UK employers face being left in the lurch as the current flow of eastern European migrants continues to dry up, a major report has warned.
A study by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank found that fewer migrants were arriving from countries such as Poland and Hungary, while greater numbers than ever before were actually leaving the UK.
The report warned that the UK may no longer be able to rely on the ready supply of workers prepared to move around the country doing jobs that most home grown workers seem unable or unwilling to do.
Using a range of data sources, IPPR estimated that more than one million migrant workers had come to the UK from the eight accession countries that joined the EU in 2004. But the report also claimed that about half of those had already returned home and that many more will soon follow suit.
“This trend raises the spectre of labour shortages and increased offshoring of British businesses, particularly in sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture, in which many employers say their businesses would have had to relocate if they had not been able to employ large numbers of migrants,” the report said.
A spokesman for manufacturing employers’ group the EEF said: “At the moment we don’t perceive problems, but that’s no reason to believe [employers] won’t be affected if skilled migrant labour is not available to fill the current shortages, as it is quite widely used.”
IPPR urged the government not to be complacent when attracting migrants from other parts of the world to make up the shortfall from Eastern Europe.