New poll: London makes views on immigration very clear

Thursday 25 October 2018

  • Support for giving London more control over international workers migration
  • Desire to make it easier to hire key staff like Doctors, Nurses and Teachers 
  • International students seen as having positive impact on London
  • Concern that reduced immigration would impact London’s attractiveness 

According to a major new poll of the London Public, Business leaders and Borough Councillors, immigration is seen as having had a positive impact overall over the past five years, with the growth of international student numbers seen as good and highly-skilled workers seen as the most important group for the capital’s economy. 

Regarding possible changes to UK immigration policy, the survey, conducted by ComRes for the London Tomorrow thought leadership initiative, found broad support for giving London more control over the immigration of international workers to the capital and for making it easy for EU nationals with a job offer to move to the UK to work after Brexit. Making it easy to hire staff in occupations where there are shortages such as Doctors, Teachers or Nurses was seen as a high priority for a future UK system.

The areas that immigration is perceived to have had the most positive impact on London over the past five years were the ‘Economy’: 94% of councillors, 63% of businesses and 66% of Londoners, the ‘NHS’: 90% of councillors, 58% of businesses and 59% of Londoners and ‘Business Innovation’: 76% of councillors, 54% of businesses and 55% of Londoners.

However, the survey also revealed that the areas that people would be most pessimistic if immigration were reduced were the ‘NHS’: 76% of London councillors, 57% of businesses and 50% of Londoners, the ‘UK economy’: 73% of councillors, 50% of businesses and 49% of Londoners, and ‘London’s attractiveness as place to work’ with two-thirds of Councillors (66%) and around half of Businesses and Londoners citing this as something they would be pessimistic about.

Noting the results, Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry said:

"Immigration has underpinned London’s economic, social and cultural development over centuries, making it the great city it is today. Economic research that LCCI commissioned found non-UK nationals form a quarter of the London workforce, compared to one eighth for the rest of the UK.

And yet, despite this, the recent MAC report on EEA Migration did not recognise London’s unique immigration footprint. Moving towards a post-Brexit horizon it is essential that practical proposals to renew and refresh the UK immigration system are considered to keep London globally competitive”.

Julia Onslow-Cole, Partner, Global Head of Immigration, PwC said:

“Many businesses are not ready for an abrupt change in immigration policy on lower skilled workers. Certain sectors like construction, retail and hospitality, rely on migrant labour and are understandably concerned about the future landscape. Some businesses believe it will take them 5-10 years to be fully prepared for the changes.”

Alison FitzGerald, Chief Operating Officer of London City Airport said:

“Whether it’s housing, 5G or airports, new infrastructure - physical and hidden - will shape the city that London becomes in the next decade.

“That’s why we need the ability to attract international talent with skills that supplement UK and home-grown expertise. London has always thrived from being a global city and as it continues to grow, arriving talent will help us build an incredible future.”

Survey questions used by ComRes for London Tomorrow research: 

Q: To what extent, if at all, do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements about immigration?

  • Immigration has had a positive impact on the London economy over the past ten years
    Agree: 91% councillors; 66% business leaders; 68% Londoners
  • The immigration system for people coming to the UK from outside the EU is too complex
    Agree: 73% councillors; 53% business leaders; 49% Londoners
  • The Government’s current immigration policy makes it difficult for businesses to hire the staff they need from overseas
    Agree: 79% councillors; 53% business leaders; 51% Londoners
  • Growth in the numbers of international students coming to UK has been good for London
    Agree: 90% councillors; 67% business leaders; 71% Londoners
  • The number of people immigrating to the UK over the past ten years has been too high
    Agree: 27% councillors; 56% business leaders; 55% Londoners

Q: To what extent, if at all, do you support or oppose each of the following changes to UK immigration policy?

  • Removing international students from the Government’s official immigration figures
    Agree: 79% councillors; 53% business leaders; 48% Londoners
  • Giving London more control over the immigration of international workers to the capital
    Agree: 68% councillors; 65% business leaders; 67% Londoners
  • Making it easy for EU nationals with a job offer to move to the UK for work after Brexit
    Agree: 91% councillors; 77% business leaders; 76% Londoners
  • Removing the ‘immigration skills charge’
    Agree: 62% councillors; 57% business leaders; 51% Londoners
  • Giving students from outside the EU more time to find a job in the UK after graduating from a UK university, rather than the current four months
    Agree: 73% councillors; 56% business leaders; 61% Londoners

Q: To what extent, if at all, do you think that each of the following should be a priority for the UK’s future immigration system?

