West England economy based on migrant workers

Press survey reveals immigrant workforce became part of the business community The verdict comes from the most recent West Business Watch, carried out for the Western Daily Press by business advisory firm Deloitte.

Employers in the West are recruiting on a long-term basis and four per cent of respondents predict an increase in the number of migrant workers they will be employing over the next six to 18 months. No businesses forecast a fall in numbers.

This time last year, 93 per cent of respondents said overseas labour made up five per cent or less but the figure today is 83 per cent. The number of companies with between five per cent and 10 per cent has almost doubled, to 12 per cent.

Eastern Europe continues to be the leading recruitment zone, with more than 80 per cent of migrant labour coming from countries including Poland, the Czech Republic, the former Yugoslavia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Southern Europe, including Portugal, Spain and Greece, is again the next most popular source, although the percentage from these countries has fallen from 13 to six per cent. Another six per cent come from the Indian sub-continent, which takes in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Employers look abroad because of skills shortages at home. Over the past two years the number of firms saying this is the reason for recruiting migrant workers has risen from 28 per cent to 44 per cent.

Just under a third said it was because of the reputation of overseas workers for being reliable and hard working – almost double the figure last year – and six per cent said there were not enough people of working age in their locality.
40% of the migrant workers who reach West of England applied for the jobs back home through UK-based recruitment agencies.

The West Business Watch on immigrant workforce comes at a time of increasing fears that many sectors of the economy could be hit by a fall in the number of available migrant employees. It also coincides with the introduction of the first stage of a new Australian-style immigration points system, which will effectively bar low-skilled workers from non-EU countries from coming to the UK.

Denis Woulfe, senior practice partner at Deloitte in Bristol, said: "Many employers in the West welcome the supply of overseas labour, and the Department for Work and Pensions has recently revealed that Herefordshire, for example, has seen the largest increase of any area in the country over the last six years, while parts of Somerset were not far behind.”

"The skills issue is a major worry," said Mr Woulfe. "When concerns about skills shortages are at such a high level it is vital that the country’s policy on migrant workers takes that into consideration."

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