Britain to allow temporary workers after Kamal Nath complains

March 17th, 2008 - 6:32 pm ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, March 17 (IANS) Britain will try and make it easier for temporary IT and other workers to come and work in the country, the Home Office was quoted as saying after India warned that a new British immigration system could become a “retrograde step.” The British Home Office Sunday said it will create a special immigration category for temporary workers, details of which are to be released shortly, the Financial Times reported.

The announcement comes after India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said last week that developed countries such as Britain should allow software engineers and other Indian workers for short periods.

In a speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, a London-based think tank, Kamal Nath said the global community could not overlook services if progress were to be made in the Doha Development Round (DDR) of talks aimed at laying down the rules of world trade.

“We understand that immigration is a sensitive subject,” he said, but added that if people came for a short period for either business or work, then “that’s not immigration”.

Negotiations on the temporary movement of natural persons are covered under the so-called Mode 4 section of Services at the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

But some countries are worried that the emphasis on agriculture and manufactured goods by developing and developed countries in the DDR talks may come at the cost of progress on Services.

Kamal Nath later told the Financial Times that a new Australian-style Points Based immigration System (PBS), which has come into force in Britain, risked becoming a “retrograde step” if it made it harder for Indians businessmen and professionals to come and work in Britain for temporary periods.

“We are not asking for more permanent immigration. We are talking about people coming in for a month or so to integrate software systems,” he added.

An Indian software company that could not send executives or technical experts into Britain for short periods would be unable to service warranties or sell new systems that would require on-the-spot maintenance in the future, he said.

India’s software and business processing exports are valued at about $40 billion (20 billion pounds) a year. Total British imports of computer and information services were 2.7 billion pounds ($5.5 billion) in 2006, the latest full year for which figures are available, out of total annual British services imports of 95.4 billion pounds (nearly $200 billion), the paper reported.

A vast majority of IT workers from outside the 27 nations of the European Union (EU) appear to be Indians.

The Financial Times quoted data obtained by the Association of Technology Staffing Companies, which represents British IT professionals, as showing that 38,450 work permits for IT jobs were issued to non-EU residents in Britain last year - more than double the total five years ago - of which 82 percent went to Indians.

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