When you hear the words ‘migrant worker’, what comes to mind?
Many people still associate this phrase with negative rhetoric of ‘foreigners taking our jobs’ and stereotypes of lowly-paid migrants working unforgiving hours.
But the reality is very different.
From cleaners to creatives, administrators to aeronautical engineers, 2.3 million EU-born workers are currently employed in the UK. That’s without even considering the many workers from elsewhere in the world.
In celebration of International Migrants Day, we explore a handful of the reasons why employing migrant workers makes good business sense.
Fill highly-skilled roles
Migrants make up 20% of workers in fields such as oil and gas extraction, aerospace manufacturing and computer, electronic and optical engineering.
This isn’t because employers are overlooking British candidates – it’s because there simply aren’t enough who meet the required criteria.
Half of the roles on the Government’s shortage occupation list require engineering skills; 20% are scientific and technical roles.
While the lack of suitable British nationals is a deep-rooted problem stemming back to how subjects like maths and science are taught at schools, overseas workers offer a valuable solution to a problem that will take decades to fix.
Put simply, overlooking highly skilled migrant workers would put some of Britain’s strongest businesses and industries at risk of collapse.
Connect with international audiences
In our age of globalisation, understanding just your local audience isn’t enough. Even if your business has no intention of international expansion, at least a portion of your target demographic will comprise people born outside the UK.
A successful business understands and caters to customers from different parts of the world. That’s hard to do if you only employ people from a single island.
If your business consists solely of English workers, then you’re likely to only truly connect with English consumers. No matter how brilliant your product or clever your marketing campaign.
And if your business does have its sights set on international expansion, this is even more important. Not only will you better understand different target consumers, but you’ll likely find it easier to hire local talent in other countries, too.
Encourage a strong work ethic
Research from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research found that foreign workers employed in Britain are on average better-educated and work longer hours than British recruits.
Another consideration is employee retention – a challenging (and expensive) factor for almost every business.
You can entice talent in with generous pay packages and exciting benefits, but keeping them can entail endless payrises and promotions that your business simply can’t afford.
When considering refugee workers in particular, 73% of businesses reported higher retention rates than for employees overall. One reason for this could be the desire to settle; once refugees find a welcoming workplace, they’re inclined to stay and develop their skills.
So your ethically positive action also strengthens the overall loyalty of your workforce. It’s a win-win.
Create a diverse workplace culture
Not only does a diverse employee base make good business sense; it also makes your workplace somewhere talented individuals from around the world want to be.
Employing people from different backgrounds, cultures and countries will naturally broaden your business’s outlook. This is key to remaining relevant, innovative and creative, whether you’re a challenger start-up or a mainstream corporation.
In addition, migrant workers are much more likely to accept jobs at workplaces that openly recruit and welcome those from overseas. This becomes particularly prevalent if you’re looking to fill highly skilled roles and offer current employees a referral reward for filling open positions.
Of course, there are some downsides to employing migrants. One particular concern in the current climate is uncertainty – something on the minds of both employers and overseas workers.
But, in the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres: “Migration is a powerful driver of economic growth, dynamism and understanding. It allows millions of people to seek new opportunities, benefiting communities of origin and destination alike.”
Rather than worry about ‘foreigners taking our jobs’, we should appreciate that they’re here to take them. Without migrant workers, Britain’s economy could look very different.