Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fewer East Europeans entering UK work force as result of govt policies

LONDON (Thomson Financial) - The number of East European citizens seeking work in the UK is decreasing compared with the end of last year as a result of restrictions imposed by the UK government, official figures showed.

In a report published today, the UK Home Office said that a total of 49,000 individuals from Eastern Europe sought work in the UK during the January to March period, about 16,000 less than in the previous three-month period.

From Bulgaria and Romania, the two most recent countries to join the European Union on Jan 1, a total of 7,935 workers joined the UK workforce so far this year.

The Home Office has sought to restrict the accession of East European workers -- by means of the Worker Registration Scheme -- to allow only those with skills needed within the UK economy.

'While it remains too soon to evaluate the full impact of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU, the early indications are that our policy of restricting access to the UK's labour market is helping to ensure that only those who have something to offer the UK are allowed to work here,' said Immigration Minister Liam Byrne.

He said he would oversee the creation of independent bodies to look at how migration can fill skills shortages as well as to monitor the wider social impacts of immigration.

Byrne said it was important to understand the impact of the accession of the new Eastern European countries before opening up the UK labour market to foreign workers any more.

'The message is clear - while we welcome those who are here to work legally bringing their skills and expertise and benefiting our country, those who don't have permission to work here won't find a job,' Byrne said.

Despite the efforts of the Home Office, experts say that monitoring the migration of workers from Eastern Europe is very difficult, and that the numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, as well as the data's implications for the UK labour market.

'In practice, there is considerable uncertainty about the true pace of workforce growth and job growth at present, in particular because of the gaps in data coverage of the inflow and outflow of workers from Eastern Europe,' said Michael Saunders, analyst at Citigroup (nyse: C - news - people ).

Overall, the UK labour market continues to tighten despite the inflow of workers from Eastern Europe, supporting good economic growth, Saunders said.

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