EU migrant worker numbers drop to 165,000 as recession bites

The number of Eastern Europeans coming to the UK in search of work has fallen to 165,000 – the lowest level since 2004, when eight former communist states, including Poland, joined the EU.

As the recession takes hold, the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics indicate that the number of workers applying to work in the UK in 2008 dropped by 53,000 from 218,000 in 2007. This fall is largely due to a sharp decline in Polish migrant workers from 51,000 in 2007, to 27,000 in 2008.

The statistics also revealed that 78% of those applying to work in the UK were aged between 18 and 34 years, while only 11% registered having dependents with them.

John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: “Today’s migrant worker figures highlight the extent to which rising unemployment and a sharp drop in the value of the pound has reduced the UK’s economic pulling power as far as eastern European migrants from the initial EU accession countries, especially Poland, are concerned.”

He added: “While a slower rate of inflow of migrant EU workers might eventually take some heat out of the unfortunate ‘British jobs for British workers’ row, at a time of recession and mounting joblessness it is sensible to ensure that migration from outside the EU is tightly controlled so that employers make full use of available UK and EU labour before hiring migrants from further afield.”

Earlier this week, the government announced new regulations to restrict the numbers of non-EU migrant workers and protect domestic jobs for British people. Employers will be forced from 1 April to advertise all skilled jobs through Jobcentres for a minimum of two weeks before candidates from outside the EU can be sought.

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