CIPD highlights reasons behind growth in use of migrant labour

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The rise in UK employers’ use of low-skilled migrant labour from the European Union (EU) is not simply due to factors such as work ethic or skills, and is instead related to a number of “unintentional recruitment factors”, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The CIPD has today published its report “The state of migration: employing migrant workers”, which suggests that these largely unintentional factors might be limiting employment opportunities for younger workers and presenting long-term implications for employers.

The report found that specific technical skills and work ethic were cited as key reasons for employers’ perceptions of EU migrant workers as better candidates for low-skilled roles than UK-born candidates. However, it also found that increasing use of EU migrant workers might also have been boosted by referrals from other employees, as well as the role of some recruitment consultancies.

In addition, the report also pointed to employers’ perception of a high turnover rate among UK native workers.

Responding to the report’s findings, the CIPD said employers need to safeguard their long-term talent pipelines by offering opportunities and support for young jobseekers.

Gerwyn Davies, public policy adviser at the CIPD and author of the report, comments: “The question of whether immigration is restricting jobs for British workers needs to be re-framed to reflect the complex set of factors that have driven the rising share of migrant workers in employment in the UK over the past decade.

“The slowing in the rate of this growth over the recent past may be due to the state of the economy but it may also reflect tentative progress by employers and government in building the medium-term talent pipeline with the introduction of more apprenticeships and other training schemes.

“However, it is still the case that too many employers are left frustrated by their failure to persuade those at job-entry level to remain within the organisation to emulate those that have exploited the training opportunities and promotion prospects at their organisations. Employers need young people as much as young people need jobs, so it is important to find ways to tackle this problem.

“The apparent gap between the expectations of employers and those of younger workers can be bridged with the offer of more formal training opportunities, especially apprenticeships, and a narrative that builds on the success of previous schemes for employees. Specific attention should be given to pay, job status, and employment conditions. Meanwhile, employees also need to recognise that success does not come overnight, especially during such a difficult period for the UK labour market.”

For more information in employing foreign nationals, see XpertHR’s employment law reference manual on the topic.

More key findings from the report:

The share of migrant workers in private-sector firms (11%) is higher than in public-sector organisations (3%).

Of those employers that employ migrant workers, around one private-sector company in 20 reports that at least half of their workforce is made up of migrant workers. Overall, 14% of employers say that migrant workers comprise at least one-fifth of its workforce.

One-third (32%) of private-sector employers use recruitment agencies to hire migrant workers.

Employers are more likely to recruit migrant workers from within the EU than outside it. Of those employers that use migrant workers, 40% are also actively recruiting EU migrant workers whereas 25% of employers say they are going to actively recruit migrant workers from outside the EU.

In response to the increasing number of restrictions on employing non-EU workers, 32% said that they will train existing workers, while 30% said they will recruit more EU workers.

Meanwhile, 16% of companies whose ability to recruit non-EU workers has been restricted by immigration rules now plan to move those jobs abroad.

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