London: Hiring professionals from India and other non-EU countries is vital for London economy, and cutting migration from these countries puts economic recovery at risk, said the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), criticising UK Prime Minister David Cameron's efforts to slash immigration numbers.
   
The benefits of overseas workers to the London economy are far wider than many policymakers realise, whilst the potential damage caused by the David Cameron government's reforms to the migration system could be far greater than first envisaged, the LCCI said in a report titled 'Migration Reform: Caps Don't Fit'.
   
Cutting immigration is one of the major promises of the Cameron government, which has taken a series of measures to reduce numbers coming to the UK from India and other non-EU countries.
   
Highlighting benefits global talent has on companies, the report shows that the latest migration reforms, which included the introduction of a cap on non-EU migration as well a number of changes to the Points-Based System, are already harming businesses, and will cause further damage when the economy picks up again and firms look to hire.
   
According to the report, non-EU migrants are essential to all London's businesses, not just large, corporate firms.
   
Almost two thirds of all London businesses (63 percent) and 59 percent of the capital's smallest firms (1-19 employees) have either employed non-EU migrant workers in the past five years or have considered doing so.
   
It adds that the recruitment of non-EU migrants increases export opportunities.
   
Nearly a quarter of businesses (24 percent) and 29 percent of the smallest firms (1-19 employees) that have looked outside of the EU for staff did so because they felt a non-EU migrant would help them grow into markets beyond the EU. The report found that capping non-EU migration exacerbates the UK's skills shortage.
   
Almost a third of employers (30 percent) that have looked outside of the EU for staff did so because of a short supply of domestic or EU candidates with required skills, and the same number did so because of the language skills offered by non-EU migrants.
   
According to LCCI, the government's immigration reforms will damage economic growth.
   
Almost a quarter of firms in London (23 percent) said that the changes introduced in April 2011 have made it more difficult for them to fill vacancies in their workforce, whilst the same number (23 percent) said if a non-EU migrant was the best person for a job but a company was not able to employ them, they would not recruit at all.
   
Stating that political considerations were being put before economic evidence, the report said that over three quarters of firms in London (76 percent) believe the government's migration policy is driven by political considerations and not economic ones.
   
Colin Stanbridge, LCCI chief executive, said: "We fully understand the political and social pressures placed on the government to reduce net migration, but our report shows that by preventing UK businesses from accessing the best global talent these pressures will be made worse not better".
   
He added: "The government must be aware that its reforms to the UK's migration system threaten to undermine two of its biggest promises to the business community: that the UK must be 'open for business' and that we must return to being an 'exporting nation'".
   
Entrepreneur George Kessler said: "I travel regularly to China and Hong Kong and am horrified by the effect the government's legislation is having on the perception of the UK, which is no longer seen as an open country to do business".

Agencies