The government is set to announce a temporary limit on the number of migrant workers allowed to enter the UK from outside the EU today, ahead of a planned permanent cap.
Home secretary Theresa May will limit the number of workers to 24,100 – down around 5% – between now and April 2011.
The temporary cap is aimed at preventing a rush of applications before a permanent cap is set next April.
During the election campaign, David Cameron said he wanted to reduce net annual migration – the number of immigrants minus the number emigrating from the UK – from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands. The figure currently stands at 163,000.
May will announce the temporary cap today, as she launches a consultation process for deciding the level of the permanent cap, the BBC has reported.
But the HR profession has criticised the introduction of a permanent cap, warning it could restrict access to key talent from outside the EU.
Julia Onslow-Cole, of PricewaterhouseCoopers, said every overseas national brought by firms into the UK cost them three times as much as hiring a resident worker.
She said: “They are not spending this money for nothing, they really need that expertise. Particularly in these economic times, I think it’s very important that we allow businesses a free choice to bring in overseas nationals.”
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) added it was concerned the cap would lead to greater skills shortages and would affect the delivery of social care in some areas.
Business secretary Vince Cable said winning the support of business for the implementation of the migration cap will be “key”, the Financial Times reported.
Cable said: “The business groups will make the point, which I fully support, that if you have a growing economy, you have to draw people in from all around the world, and we have a university system that relies significantly on overseas students.”
He added “the new regime has got to accommodate those concerns”.