The Equality & Human Rights Commission has published the first comprehensive report looking at the skills and employment patterns of Britain’s eastern European migrants.

The UK’s New Europeans Report found that these migrants were primarily working in low skilled, low paid employment. Despite having higher education attainment levels than local employees, eastern Europeans earned on average 12.5 per cent less than British-born workers.

More than half of the 1.5 million people from “new” European countries have returned home. Only 700,000 people remain, with in-flows of Eastern European migrants to Britain dropping by more than 60 per cent in the past three years.

The report found that as a group, eastern Europeans enjoyed a significantly lower rate of unemployment compared to British-born workers and their use of the welfare system was less than half that of British-born residents.

Eastern Europeans are finding it challenging to progress their careers. This is in part due to many not having the language skills required by employers. They are more likely than other new migrants to report difficulties in finding a job due to their language skills. However, those that have stayed are mostly higher educated and have the ambition to progress.

Andrea Murray, Acting Group Director Strategy for the Commission said:

“Eastern European workers have provided a boost to Britain’s economy, although more than half of them have now returned home. Despite being over educated for many roles, they have been willing to take on jobs that many other workers do not wish to do.

“While low skilled, low paid jobs are important to the British economy, the education level of many of these migrants highlights that Britain may not be making the most of the talents they offer.

“This report highlights the need to provide help for the most vulnerable, with evidence revealing that many eastern European workers may be in precarious employment circumstances and suffering exploitation in some industries.

“If we are to properly promote equality we need to focus on a number of key issues for both UK born and migrant workers. This should include measures such as gaining better recognition for the qualifications migrants have acquired in their home countries. We should be reassessing how well we assist new migrants to learn English, enforce laws designed to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable workers and provide adequate supports to regions with substantial numbers of new migrants, particularly those where this is a new experience.”

Download report: The UK’s New Europeans (Pdf)

Key Facts

  • Eastern European unemployment stood at approximately five per cent in 2009, compared to 7.8 per cent for UK-born residents.
  • Of the 1.5 million new Europeans who migrated to Britain in the past five years, one million were from Poland.
  • Eastern Europeans use welfare and public services 60 per cent less than UK-born residents: new Europeans put in more than they take out.
  • More than half of eastern European migrants with jobs worked in unskilled occupations in 2008, compared to 20 per cent of other immigrants and 18 per cent of British-born workers.
  • The report looked at the skills and employment patterns of eastern Europeans since countries including Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia joined the European Union.



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