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A Million Overseas Workers Come To The UK | Immigration Matters

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The Telegraph reports that “More than a million foreigners have been allowed to come to work in Britain in just three years – and given the right to remain indefinitely.”

Quite how this is possible in just three years when most workers need five years of continuous work to qualify for ‘indefinite leave to remain’, is beyond me. However, the Home Office report does highlight the intense pressure the Government is under to control immigration.

The numbers of migrants, who are also entitled to bring their families and settle, released to MPs last week by the Home Office, reveal the full impact that immigration is having on the UK work force.

They show that the issuing of work permits to people from non-European Union countries continued to rise after the expansion of the EU in 2004, which brought an unprecedented number of eastern European workers to Britain.

Between 2004 and 2006, a record 309,000 non-EU citizens were granted long-term work permits potentially entitling them to settle.

In the same period, 555,000 eastern Europeans have also joined the UK’s Worker Registration Scheme, and a further 150,000 eastern Europeans have come to Britain as self-employed, according to Home Office estimates.

The figures total slightly more than a million – but they do not include

· workers’ dependants

· migrants on short-term work permits

· workers from “old EU” countries such as Italy and Portugal

· asylum-seekers or illegal immigrants

It is not known how many of the million migrants have exercised their right to stay in Britain, nor how many have returned to their home countries. One-tenth of Britain‘s adult population -about five million people – is now foreign-born, again according to Home Office figures.

The Home Secretary, John Reid, claimed last year that the arrival of eastern European workers has brought “undoubted economic benefits”. Critics claim it has led to pay cuts and job losses for British workers.

In the light of the figures, Damian Green, the Conservative Party opposition immigration spokesman, reiterated his party’s call for an annual cap on the number of work permits issued. He said: “These very large numbers show how important it is to control immigration if we are to gain the full benefit from it.”

The biggest private-sector trade union, Amicus, accused employers of cutting British professionals’ jobs and replacing them with lower-paid foreigners on work permits.

Work permits are intended to allow skilled foreign workers into Britain when companies cannot recruit suitable staff in the UK. Last year, 32,000 permits, one in four of the total, were issued to information technology professionals. The majority of these were to Indian nationals being transferred to Britain by their employers.

Amicus’s national officer, Peter Skyte, claimed that some companies were hiring foreigners “to the detriment of the resident UK work force”, using the recruits to force down wage levels or to avoid training existing staff. In some cases, say Amicus, local staff have been made redundant to make way for foreign recruits. In other cases, Indian staff who learn on the job in Britain are later sent home in “offshoring” moves, which result in the closure of UK operations.

Mr Skyte voiced his concerns to the Home Office minister, Joan Ryan, at a meeting in November last year. He now says: “Companies should not be allowed to abuse the work-permit scheme as an opportunity to put short-term profits before long-term investment in the UK.”

Under the rules, foreign staff with work permits should be paid the same as their British counterparts. However, Home Office research has found that, in one-in-six cases, they were paid below the going rate.

A report last year by the National Institute for Social and Economic Research found that immigration has expanded the UK economy by 3 per cent, or £30 billion, in a decade. It concluded that immigrants are net contributors to the economy, but it also said their presence has added to unemployment and forced down wages for the low paid.

A poll last month showed that only 19 per cent of the public believes that the arrival of EU migrant workers has benefited the economy, while 47 per cent believe it has made things worse.

A Home Office spokesman said yesterday: “Migration to the UK makes a substantial contribution to economic growth, helping to ease labour shortages, support public services, such as health care, and increase investment, innovation and entrepreneurship. Migrants contribute disproportionately to GDP owing to their higher-than-average productivity.”

However, official figures for immigration, and the size of the UK population, are in disarray. The national statistician at the Office for National Statistics, Karen Dunnell, admitted, in December, that: “available estimates of migrant numbers are inadequate to meet all the purposes for which they are now required”. She spoke out after Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, complained that a lack of information about migrants was hindering his efforts to steer the economy.

Looking at things ‘on the ground’ there are still shortages of skilled labour in many sectors including: The Care Industry, Catering and Construction. The UK’s staffing problems can only be solved in the immediate term by overseas recruitment.

The Government should look at innovative ways of helping industry by expanding schemes such as the Sectors Based Scheme (SBS), which allows short term recruitment in specific sectors. The Care industry, for instance, would benefit from a special ‘SBS’ for Care Assistants.

If you should have any questions or need help please email Charles Kelly

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