Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Migrant workers choosy about jobs

From the FT this morning:

Migrant workers choosy about jobs

By Andrew Taylor, Employment Correspondent

Published: August 22 2007 01:59 | Last updated: August 22 2007 01:59

Further signs that the rising tide of Poles coming to work in Britain may have peaked emerged on Wednesday.

According to the Home Office, the number of workers applying to work in the UK from the A8 countries – the eight eastern and central European nations of the European Union – dipped to 49,500 during the three months to the end of June.

This was almost 2,400 fewer than in the previous three months and almost 7,000 fewer than in the corresponding period last year. The figures record only those registering to work in the UK and do not take account of migrants who have returned home.

Krzysztof Trepczynski, minister-counsellor at the Polish embassy in London, argued last month that many Poles worked for only a short time in the UK before returning. Two-thirds of the 683,000 workers who have applied to work in the UK from A8 countries have come from Poland.

Latest figures showed that eastern and central European migrants had started to move up the jobs chain and were occupying more professional positions.

Some 41 per cent of registered workers applied to work in administration, business or management posts during the latest quarter. This compared with 25 per cent three years ago when Britain opened its job market to A8 workers.

Fruit and vegetable growers warned this week that they were facing a struggle to attract sufficient eastern and central Europeans to harvest their crops because A8 workers had become more choosy about the work they undertook.

According to the Home Office the hospitality industry has accounted for 19 per cent of jobs filled by A8 workers, and agriculture 11 per cent, since 2004.

David Davis, shadow home secretary, claimed the latest figures showed the immigration system was “out of control”. He said numbers of migrants arriving from eastern and central Europe had risen by almost 60,000 in the latest quarter, if Bulgarian and Romanian workers were included.

Bulgarians and Romanians, unlike other EU members, have been given only limited access to British jobs. Mr Davis said the latest figures reinforced Conservative arguments that even tougher restrictions should have been imposed.

He said the government’s original estimate that only 13,000 migrants a year would come from A8 countries had been blown out of the water.

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