How can we best manage legal migration to fill skills gaps?
By Gary Fuller in Folkestone Herald - Talking Points
Skills-based migration sounds like a great thing on the face of it. You make sure that anyone coming to your country contributes to the bits of your economy that the Government knows needs workers. You also make sure that those workers are highly skilled workers and that they won't be a drain on our safety net. We end up with enough bankers, engineers, and doctors without flooding the country with so-called cheap labour.
Sadly, governments and business aren't always the best people to build a society. We live in a society, not just an economy. The fact we do live in a society makes migration a much more complex topic than just what jobs need filling. Half the reason immigration is so high up people's priority list is it's convenient for governments and the super-rich to blame foreigners for the problems they've create.
A skills-based migration system may allow British workers to compete for low-paid jobs, but it won't actually stop anti-immigration sentiment. If anything, it will make things worse, as British workers see people from abroad taking high status jobs that are beyond their reach thanks to the flaws in our system of social mobility. That very sentiment will also prevent those skills gaps being filled in the long term.
What we need to manage is social mobility. By giving all British workers the skills they need to get high status jobs anywhere in the world, not to mention a decent safety net, we can make migration a non-issue in the public's eyes. We can then build a system of legal migration that is focused not on the economy, but the wish to be a part of our society. We can open our country not just to engineers, but artists. That's the kind of legal migration we really need.