The Global Results Of Britain’s Foreigner Policy

Arts & Culture

In the Independent, Hamish McRae writes an essay that looks at the connection between the interest for Brits to travel abroad and the reasons why the UK has swelled with foreign labour.

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 30 july 2006

In the Independent, Hamish McRae writes an essay that looks at the connection between the high interest Brits have to travel abroad and the reasons why the UK has swelled with foreign labour.

A culture that makes it unattractive for non-residents to live and work may increasingly be putting itself at a competitive disadvantage… Something like 500,000 workers have come in [to the UK] from the new member states in the past year, helping relieve pressure on what would otherwise have been a tight labour market.

But we don’t just get foreign labour – we also get foreign talent. And I suspect that having access to multinational talent will become a more important economic asset in the years ahead.

Now come back to the cultural aspect of international travel. The US, Japan and France have in common the fact that their people do not travel. They also have in common the fact that their business leadership is overwhelmingly national. There are a tiny number of exceptions – Carlos Ghosn at Renault-Nissan, Sir Howard Stringer at Sony – but a foreign chief executive officer is a rarity.

Not so in the UK, for some 30 per cent of the FTSE 100 companies have a non-national at the top. In a way, our propensity for travel to other cultures runs in parallel with our willingness to welcome someone from another culture to come and sort out our companies.

…if, as a culture, we not only practise our bad French on the Côte d’Azure but also welcome having a French company come and sort out our electricity supplies, then we are positioning ourselves to benefit from the next stage of globalisation.

Independent Online Edition > Business Comment

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