Political parties are being urged to recognise the contribution that foreign workers from countries such as Poland and Latvia make to the UK, and to ensure that legitimate workers do not fall into the black economy.
The call from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) was timed to mark the 1 May anniversary of 10 new countries joining the European Union.
REC figures show that more than 40% of the 130,000 new EU workers who registered to work in the UK within the first eight months of enlargement had registered with recruitment agencies.
Without these workers, a number of sectors would suffer, including health, hotels and catering, and childcare, said the REC. For example, it is estimated that 2,500 workers in care homes have come from the latest list of new EU member states.
But recent research has shown that a lack of assistance and support for migrant workers means that many are struggling to find legal employment. For example, existing government policy prohibits Jobcentre Plus staff from providing one-to-one support for jobseekers from the new member states. This, in turn, forces many to seek an alternative income in the black economy.
Gareth Osborne, managing director of the REC, said: “Currently, there are more than half a million job vacancies in the UK. However, there are simply not enough people in the UK with the right skills to fill these positions.
“Migrant workers have helped to ease the pressure, and without their presence, the problem would be even more acute,” he said. “Support is needed from government to ensure that effective enforcement is in place to clamp down on rogue operators who flout regulations and supply workers to the black economy.”