Migrant workers mask UK skills shortage

Feb 29, 2008

Figures released by the Home Office show that 800,000 Eastern Europeans have applied to work in Britain since 2004. Companies in Bedfordshire and Luton have been quick to take advantage of the higher skills level and stronger work ethic that many migrants bring with them.

Yet many are concerned that employment of migrant workers is a reflection of the UK’s severe skills shortage and increased dependency on welfare.

Chamber chief executive Richard Lacy (pictured) said: “The comparative success of the UK economy in recent years has been largely due to the influx of willing workers from Eastern Europe.

“”Many of our members employ people from countries such as Poland and tell us they could not manage without them as many bring with them skills that businesses are unable to find among UK citizens. Added to this, employers tell us they take on migrant workers because their work ethic is so much better than domestic workers.”

Mr Lacy believes that the vast majority of these jobs could have been filled by UK residents and called on the government to tackle the UK’s severe skills shortage and increasing welfare dependency culture.

“The truth is that businesses will continue to employ migrant workers in large numbers until the skills shortage is addressed,” Mr Lacy said.

“At a recent business leaders event, business people from across Bedfordshire and Luton told us that youngsters are leaving schools and even higher education without the skills business needs.

“If our economy is to remain competitive we need to take a long, hard look at the way we educate our young people and ensure that training programmes and courses are both relevant and sufficiently rigorous.””

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