UK in dilemma over cap on Indian professionals

British companies rely on foreign professionals for many specialist jobs that are hard to find in Britain and the European Union, particularly in the IT and Finance sectors.
Imposing the cap was one of the major promises of the coalition government.

New research reveals that almost one in 10 private sector companies plan to relocate jobs abroad in the next year, because the immigration cap to be imposed from April 2011 will prevent the recruitment of skilled professionals from abroad in the numbers required by British companies.

Many companies are also looking to recruit from abroad, with one in six saying they will bring in migrant workers in the third quarter of this year. Companies are looking to export call-centre, IT and finance jobs, according to a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and consultants KPMG.

Two-thirds of those putting work offshore intend to take jobs to India, a third to China and three out of 10 to eastern Europe. The CIPD warned that more jobs are being sent offshore, and that an immigration cap, imposed too quickly, could have a "devastating" impact on the economy.

Gerwyn Davies, public policy adviser at CIPD and author of the report, said the government faced a "complex juggling act. The proposed introduction of a migration cap comes at a time when many employers are still struggling to fill skilled vacancies despite the high unemployment rate".

He added: "The training of local or British workers to fill skilled jobs currently occupied by migrant workers will not happen overnight." He said that the current points-based system for immigration, which stops low-skilled workers coming to Britain, was working, and warned that a radical cap imposed too quickly could "choke off" the economic recovery.

During the recent visit to India, Vince Cable, the Lib Dem business secretary, admitted there was "debate" about the policy in the cabinet. Privately, he is reported to think it is a "crazy" idea.

"Companies want to hire local people, but they often have trouble finding local residents with the basic skills, drive and attitude needed to help the business succeed," said Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce. He said that the "unintended consequences" of the cap could be widespread.

Damian Green, the minister for immigration, said the government planned to take net migration down to the levels of the 1990s and added that the limit on economic migrants from outside Europe was one measure to help achieve it.

"Businesses are going to have to reduce their reliance on migrant workers as this has done nothing to help the millions of unemployed," he added.

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