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Foreign worker employment rises

Brown: Percentage of non-UK workers lower than many other countries 12th February 2009: The number of foreign workers in UK last year increased by 175,000 to 2.4 million while that of British workers fell by 234,000 to 27 million, report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows.

Whitehall sources told The Times that ministers were “fizzing” with anger, accusing the ONS of a political act designed to embarrass Gordon Brown over his “British jobs for British workers” soundbite.

In June 2007, Mr. Brown who was by then the Chancellor emphasised on "Britishness" at the heart of his government’s programme as he prepared to take over from Tony Blair in three weeks’ time.

“It is time to train British workers for the British jobs that will be available over the coming few years and to make sure that people who are inactive and unemployed are able to get the new jobs on offer in our country," Mr. Brown said.

This is the first time ONS has separated the figures of employment of UK and non-UK workers.

The Times quoted a senior government source to have said: “The fact that they highlighted this in this way, in a press release, looks like they are trying to embarrass the Government over the slogan ‘British Jobs for British workers’.”

With these facts coming out at a time when there are continuous protests against foreign workers in the country and endless calls for British jobs for British workers, the Prime Minister might find it difficult to convince British workers that "Britishness" is still at the heart of his government’s programme.

There is fear amongst the MPs that the statistics may be misinterpreted and inflame tensions in many British workplaces.

Unions have also warned that the presentation of the figures could be used to stoke resentment amid rising unemployment. They said that the classifications were misleading, Times reported.

Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said he would raise concerns about the release of the figures with the Prime Minister. "The danger is that such information could be misconstrued or misused by those who do not support the view that Britain should be a diverse and multicultural society," he said.

“Despite all the figures that are bandied about today and on other days, the percentage of non-UK nationals employed in the United Kingdom is 8 per cent and it is lower than many other countries that people compare us with,” Mr. Brown told the Commons.

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