Global ranking unveiled as Prime Minister seeks tighter immigration controls

The UK is seventh in the world for its ability to attract, develop and retain highly-skilled migrants, a report has found.

The study, the Global Talent Competitiveness Index, by Adecco Group, international business school INSEAD and the Human Capital Leadership Institute, found the UK had retained its 2014 spot as the seventh most talent competitive country.

Also holding their places from 2014 were Switzerland (first place), Singapore (second), Luxembourg (third), the United States (fourth) and Sweden (sixth). Jumping from eighth in 2014 to become the fifth most talent completive country in 2015 was Denmark.

The UK ranked fourth among countries most likely to attract businesses with foreign ownership and seventh as the country most likely to attract international students. However, it ranked lower for other factors, including 56th for attracting female graduates and 71st for the gender earnings gap.

Alex Fleming, managing director of Adecco Group UK and Ireland, said: “The Index demonstrates how Britain is one of the best countries in the world at attracting skilled migrants, ensuring that we have the skills we need to continue to build a strong economy.

“With the referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union looming, this report raises important considerations for policy makers and industry, particularly when it comes to labour mobility."

The report comes as the UK government seeks to tighten up on migration, with Prime Minister David Cameron pledging to cut net-migration to tens of thousands.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the body commissioned by the government to look at Tier 2 visas, the route by which most non-EU highly-skilled workers enter the UK, has today published its recommendations.

To restrict the volumes of Tier 2 migrants MAC has proposed raising the overall salary threshold from the current £20,800 to £30,000, with a lower threshold of £23,000 for graduates. It has also recommended an immigration skills charge of £1,000 per year for each Tier 2 migrant employed by UK companies to incentivise employers to reduce reliance on migrant workers and encourage investment in training UK employees.

MAC has also recommended tightening the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) route, which allows multinational companies to transfer key personnel from overseas branches to the UK for temporary periods of up to five years.

Professor Sir David Metcalf, MAC chair, said: “Skilled migrant workers make important contributions to boosting productivity and public finances, but this should be balanced against their potential impact on the welfare of existing UK residents.

“Raising the cost of employing skilled migrants via higher pay thresholds, and the introduction of an immigration skills charge, should lead to a greater investment in UK employees and reduce the use of migrant labour.”

Professor John Salt, emeritus professor at University College London, said the ICT route has been a "major element of the talent coming into [the UK]".

"The majority of certificates of sponsorship are now going to people either working in IT or into IT-related jobs. The balance of skills coming into the UK economy has shifted and it is not very well-balanced at all now," he added.

Commenting on the UK's rank of seventh in the talent competitiveness stakes, Salt added: "Luxembourg, Singapore and Switzerland are relatively small countries with a global reach and by definition they are going to be importing skilled workers. The only one above the UK with a population of any size is the United Sates and, given the economy of the US, it is not surprising that they are up there."