Figures demolish claims that majority of new jobs have gone to foreigners despite rise in number of Romanians and Bulgarians.
The number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in Britain rose by 19% to 121,438 in the last year, according to the latest official labour market statistics.
The 19,000 increase in the number of Romanians and Bulgarians employed in Britain is, however, overshadowed by figures showing that more than 90% of the 378,000 extra people in jobs in the UK in the past year are British nationals.
The figures in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) quarterly survey demolish claims that the vast majority of new jobs have gone to foreigners.
The ONS statistics show that 348,000 of the extra people in work in the 12 months to September are British citizens and only 26,000 are foreign nationals.
The 19% rise in the number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in Britain comes ahead of the lifting of the final restrictions on their access to the UK labour market in the new year.
UK and non-UK estimates do not equal the total number of people in employment because some people do not state their nationality in their interviews.
Many of the Romanians and Bulgarians working in Britain are employed through temporary work schemes, such as the seasonal agricultural workers’ scheme for fruit and vegetable pickers, which have been running since the two countries joined the European Union in 2007. The schemes require them to return home at the end of their temporary contracts.
The figures were released as the Daily Mail highlighted a claim by the former Labour home secretary Jack Straw that opening up the British labour market to Poles and other new European Union members in 2004 was a “spectacular mistake”.
The Mail’s front-page story was based on a column by Straw published six days ago in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph that substantially repeated the acknowledgement of the “mistake” made by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, in a party political broadcast earlier this year. David Blunkett, not Straw, was the home secretary at the time the decision was taken to allow Poles and others immediate access to the British labour market. He argued it was better they came legally than illegally. Illegal migration was a major concern at the time.
Straw focused on the “worthless” forecast that Polish migration would be “relatively small”. The Oxford-University-based Migration Observatory has pointed out the forecast was partly based on what had happened when Spain and Portugal joined the EU and assumed that all other EU states, including Germany, would open their borders to working Poles. As it happened only Britain, Ireland and Sweden gave them an immediate right to work.
Romanians and Poles have faced restrictions on their access to the British labour market as part of a seven-year transition period since they joined the EU in 2007. More than 3 million Romanians left their country to work abroad in 2007, with the vast majority going to Spain or Italy.
The latest ONS figures show there are 2.64 million foreign nationals working in Britain out of a total labour force of 30 million. More than half – 1.45 million – are EU nationals working in Britain, 666,000 of whom are eastern Europeans.
The number of migrant workers from outside Europe in Britain has fallen by 40,000 to 1.19 million in the past year. The largest falls have been in the number of workers from Africa – excluding South Africa – India and the US.
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