BBC 4 Radio's Today Programme invited Dr. Parag Khanna to share lessons from his new book MOVE and explain how the UK needs to move beyond short-term approaches to plugging labor shortages and engage vigorously in the war for global talent.
Lightly edited transcript of interview
Sarah Smith (BBC):
The government is planning to issue over 10,000 visas to foreign workers to try and alleviate shortages among haulage drivers and food industry workers. But is that just scratching the surface of some of the workforce shortages? We've got the hospitality industry now saying it's crying out for trained workers as well. So do we need to take a serious post-Brexit look at how we either try and attract foreign workers or train home grown stuff? I talk to Parag Khanna who is a strategist, futurist and the author of MOVE. That's a book about how mass migration will reshape the world.
Parag Khanna, you look at this in a broader context and are warning that all sorts of things that up to and including climate change are going to hugely affect our workforce, and that the government really needs to put together a national master plan going forward.
Parag Khanna (author, MOVE):
Thank you so much. Let me just ask a rhetorical question, how can a government be nimble, but also be so short term and bureaucratic at the same time? These are really opposing things, and we're seeing these panic reactions that don't even really begin to scratch the surface in terms of a true skilled migration strategy. That's really why I set out to write this book MOVE about mass migrations, because the broader context is that there is a global war for talent underway to recruit skilled youth and workers. And you have to accept, quite frankly, that the UK has just lost an early skirmish in this global battle. And one example is: why would a European Union citizen come here for just a couple of months when they have fixed contracts and benefits back home?
But I do believe that the UK can still be a winner in this war for talent. It has to think of migration not just in terms of a stopgap measure, like sending out the army, to train drivers and to cope with fuel shortages, but to think about the army of migrants that this country needs not just on a short term basis, but a permanent basis. Look at the shortages, in technology in healthcare, think about how working women have suffered because of the lack of immigrant childcare and the difficulties there. So thinking about sorting and matching of foreigners to the industries that structurally need people. You mentioned yourself just now that the hospitality sector saying we are a skilled sector, we need more people. So in a way, what you find is that the economic engine of the UK, the services industry, is lacking its very fuel it needs, which is skilled labor.