Data shows UK net migration driven by ‘real business need’

Breakdown of the latest Home Office net migration figures reveal the impact of Brexit and the growth in digitalisation on the UK labour market. Being ready and prepared to hire internationally is now an essential part of running a competitive business.

the sign directing people to departures and immigration's offices

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Data acquired by Eversheds Sutherland under the Freedom of Information Act and shared with Relocate Global reveals that visas for skilled workers in healthcare and information and communications for jobs based across the UK are driving growth in immigration.It also shows the growing diversity of people seeking employment in the UK post-Brexit, with impacts for talent management, mobility policies and practices, and as UK employers expect more immigration curbs as key skills shortages continue.
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“Since the UK exited lockdown we have seen skills shortages exposed and businesses look overseas for talented workers to plug the gaps that may, in the past, have been filled by EU nationals,” comments Audrey Elliott, Partner in Employment and Immigration at international law firm Eversheds Sutherland.“The increase in Skilled Worker visa is driven by the health and social care sectors with IT professionals continuing to be in particularly high demand across all sectors as businesses drive towards digitalisation.”In the context of ongoing free-trade deal negotiations with India and new visa schemes to attract young professionals, there has been a 44% year-on-year increase in visa approvals from India, the world’s fifth largest economy. This puts it top of the table for talent mobility to the UK.

Top 10 countries for skilled worker visa applications

Since Q1 2019, there have been 116,301 applications, with skilled people from India proving critical to the UK’s healthcare, information and communication, and finance and insurance sectors. “UK businesses have always looked to international talent, and this has benefitted businesses by bringing some brilliant minds to the UK that help them grow,” says Audrey Elliott.Post-Brexit, joining India in the top ten countries for new visa applications for skilled workers to the UK are:
  1. Philippines
  2. Nigeria
  3. Zimbabwe
  4. USA
  5. Ghana
  6. South Africa
  7. Pakistan
  8. France 
  9. Australia
This more global profile underlines the importance of inclusion in recruitment practices, as well as fairness and equity in successfully onboarding diverse internationally mobile talent. “With no EU free movement, the recruitment net has been cast globally as immigration costs associated with EU vs non-EU levelled,” says Audrey Elliott. “With skills shortages in the UK needing to be filled, businesses are taking the chance to choose from a global talent base and therefore we are seeing non-EU recruitment increase.“This has been evident in the likes of the financial services sector where UK firms have brought more talent from countries such as India, China, Nigeria and South Africa post-Brexit.”

Preparing to recruit internationally

The figures highlight the importance of every business being ready and prepared to recruit from overseas as skills shortages tighten in the key areas that drive the UK’s competitiveness in the global economy. This especially now as the government faces pressure ahead of the next general election on how it can best manage migration while meeting economic growth targets.“The increase we are seeing in Skilled Worker visas is driven by real business need,” says Audrey Elliott. Business bodies have long called for reform of the current immigration policies and expansion of the Shortage Occupation List, which sees some sectors having “roles that remain hard to fill and the gap cannot be addressed with the Skilled Worker route as the eligibility criteria for this route are not met.“It is worth remembering that employers do not seek to bring candidates into the UK on a whim. Sponsoring a Skilled Worker to come to the UK is costly given the employer’s Immigration Skills Charge and the migrant’s Immigration Health Charge. Having a sponsor licence, paying the fees, and putting in place various compliance frameworks is now an essential part of running a successful, competitive business.“We have seen that many companies believe this is helping them create and keep a high-performing, international and diverse workforce.”

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