David Cameron has moved to reassure businesses that the upcoming immigration cap will not impede global hiring practices.
The government has previously stated its intention to lower net immigration to the UK to "tens of thousands". This had led to concerns over organisations’ ability to import IT and other technical skills from foreign shores, most notably India.
However, during his speech at the annual Confederation of British Industry conference this week, the prime minister suggested that hiring of global talent would not be curbed. "Let me give you this assurance," he said. "As we control our borders and bring immigration to a manageable level, we will not impede you from attracting the best talent from around the world."
An interim immigration cap of 24,000 non-European Union workers has been in place since July 2010. A permanent limit will come into force from April 2011, although the government has not yet stated what shape this will take.
According to Martyn Hart, chairman of the National Outsourcing Association, any limit on importing talent will make it harder for businesses to source required IT skills at a competitive price. "It’s obviously going to be bad for the Indian companies that can’t shift people over here," he recently told Information Age, "but it could also be difficult for UK companies in the short term, if they can’t get those skills."
India-based outsourcing vendors are a major exporter of IT workers to the UK and other territories. They have also been a prominent opponent of any ceiling on immigration, claiming that it would impact the competitiveness of both themselves and their customers.
Infosys, the subcontinent’s second-largest IT outsourcing business, says that it is currently in dialogue with British authorities regarding this issue.
"We will have better clarity when the government come out and articulate what [the immigration cap] means, but so far the UK government has been pretty open in listening to the industry and listening to organisations such as us," BG Srinivas, head of manufacturing and products, told Information Age. "They are able to understand how companies such as us are making UK businesses competitive."