Hiring skilled migrants has boosted UK productivity and helped employers fill specialist roles, according to a study published today.
The study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) found on average migrants are more highly skilled than British workers.
The study, which looked at outcomes from focus groups, interviews with employers, and statistics, also found the average migrant worker is better educated, and tends to work longer hours than British workers.
The findings come days after prime minister David Cameron said that although “you can’t blame” migrant workers coming to Britain and finding work, as a country we “must say no” to Eastern European workers.
Speaking at the launch of an event to celebrate apprentices at the car manufacturing Mini plant in Cowley near Oxford, Cameron said he wants to make young people “more able” and “willing to compete” with migrant workers.
Heather Rolfe, co-author of the report, said: “We hear a lot about public opinion and concern about migration, but our findings suggest that the need for skilled migration is more widely accepted than is often believed.”
The study found while employers see skilled migration as business critical, the public perception of a migrant worker is of someone in low skilled, low paid work.
Focus group participants said they increasingly need employees with international experience who can “think global”, and called on workers born in the UK to “up their game” as labour markets become increasingly international.
A separate study published today by University College London found that in the past decade immigrants to the UK have made a “substantial” contribution to the economy.
The study found those coming to Britain from the European Economic Area (EEA – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein) were less likely to claim benefits and live in social housing than people born in Britain.
It showed they have contributed 34% more in taxes than received in benefits.
Co-author of the report, Christian Dustmann, from UCL’s Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, said: “Over the last decade or so, the UK has benefited fiscally from immigrants from EEA countries, who have put in considerably more in taxes and contributions than they received in benefits and transfers.
“Given this evidence, claims about benefit tourism by EEA immigrants seem to be disconnected from reality.”