  • Basing immigration decisions on immigrants’ occupation and skill levels
    High priority: 41% councillors; 52% business leaders; 42% Londoners
  • Basing immigration decisions on the UK’s needs for particular skills and jobs, rather than on fixed immigration targets
    High priority: 70% councillors; 66% business leaders; 50% Londoners
  • Ensuring that the immigration system takes into account regional variations in demand for different types of workers
    High priority: 44% councillors; 36% business leaders; 34% Londoners
  • Making it easy to hire staff in occupations with shortages like doctors, teachers or nurses
    High priority: 85% councillors; 75% business leaders; 70% Londoners
  • Encouraging international students to study at UK universities
    High priority: 55% councillors; 33% business leaders; 31% Londoners
  • Encouraging wealthy individuals to move to and invest in the UK
    High priority: 23% councillors; 30% business leaders; 25% Londoners
  • Ensuring that it is easy for UK nationals to work in the EU
    High priority: 64% councillors; 50% business leaders; 47% Londoners

Q: What impact do you think Immigration has had on each of the following areas in London over the past five years?

  • London’s economy
    Positive: 94% councillors; 63% business leaders; 66% Londoners
  • Wages in London
    Positive: 35% councillors; 32% business leaders; 28% Londoners
  • The proportion of people in London who are employed
    Positive: 69% councillors; 48% business leaders; 47% Londoners
  • Innovation by London businesses
    Positive: 76% councillors; 54% business leaders; 55% Londoners
  • The NHS
    Positive: 90% councillors; 58% business leaders; 59% Londoners

Q: After the UK leaves the EU, some believe levels of immigration to the UK will reduce. If this were to happen, to what extent do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the effect this would have on each of the following?

  • London’s economy
    Pessimistic: 69% councillors; 47% business leaders; 46% Londoners
  • The UK economy
    Pessimistic: 73% councillors; 50% business leaders; 49% Londoners
  • The NHS
    Pessimistic 76% councillors; 57% business leaders; 50% Londoners
  • The competitiveness of London businesses
    Pessimistic: 69% councillors; 47% business leaders; 44% Londoners
  • London’s reputation as a location to start a new business
    Pessimistic: 68% councillors; 47% business leaders; 47% Londoners
  • London’s attractiveness as a place to work for people outside the UK
    Pessimistic: 66% councillors; 55% business leaders; 49% Londoners

Q: How important, if at all, do you think each of the following groups are to London’s economy?

  • High-skilled non-UK workers travelling to the UK to work temporarily
    Important: 94% councillors; 79% business leaders; 79% Londoners
  • High-skilled non-UK workers travelling to the UK to work permanently
    Important: 95% councillors; 86% business leaders; 86% Londoners
  • Semi or unskilled non-UK workers travelling to the UK to work temporarily
    Important: 73% councillors; 56% business leaders; 54% Londoners
  • Semi or unskilled non-UK workers travelling to the UK to work permanently
    71% councillors; 56% business leaders; 57% Londoners
  • Students from outside the UK travelling to study at UK Universities
    Important: 83% councillors; 60% business leaders; 70% Londoners


ENDS

Media contact
Sean McKee
T: +44 (0)20 7203 1882 
M: +44 (0)75 0001 3166
E: smckee@londonchamber.co.uk

NOTES TO EDITOR:

  1. 'London Tomorrow: Towards the Megacity' is a thought leadership panel by London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in association with PwC and supported by London City Airport
  2. London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) is the capital's most representative business organisation, with members ranging in size from multi-national companies to SMEs and sole traders.
  3. Colin Stanbridge of LCCI is available for further comment and interview.
  4. ComRes interviewed a total of 154 London Councillors; 517 business leaders and 1,005 London adults between 10th August – 3rd September 2018 online. All three surveys were representative of their respective audiences.  ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available at www.comresglobal.com