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Crops abandoned as immigrants leave UK

Agricultural disaster as the credit crunch forces migrant workers to leave, says report 21 January 2009 – Agriculture is likely to be one of the sectors hardest hit by an exodus of migrant workers during the recession, says the first report in 2009 by the Local Government Association.

Restrictions on non-EU recruits could also force migrant workers home, putting a real strain on farms as workforce numbers dwindle, the report says.

A fifth of workers in the food industry are migrants and the weakening pound has meant many are finding it less profitable to work in the UK.

Large numbers of Polish workers, who make up 53% of the 72,000 migrant workers in the industry, are believed to be leaving Britian, leading to "serious labour shortages", the report said.

Putting together a plan to ensure businesses can cope with the expected fall in migrant workers, the LGA said it had advised councils to look carefully for signs that migrant workers were leaving the UK.

The new research by the Local Government Association analyses the impact the recession could have on migrant labour in a variety of different industries. Council leaders are today putting forward a three point plan to ensure that the businesses most likely to be affected can cope.

Councils will lead the response to an outflow of migrant workers by bringing together local businesses, the Learning and Skills Council and Job Centre Plus to identify what skills local employers need workers to have and make sure people get the training they need to fill any vacancies.

In the short term, the Home Office must review the shortage occupation list so care homes can recruit the skilled staff they need, at a cost they can afford.

The LGA is advising councils to monitor their local population carefully for signs that migrant workers are returning home and has produced a guide to help councils do this.

Councillor Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the LGA, a cross party organisation which represents councils in England, said:
“If migrant workers begin to return home in large numbers, it could put real strain on some of the key services and industries we all take for granted. This report is a stark reminder that councils and businesses across the country need to be alert to any changes in their local workforce.

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