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Migrants better skilled than Britons - survey

Date: 31.01.2007

Migrant workers are rated by employers as significantly harder working, more reliable and better skilled than their British counterparts, the Financial Times reported, citing a survey.

The Institute of Directors poll found that employers using migrant workers said they outperformed indigenous employees "by a large margin" in terms of their work ethic, productivity, reliability, education and skills and amount of sick leave taken. British workers were not rated above migrants on any of the criteria used in the survey.

The findings will fuel business concerns that government policies in areas such as skills are failing to ensure the UK can compete effectively in an increasingly global economy. Miles Templeman, IoD director-general, told the FT that the poll showed that "the UK workforce has got to raise its game on skills and performance".

A lack of skills among British workers was the commonest reason given in the poll for employing migrant workers - cited by 61 per cent of employers. In contrast, only 16 per cent of businesses admitted to being motivated by the fact that migrant workers were cheaper to employ than their UK equivalents.

Most employers believed that migrant workers had made a positive contribution to the economy and backed the use of quotas to encourage immigration to alleviate skills shortages, the poll found. A majority - 57 per cent - of those questioned also supported the total free movement of labour within the European Union.

But increased volumes of migration into the UK may be straining this backing for unlimited movement across EU borders, the survey suggests. Almost two-thirds of the employers questioned said workers from countries that joined the EU, such as Romania and Bulgaria this month, should face limits on their right to work in the UK.

Most of those surveyed also backed limits on migration into the UK from outside the EU, reflecting a concern among a significant minority - 42 per cent - that the current level of immigration was too high in relation to skills shortages.

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