The announcement that Britain is to introduce a points-based system to manage immigration and attract 'the brightest and best' from the developing world to work in the UK has been welcomed as a major step toward meeting the needs of employers.
But in the absence of key detail on the new plan, the jury is out on how effective it will be in practice, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
"The UK needs an approach to managing migration that meets the legitimate needs of employers without compromising the interests of the wider economy or society," said John Philpott, the CIPD's Chief Economist.
"The government's points based system in principle strikes the right balance. However, the system outlined today by the Home Office is still in embryonic form and it is far too soon to judge how well it will develop.
"Although the new streamlined system is expected to reduce the burden of cost and red tape on employers, the Home Office openly admits that it is not yet in a position to provide precise quantitative estimates of the costs and benefits," he added.
Recent CIPD research revealed that employers are turning to migrant labour primarily to fill gaps in the skills and experience available to them when seeking to recruit from the UK jobs market.
It found that a quarter of employers intended to hire migrant workers during autumn 2005, with this figure rising to 35% in the London area.
EU accession countries (such as Poland, not covered by the points system) are currently the most popular source of migrant labour. However, over 20% of employers indicate they are looking beyond the borders of the European Unions when they recruit migrant labour.
Most employers said that their decision to recruit from abroad is based on the need to find skills and experience they cannot find on the UK jobs market, rather than for cost-cutting reasons.
Meanwhile, Home Office research suggests that employers view migrant workers as harder working, more reliable and better motivated than domestic workers.
But four out of 10 employers told the CIPD that they expect the proposed points-based system to create a further bureaucratic barrier to the active recruitment of migrant workers, something that Philpott said the lack of detail around the proposals would do nothing to assuage.
"Employers will be reassured if the new system allows them to continue to use non-EU migrants as part of their wider strategies to ensure they have the right numbers of people with the right skills and motivation to perform," he added.
"Efforts to train and develop existing staff have a key role to play, but our research shows that employers need migrant workers to supplement these efforts."
"From a broader society perspective, the Government will also have to demonstrate that the proposed independent Skills Advisory Body (SAB) will in practice be capable of making a realistic assessment at any particular time of the UK's need for skilled and less skilled workers.
The SAB will play an extremely important role in ensuring that managed migration works. But to do so it must neither be an agent of outdated manpower planning or merely a rubber stamp for whatever level of immigration employers consider appropriate."