The CEO of retailerNext is pleading with the government to solve the UK’s labor deficit by allowing more foreign workers to enter the country. Brexit proponent Lord Wolfson claimed that the UK’s existing immigration policy was stifling economic progress.
In order to encourage businesses to hire people from the UK first, he argued they should charge a tax for hiring foreign workers. The administration said that it had fulfilled its pledge to “regain control of our immigration system.”
“Unemployment is at record lows and it’s crucial we continue to bring in excellent key workers the UK needs,” a government spokesperson said. “This includes thousands of NHS doctors and nurses through the Health and Care Visa and the Seasonal Workers scheme, which brings in the workforce our farmers and growers need.”
Conservative peer Lord Wolfson told the BBC: “We have individuals in line to come to this country to pick crops that are rotting in fields and to work in warehouses that otherwise wouldn’t be operational, and we’re not letting them in. And we need to treat economic productive migration differently.
The government, he argued, needed to determine whether the UK was an open, free-trading country or whether it wanted to become “Fortress Britain” after Brexit, closing the gate to foreign labor at a huge cost to the economy.
In terms of immigration, he stated, “I think it’s absolutely not the Brexit that I wanted, or indeed, what many people who voted Brexit wanted.”
“And we have to remember, you know, we’re all stuck in this Brexit argument. We have to remember that what Britain looks like after Brexit is up to all of us to determine, not just the people who voted for Brexit.”
The majority of Britons, he continued, have “quite pragmatic views” on immigration.
Yes, control it when it poses a threat to society, but let those who can contribute to enter, suggested Lord Wolfson.
In order to address the present labor shortages, which have impacted industries including healthcare, hotels, and logistics, he proposed a market-based solution.
To ensure that only companies that truly couldn’t find UK workers would hire abroad, he thinks that employers who need foreign workers should be allowed to pay a 10% tax to the government on the salary of those workers.
If they could find someone in the UK, “it would inevitably mean that businesses never bought someone into the company from outside,” he said. But they’ll pay the premium if they’re really unable to.
Net migration to the UK was predicted to be around 239,000 in the year ending June 2021, down slightly from the previous year’s forecast of 260,000, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. Immigration from nations outside the European Union was a major factor in the number.
The principle of free movement, which permitted all EU citizens to live and work in any EU country, was in effect when the UK was an EU member.
However, this freedom for EU individuals traveling to the UK and for UK people traveling to the EU terminated on December 31, 2020.
Nearly three-quarters of UK businesses experienced labor shortages in the previous 12 months, according to a survey conducted by the business lobby organization CBI last month.
According to the CBI, over half of the businesses wanted the government to issue temporary visas for jobs where there was a “clear scarcity.”
The aviation sector requested special immigration visas for foreign workers in the summer, but the request was denied. Airport delays and aircraft cancellations had been attributed to a shortage of personnel in the sector.
For some occupations where there is a scarcity of workers, the government has implemented a skilled worker visa program. Additionally, it provides a program for seasonal workers to cover professions like fruit pickers and a Health and Care Visa for medical personnel. “No breakdown necessary.”
Although Lord Wolfson acknowledged that 2023 would be extremely difficult for consumers and businesses, he emphasized that many companies shouldn’t anticipate government assistance, which should instead be directed on the most vulnerable.
Giving money to companies that don’t actually need it, he claimed, is “the last thing we want them to do,” as the government needs to concentrate its “extremely limited resources on the people who most need help during the impending recession.”
In contrast to businesses seeking a tax reduction, he remarked, “that’s the people who are going to be cold and people who are going to be hungry.”
Although he acknowledged that the coming year will be challenging, Lord Wolfson, who is regarded as one of the sharpest minds in UK business, saw reasons to be optimistic.
First off, relatively few workers would be jobless, in contrast to the recessions of the early 1980s and 1990s, when entire industries and regions saw job prospects collapse.
It’s highly improbable that they won’t be able to find a job, he continued, even if people would be pressured.
Second, he claimed that there were already indications of a potential recovery from the recession in 2024 in the prices being given for future raw materials by the end of the following year.
“A supply-side recession is fascinating in that the seeds of a correction are essentially guaranteed. Therefore, as demand declines and factories start to empty, prices start to decline, “he explained. There is no need for a national nervous breakdown, he said, even though next year will be difficult.