Belfast Telegraph

Halting migrant flow post-Brexit could hit GDP by 9%, claims CBI

Warning: Angela McGowan
Warning: Angela McGowan
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Northern Ireland's economy will suffer if the Government significantly cuts migration levels after Brexit, the CBI has warned.

The business organisation has carried out research which predicts that a substantial cut to both EU and international workers could see our GDP decrease by 9.1% by 2041. A lesser scenario involving a 50% cut to EU inward migration only could see GDP reduce by 5.3% over the same period, the report shows.

CBI Northern Ireland has said that local employers have become increasingly reliant on migrant workers, largely due to demographic changes and the trend for young people to move away for study or work outside the region.

The All Together Better report indicates that migrants are currently filling gaps in both low-level and high-level jobs, and are particularly prominent in education, healthcare, hospitality, agri-food and digital industries.

Even with current migration levels, the study shows that the population here is ageing.

According to the Northern Ireland Statistical and Research Agency (NISRA), the pensionable age cohort is to increase by over 40% in the next 25 years.

While the population is projected to increase here over that period, the working age population is expected to decrease by 2%.

The CBI study indicates that limiting migration in both scenarios would see Northern Ireland's working age population shrink by between 6 and 8%.

"This economy will not survive without getting full access to skills at all levels and getting access to people," CBI NI director Angela McGowan said.

"I think it's really important to make sure people have the evidence and that it's well understood and the decisions of policy makers do actually have implications for people's lives and livelihoods."

The latest labour force data revealed that there were 325,000 economically inactive people in the local working-age population.

But when full-time students, retired people, sick and disabled people along with those who look after families or homes were removed, just 6% were left (19,500).

The CBI director said last week's report from the Migration Advisory Committee had identified the challenges around migration for Northern Ireland "but failed to offer any solutions".

Among the recommendations contained in the CBI report is to allow firms of all sizes here to have better access to people and skills from the EU and around the world.

"It's vitally important that whatever immigration system we adopt post-Brexit fulfils a number of basic tests.

"It must be open, controlled and work for all parts of the UK, whilst recognising the specific challenges we face in Northern Ireland," said Ms McGowan.

Belfast Telegraph