I really believe that successful companies are nothing if they don’t have a team of fantastic people with a common goal and a mission to build something that matters – and, above all, something that matters to them. That’s why, while building a business for migrants, it was clear to me that diversity would be a core part of what we do at Azimo.
Following a year dominated by negative migration headlines and endless talk of Brexit, we commissioned a YouGov study to find the truth behind those headlines, and the results are surprisingly positive: the majority of young people (aged 18-24) in the UK believe that migrants actually contribute a great deal or fair amount to the British economy.
And they’d be right, of course: according to the Centre for Entrepreneurs, 464,527 UK companies have been founded or co-founded by migrant entrepreneurs. Add these all together and they make up one in seven of all UK firms, employing at least 1.16 million people in total. Now, that’s positive migrant maths for you.
And here’s some more: research from University College London shows that European migrants are far from a drain on GB finances; in fact, they pay more in taxes than they take out in state benefits. That contribution – valued at £2 billion a year – is helping to fuel Britain’s economic growth.
The study also shows that 60% of new migrants from western and southern Europe are university graduates. For eastern Europeans, it’s 25% – similar to the percentage in the UK-born workforce. In fact, Britain is managing to attract the highest number of university-educated migrants of any country in the EU to work in the finance and technology industries.
Sadly, despite these impressive figures, some people remain unconvinced. A darker side of the YouGov survey revealed that less than half (43 per cent) of respondents over the age of 40 believe that migrants contribute anything to the economy. So, for all the doubters out there, I thought it would be a good idea to look at just where GB.inc might be without a little help from abroad.
Healthy migration fuels innovation in key industries, especially the technology sector. You just have to look at the tech start-up scene to discover that many of the founders are migrants – myself included (Polish, if you’re curious). In the past two years, Azimo has seen a huge growth in personnel. We now employ 90 staff and are among the fastest-growing FinTech companies in Europe. But despite being London-based, 38% of our wonderful workforce was born abroad. It helps us to understand the different cultures and backgrounds we deal with every day and also keeps us grounded as a team. We’re not alone, of course. The founders of Citymapper, YPlan and Farfetch also moved to the UK, built multi-million dollar businesses and created plenty of jobs along the way. Even Steve Jobs, the godfather of tech, was born to a Syrian political immigrant.
It’s estimated that 30 per cent of the doctors and 40 per cent of the nurses working in the health service were born abroad, with Portugal, Spain and the Philippines among the biggest staff suppliers. Migrants may be putting a strain on the creaking NHS, but the NHS probably wouldn’t still be here at all without its huge migrant workforce. And who’s caring for Britain’s increasingly elderly population? Almost one in five care workers in the UK are migrants, and in London that figure jumps to 60 per cent.
Between November 2013 and November 2014, 49,120 teachers left the profession – the largest number to quit since records began. So where are the new crop of teachers coming from? Cue this announcement on the Department of Education’s website: ‘If you’re from overseas and want to teach in a world-class education system with great opportunities for career progression, teaching in England could be for you’.
British universities may be shining beacons of ‘Great Britain’, but don’t expect them all to be full of homegrown students these days. The simple fact is that many of them would have probably gone bankrupt by now if they didn’t take in foreign students. St Andrews, the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in the English-speaking world, counts more than 40% of foreign students among its intake. Without them, the writing would would be on the whiteboard for sure.
As a migrant myself, I remember just how hard I’ve had to work for my money. So I never forget how hard Azimo’s customers are working too, whether they’re serving your drinks, checking your blood pressure, educating your kids, caring for your great aunt or running a tech start-up in the office next door. That’s why I constantly remind myself that I’m not only in the money business – I’m in the relationship business too. Luckily, much of Britain seems to agree.
Originally published on Huffington Post – 21/03/2016