Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
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Migrant workers bring improvements to British business performance and productivity says new study

An in-depth, qualitative study of the contribution and impact of migrant workers on 80 UK companies carried out by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has been published yesterday (24 February 2015).

The research found that migrant workers have brought various benefits to their employers that have led to productivity boosts and company expansion. Benefits included:

  • the ability to train colleagues in new skills such as IT techniques, leading to improvements in day to day working practices, and new innovations
  • knowledge and skills over and above those outlined in job specifications, such as management experience, language and IT skills
  • skills that are culturally unique and complementary, rather than directly applicable, to the job role
  • an increased talent pool of potential applicants available to businesses

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

Many British businesses rely on the skills of people from Europe and beyond to fill roles that are not being met by British workers.

This research demonstrates that foreign workers not only stimulate growth for British business by introducing new ideas and innovations, but bring their unique overseas networks and cultural knowledge to drive expansion for their company abroad.

This report will provide an important contribution to the debate around how foreign workers have a positive impact on UK businesses.

Employers interviewed for the study valued the breadth of language skills migrants bring, and also the benefits of having a diverse workforce with a global outlook, which can identify opportunities and new commercial openings. Significant benefits arose where migrants assisted business’ expansion by sharing insights and connections to new international markets, suppliers and client relationships.

Businesses were clear that without migrants they would face much greater difficulties breaking into new markets and that often migrants helped secure business abroad.

The manager of a London Biotech firm quoted in the report said:

In our world we benefit strongly from having access to migrant workers, because these are highly skilled people, highly educated people. We as a company benefit and I’m sure the country benefits also from having them. It’s not like they’re taking up a job that could have gone to a local person, by having them, new businesses are created.

In some cases, hiring migrant workers has brought challenges relating to integration and language, but this has not been insurmountable and has been more than offset in most cases by migrants filling skills gaps and by the contribution of the individuals in post.

The report is divided into sections covering skills, knowledge sharing, innovation, training, migrants’ connections and integration.

The full report is available to download at Migrant workers: impacts on UK businesses

Notes to editors:

  1. This qualitative research was undertaken in 2 phases in Spring/Autumn 2014. Phase 1 comprised 80 phone interviews, each of 30 minutes, with managers who employ migrant workers in businesses in a range of sizes and industries across the UK, in both higher and lower skilled sectors.
  2. In Phase 2, 15 business case studies explored processes in more depth, through face-to-face interviews over half a day with co-worker and migrant workers.
  3. The research focused on spontaneous views on impacts and 6 themes identified as drivers of productivity in previous studies; skills, innovation, knowledge sharing, training, international connections, and integration. These themes were identified through a literature review conducted at the outset of the research.


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