Saturday, July 2, 2011

Immigration Row Engulfs U.K. Minister, Ian Duncan Smith

I am afraid that I agree with British business rather than IDS on this. I think most Australians would. Because of the huge and constant flow of people between the two countries, Australians know Britons very well and the slangy Australian verdict on Brits is that "they wouldn't work in an iron lung". That expression probably makes sense to Australians only but what it means is that Brits are seen as usually lazy and workshy. And their useless public educational system doesn't help either. So I would tend to hire a foreigner in preference to a Brit too. I think it's only immigrants and private school graduates who keep Britain going -- JR

U.K. business organizations have fiercely criticized a senior government minister for telling them to employ more British people rather than hiring "labor from abroad."

In a speech Friday at the Spanish Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies in Madrid, Mr. Duncan Smith said if the immigration system wasn't more strictly controlled, increasing number of U.K. citizens would be left out of work, in particular young people.

Mr. Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said the government is doing its bit to control immigration by placing an overall limit on the number of non-European Union workers allowed into the country each year, but that British businesses also needed to help.

A former leader of the Conservative Party, Mr. Duncan Smith risks inflaming tensions with coalition partners the Liberal Democrats over immigration policy—a subject which has been one of the most contentious areas for the one-year-old government.

He said in his speech: "As we work hard to break welfare dependency and get young people ready for the labor market we need businesses to give them a chance, and not just fall back on labor from abroad. "If Government and business pull together on this, I believe we can finally start to give our young people a chance."

Under EU law it is illegal for the government or employers to discriminate against workers from EU countries.

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said businesses in the U.K. need to have a highly skilled workforce, and for many firms that means employing migrants. "Highly skilled foreign workers are important to our economy, and it is vital that they are allowed to enter the country so businesses can hire the workers they need."

He said many young Britons lack the basic skills needed in the workplace—such as reading, writing and communication. "Getting more young people into work in this country doesn't rely upon stemming the flow of skilled migrants coming to the U.K.," he added.

Neil Carberry, director for employment at the Confederation of British Industry, said employers should be able to choose the best person for the job, and that the challenge for the government was to ensure more young Britons were in a position to be the best candidate.

The pro-business Conservatives have to balance private sector demands for open markets with party promises to clamp down on immigration after a decade of record new arrivals caused increased complaints by voters.

Mr. Duncan Smith, who is considered on the right wing of the party, said that coming out of the last economic down turn in the early 1990s, employers looked abroad as they struggled to fill jobs at home and have yet to get out of the habit.

Youth unemployment is an issue that has dogged successive U.K. government. However, the problem has become acute since the recession with one-in- five people in the 16-to-24 age group unemployed. In comparison, the overall unemployment rate in the U.K. is 7.7%.

The government has attempted to tackle the problem by promoting apprenticeships and internships for young people but to date its policies have had limited impact.

Further fueling the immigration debate are figures from Labour lawmaker Frank Field showing that 87% of the 400,000 new jobs created during the coalition government's first year in office went to immigrants.

Liberal Democrat lawmakers, in particular Business Secretary Vince Cable, have previously sided with business groups to argue that changes to immigration policy could hurt British competitiveness.

A row over immigration policy erupted within the coalition in April after Cable publicly criticized Prime Minister David Cameron's comments about mass immigration as being "very unwise".


Australia enforces new, tighter immigration rules which will affect Indians, among others

Australia has a substantial population of industrious people from the subcontinent already. They greatly improve the restaurant scene but are not as prominent in retailing as they are in Britain. Note: I have tidied up some Indian English below -- JR

Australia's new immigration rules that focus on higher qualification and advance English language skills as requirements for those wanting to migrate to Australia, came into effect today.

The new rules, according to Australian officials, aim to pick up the "best and the brightest" from the pool of applicants, and have been criticised by Indian groups.

The Australian government announced changes to its independent skilled migration points test, introducing the new immigration points system to put more emphasis on work experience and high-level educational qualifications with higher English language proficiency.

"These changes to the points test are an important next step in the series of reforms to the skilled migration programme announced by the Government in February this year," Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said. "The reforms set the foundations for a skilled migration programme that will be responsive to our economic needs and continue to serve Australia's interests in the medium to long term," he added.

However, the new programme has been criticised by the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria (FIAV) which said the level of English proficiency is like an "iron curtain" being imposed on immigration to Australia.

IAV president Vasan Srinivasan said the organisation sympathises with the government's need to attract to Australia migrants with good English speaking skills but the requirement that is appropriate for skilled professionals such as doctors and accountants, should not be required for other less professional occupations.

The new points test will only affect skilled independent immigration and not employer-sponsored immigration.

Srinivasan said to address the skills shortage of the economy the government should allow persons skilled to do the work and understand the language with only the level of language competency required to understand directions given by their employers.

Anything more than that is merely another barrier to "legitimate migrants", Srinivasan, who also heads National Council of Indian Australians (NCIA) said. "We need skilled individuals who can contribute due to their skills and who have functional English language skills! Then adopt such a policy and stop shifting the level," he said.

The Australian government introduced the points test in the selection process whereby the applicants applying for migration are awarded points for the skills and attributes considered to be needed in Australia.

As of today, the test is said to focus on better English levels, more extensive skilled employment, higher level qualifications obtained in Australia and overseas and better targeted age ranges.


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