Britain urgently needs migrants because young people will not move to the areas where they are needed, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has claimed.
Young Britons are also unwilling to carry out vital work such as looking after the elderly, so migrants are the best bet for filling the gap, the group said.
Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s director-general, told MPs it was crucial Britain’s borders remained open to foreign workers to meet the high demand for labour.
“There are parts of the country where unemployment is really, really low [such as Exeter]. Many of the young unemployed people are on the other side of the country and they are not going to come down to Exeter, and they don’t,” said Ms Fairbairn.
She said sectors such as construction are in high demand as the Government plans extra infrastructure development, but it relies heavily on foreign staff.
Much of the public debate so far about post-Brexit migration rules has focused on maintaining the flow of highly skilled foreign workers into sectors such as financial services.
But the business group insists lower skilled workers are also needed for jobs such as caring for the elderly.
“We have an aging population and a real demand for people who are happy to come and care for our aging population,” she said, telling the Brexit select committee that “it is time to move off the theory and onto understanding where we really do have these stresses and strains in the economy.”
John Longworth, the former head of the British Chambers of Commerce and co-chairman of campaign group Leave Means Leave, said that borders should be open only until British workers can be trained up.
“Why are we recruiting people from continental Europe to do this work?” he asked, declaring the youth unemployment rate “shameful”.
He noted that in the past Britain has given unskilled foreign workers temporary employment, for instance in seasonal agricultural work.
“I don’t think anyone is in the position of saying we should have no foreign labour in the UK, clearly there will be a need for skilled workers for particular roles where it is, in the short term, not possible to provide trained people from the UK indigenous population.”
Mr Longworth noted that in the past Britain has given unskilled foreign workers temporary employment, for instance in seasonal agricultural work.
He favours a system where foreign workers are given jobs and then win approval to move to the UK, rather than arriving first and then seeking work.
December 10th, 2016: Telegraph