Western European countries should follow the UK’s example and open their labour markets to workers from Eastern Europe, the European Commission said yesterday.
In a report, the commission said that the UK economy has benefited from the influx of new workers since EU enlargement in 2004.
The UK was one of only three countries, along with the Irish Republic and Sweden, to allow full access to their labour markets.
All other EU countries put up various restrictions fearing that native employees would be undermined by a flood of cheap workers.
The report dismissed these fears. “There was no evidence of a surge in either numbers of workers or welfare expenditure following enlargement,” it said.
It said that the proportion of workers from Eastern Europe in the old EU had tripled since enlargement, but only from 0.1% of the workforce to 0.3%.
The commission’s report backs up the view of the Home Office, which believes that accession workers are helping to fill critical gaps in the labour market, while making few demands on the welfare system or public services.