The UK jobs market is performing "incredibly well" but without a more flexible visa system the economy will be held back, according to a leading figurehead of Britain's recruitment industry.

The comments come as the Conservative Party attempts to reduce annual net migration levels down to "tens of thousands" by 2015.

The coalition government partner has capped the number of people employers are allowed to bring to the UK from outside the European Union (EU) to work in skilled professions.

But Kevin Green, the chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), told IBTimes UK that "in reality" employers want a more flexible system.

"You want a global labour market, you want businesses to be able to find the skills they need – otherwise we are going to constrain growth and we are going to limit the success of our companies," he said.


Green also shared his thoughts on the recent employment figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which revealed that there are more than 30.3 million people in work in the UK.

But the official body also found more than 880,000 jobless young people in the country in the three months to February.

"If young people have a period of unemployment early in their career, they're likely to have repeat periods of unemployment," Green warned.

"As employers become more confident, they are likely to start hiring for potential again rather than experience, which has tended to be the issue over the last couple of years."

Green added that the REC thinks that youth unemployment will continue to fall, but that the government could "do more" – particularly at addressing the UK's skills gap.


The House of Commons' Scottish Affairs Committee recently called on the government to ban the majority of zero-hours contracts.

The group of MPs claimed that the controversial employment agreements, which enable employers to offer no guarantee work for employees, were being used by "unscrupulous" companies.

But Green said the reason why the UK's unemployment numbers kept below post-financial expectations of 3.5 million is because of the country's flexible labour market.

"We need to recognise that a flexible labour market keeps people in employment and makes sure they are earning a living," Green said.

"Employers need to keep flexibility. They need to make sure they match their workforce to their workload."

Full Employment?

Chancellor George Osborne recently committed a Conservative government to target "full employment", a goal Green said is "admirable".

"We should be, as a mature economy, always aiming to get as many people into work as we can," he said.

"It's the right ambition for a government to have. But it also needs to be making sure that we get employers behaving in the right way."

When pressed on whether Green's definition that a future government could achieve full employment was credible, the chief executive said it was "possible".