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Foreign workers wanted for Olympic jobs

Migrants should be viewed as an opportunity, not a threat, says report

09 December 2008. The report warned that 40,000 jobs would not be filled on building sites across the UK over the next four years. Of those, between 7,000 and 8,000 construction jobs are on the site of the £9.4billion Olympics Games in east London.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has published the "Building a New Home: Migration in the UK construction sector" report, which seeks to predict the extent to which the industry will need migrant workers in the future, and considers how these workers might be recruited.

The IPPR compared the construction of the 2012 Games with the 2004 Athens Games, when 60 per cent of the 30,000 workers who built the facilities were not from Greece.

The IPPR found that almost all of the construction jobs will have to be filled by migrants, because it would take too long to train up indigenous workers to the required standard. The most likely scenario was for Olympic bosses to hire the foreign construction workers in the final months before the start of the Games to make sure that they are built on time.

The report concluded that construction is a naturally itinerant industry, and the government must protect the rights of UK and migrant workers alike. A flourishing UK construction industry also presents opportunities for UK construction workers. Policymakers must focus on ensuring adequate workforce skills rather than altering the flows of migrant workers. They need to focus on ensuring that the UK’s training systems are able to deliver the workforce that the sector requires.

The report pointed out that migrant workers are not as common within UK construction as is widely believed. "Migrant workers make up only around 4 per cent of the total construction workforce, and foreign nationals as a whole only 6 per cent, with Irish workers still constituting the largest single group. Therefore the vast majority of new jobs in this growing industry are still going to British nationals", said report.

Also, the IPPR report recommends policymakers must ensure that the points-based system enables sufficient movement to meet industry demands.

Laura Chappell, one of the report’s authors, criticised the Government’s points based immigration system, which is intended to allow the Government to regulate the arrival of migrants, as too reactive and not flexible enough to ensure the Games were finished on time.

The author Laura Chappell warned that construction bosses might find it difficult to attract enough migrants to come to the UK to help complete the Games on time. She said: "That is a concern. The UK construction industry has been having a shortage for a number of years. With the Olympics we have an immoveable deadline." Most of the foreign workers will have to come from eastern Europe or from outside the European Union.

The Institute for Public Policy Research found that few local people in east London will benefit from the Olympics jobs boom in the years before 2012. There were not enough skilled people who lived locally, with most of the jobs created "very short term in nature".

The report said: "The host boroughs showed a marked lack of managers, engineers and other professionals, clerical workers and plumbers compared to the rest of the UK." It also warned that major projects in the UK in the years after the Olympics were likely to be "shifted or delayed" while "infrastructure spending in the post-Games years" would be hit because of the cash spent on the Games.

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: "We are absolutely confident that the construction of the facilities for the London 2012 Games will be completed on time.

Last month, mass-media revealed that more than 50,000 migrant workers have registered for work in Newham, the borough that will host the Games. Estimates of the number of migrant workers on the site – mostly from Eastern Europe and Baltic states within the European Union – range from 10to 70 per cent.

Click on the figure below and link to the full report "Building a New Home: Migration in the UK construction sector"

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