed easing of some immigration rules, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the largest employers' group, said that allowing in foreigners was "beneficial" to the UK. The CBI said that immigrants contributed £2.5bn a year to the British economy.

"Migrants have made an important contribution to the UK economy, bringing valuable and scarce skills that have benefited business and helped contribute to economic growth," the organisation said.

But it warned immigration was not an alternative to raising indigenous UK workers' skills. Instead a well-targeted and managed migration policy should avoid the potential danger of migrants depressing the wages or employment prospects of UK workers.

It said new migrants' skills should complement those of domestic workers. "Immigration is not an alternative to up-skilling the domestic workforce and ensuring young people leave education employable."

The CBI was responding to February's immigration, asylum and citizenship White Paper that included a quotas proposal for key areas of the labour market that would allow individuals under 25 to enter Britain for six months.

John Cridland, the CBI's deputy director-general, said immigration had an important role to play in alleviating current skill and labour shortages in specific sectors.

"This is why we are supporting the broad thrust of the Government's proposals for improved entry routes for economic migrants, targeted at areas of real skill shortage."

Mr Cridland said IT, engineering, health and teaching are areas where employers needed highly skilled professionals. He said: "These changes could solve recruitment problems for lower skilled jobs such as in hotels and catering, construction, transport and retail."

Last year Home Office research showed a 1 per cent increase in population through migration could lead to an increase in GDP of between 1.25 and 1.5 per cent. Migrant workers form a healthy component of the British workforce. There were more than 1.1 million foreign national workers in 2000, up by more than a fifth since 1992. They make up almost 8 per cent of the workforce.