The IoD has responded to David Cameron’s pledge this morning to continue working towards his annual immigration target of 100,000, despite net migration reaching its highest level for a decade, by urging the government to be clear about what the real issues actually are
The prime minister’s speech comes as net migration to Britain rises to 318,000 – an increase of 109,000 since 2013 – according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.
IoD director general Simon Walker says the government is right to address public unease, but the prime minister must target the issues with real solutions: “IoD members do not employ immigrants because they are cheaper, with fewer than four per cent saying cost has anything to do with it. Indeed, our members overwhelmingly pay even their most junior staff above the living wage. When they do employ people from outside the UK it is because they need the skills or value the different experience,” he says.
“The IoD will never support the small number of rogue companies who employ illegal workers, or set out to exploit migrants by paying less than the minimum wage. This is criminal behaviour which is shunned by all responsible businesses.
Walker says it is hard to understand why the government is wedding itself to a net migration target: “Policy makers have no control over how many UK citizens leave each year, and if the economy were faring worse and more people were emigrating, the net figure would be lower. By setting a target that is neither achievable not desirable, they have only undermined faith in the whole system.
“International students and highly skilled individuals from abroad bring substantial benefits to the UK, but business groups cannot have a tin-ear to the widespread public unease about immigration. Companies need migrants to be able to fill skills gaps, but that is a different issue to making sure immigration law is properly enforced, including cracking down on the small number of bad employers who break the rules.
“IoD businesses have considerable links with the EU and value our membership, but they also agree with the prime minister that reform is absolutely vital. This must include working with struggling states in southern Europe to make their labour markets work better so that fewer people leave to find employment.”