Free Mobility of Labour
India is calling for all barriers to the free movement of skilled people to be abolished in the GATS negotiations that the World Trade organisation is currently conducting.
Currently, the UK, like other countries has strict criteria which non-EU migrant workers must meet before they are allowed to work in the UK. Last year 22,700 IT workers were given work permits to work in the UK. Of those, 13,200 were given to Indians.
In fact 60% of the Indians who came to the UK on work permits, came to work in IT.
They want more though. They want all barriers to be abolished. They have been disappointed that the UK Skills Panel took all IT skills off the IT skills shortage. However, they did recently manage to get the Government to get them an advisory seat on the UK IT skills panel.
So what is this WTO GATS negotiation about then? It defines different Modes of trading, and it is opening up negotiations under the four Modes. Here are the definitions of the 4 Modes:-
‘¢ Mode1 – this refers to cross border trade in services
‘¢ Mode2 – this refers to services that are consumed abroad
‘¢ Mode3 – this refers to commercial presences in countries
‘¢ Mode4 – this refers to the movement of skilled labour
It is Mode4 that the developing world is mainly interested in. They are mainly interested in selling their labour into the developed world, and IT is at the forefront of that as far as most developing countries are concerned.
This is where they want to be able to extract concessions. Basically they want to be able to sell a lot more labour, especially IT labour, into the UK and other western countries.
In fact, what they would like is to have complete mobility of skilled labour and the tearing down of all barriers to selling their people, at whatever price they can command, into western countries.
According to many Indians that I‘ve talked to, many want to get into IT so that they can work in other countries. The favoured country for Indians, according to the Indians that I‘ve met here, is the US. After that it is the UK.
If there is to be free movement of labour, then the main country that will benefit (depending on your perspective) in Europe will be the UK.
We‘re a Global Swapsie
India and other developing countries have been a little disappointed at the offers tabled so far by the developed countries, even though they offer much more free access to EU markets for non-EU labour, especially IT labour.
However, there is likely to be a play-off. The EU and other western states are likely to play off their wants for the first 3 Modes in exchange for developing world desires for greater Mode4 access.
At the moment, it looks very likely that the UK IT labour market will be traded for greater access to developing world markets for our big companies.
The more that India and other countries are prepared to give away in the first three modes, the more they can get as far as Mode4 is concerned, it seems.
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