Migrant workers help region to beat recessionMar 30, 2009
Commissioned by the East of England Development Agency with part funding from the European Social Fund, the migrant worker reports provide evidence to help improve the economy of the region.
The first report, by independent think-tank the Institute of Public Policy Research, says many employers in the East of England rely on migrant workers. ‘Migrant worker availability in the East of England – an economic risk assessment’ demonstrates that migrants play an important role in filling labour and skills gaps that exist in some parts of the regional economy.
The report acknowledges that demand for migrant labour will decline during the recession, and suggests that migrant numbers will fall in response, but argues that the regional economy will continue to need international workers.
ippr’s research is supported by findings from the first year of a three-year study conducted by Anglia Ruskin University on behalf of EEDA. This reveals that while fewer migrants are arriving in the region, there are currently no signs of a migrant exodus.
EEDA chief executive Deborah Cadman said: "Our first priority is putting significant investment into raising the skills of the local workforce, particularly helping those who are unemployed to gain new skills and get back into employment. In these difficult economic times, however, it’s vital that businesses can get the workers they need.
“Where the right workers aren’t available locally, employers must be able to draw on a wider pool of international workers. With these reports EEDA is providing the evidence to help private and public sector partners make decisions so we can get the region through the tough economic times and prepare for the eventual upturn."
Dr Jill Rutter, senior research fellow at ippr, added: “Migrants provide vital, flexible labour where British people can’t do the job for practical reasons or simply don’t want to do it. So if the availability of migrant labour decreases, the economy could be at significant risk."
In the last six months, EEDA has provided training opportunities for more than 2,000 workers in the East of England, including support for people being made redundant to help them move back into work. However, some skills gaps will take a number of years to close, while the demand for some highly-skilled workers is likely to remain greater than the supply available within the UK.
Dr Claudia Schneider, co-author of the Anglia Ruskin University report, said: “If we are to encourage them to stay and contribute to the East of England economy, we must continue to tackle discrimination and hostility towards foreign workers, provide faster recognition of migrants’ skills and better provision of English language training to enable migrants to use their skills fully."