'More immigration needed to boost growth' - CBI

The chief of the UK's largest business organisation warned the government on Monday that the nation's growth prospects could only be maintained by an increase in immigration.

passport control at the Dutch border at the ferry to the United Kingdom

The Autumn issue of Think Global People magazine is out now

Addressing the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Birmingham, Director-General Tony Danker made the easing of visa requirements as the first of four strategies he wanted to see the government adopt to encourage economic recovery.

Related reading from Relocate Global

Immigration critical to growth

He pointed out that last week the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast that the government's current economic policies would make no change to the UK's potential growth. He said only a rise in the labour supply from immigration could prevent the situation from worsening.“There are four barriers to growth today borne of political choices," Mr Danker told delegates. “First is immigration. Let’s be honest with people: our labour shortages are vast."We have lost hundreds of thousands of people to economic inactivity post-Covid. And anyone who thinks they’ll all be back any day now – with the NHS under the pressure it is – is kidding themselves."Secondly, we don’t have enough Brits to go round for the vacancies that exist, and there’s a skills mismatch in any case. And third, believing automation can step in to do the job in most cases is unrealistic."

Joined up approach between business and government

Mr Danker said the nation needed economic migration in areas where indigenous skills were not going to be available in the near future."At the same time," he added, "let’s double down on incentives for technology and automation. And let’s agree a skills policy that works to fill these roles from the UK in the medium term."A shortage occupation list that not only goes to the Minister for Immigration. It also goes to the Secretary of State for Education. And a business sector who take on the mantel alongside them in our training budgets."

Regulatory reform

Mr Danker also attacked regulatory barriers facing businesses, which he said were not – as some MPs argued – a hangover from EU membership but, rather, had been created by the British parliament.He also attacked the current planning system. "The UK planning system should be a key economic enabler – helping us to get the essential infrastructure and major projects required. And yet in Britain today, planning is broken – slow, fragmented, rife with local politics. That has to change."Mr Danker also stressed the need for increased trade, particularly the removal of barriers to doing business with the EU.“Now I know that some of these things will not be popular with politicians. But while, I have no problem with government taking tough choices to bring stability, I want them to also take tough choices for growth," he said.“Businesses must show even greater ingenuity. You here in this room – entrepreneurs, business owners, growing businesses, multinationals. In the past two years you have shown more resilience, imagination, bravery and agility than ever. The bad news is you can’t take a break. Greater business ingenuity has to become the new normal for UK plc."

Subscribe now to Think Global People magazine and read more from David Sapsted in the autumn issue

Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre