Sharp drop in Polish workers coming to UK

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The number of Polish nationals coming to work in Britain has fallen sharply as the economy contracts, official figures showed today.

Fewer than 12,500 Polish nationals registered for work in Britain between January and March, the lowest quarterly total for more than three years, according to Home Office data.

Last year the number of Poles applying to join Britain's compulsory Workers Registration Scheme fell by almost a third to just over 100,000.

Nationals from Poland make up the bulk of an influx of workers from eight east European countries who have flocked to Britain since they won the right to work across borders after joining the European Union in 2004.

The pay on offer in Britain is many times the amount they can expect at home and the number of Polish nationals in the UK now outnumbers ex-pats from Ireland.

But with the economy in reverse, Britain has become less attractive for many from eastern Europe.

This was reflected in a 20 percent fall last year in the number of National Insurance numbers issued to citizens of the so-called A8 accession countries - Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Poland.

The numbers of nationals from these countries leaving Britain has also risen, more than doubling to 52,000 in the year to last September.

However, overall, more are still arriving from the region than are departing, with around 100,000 coming to Britain over the same period, only slightly down on the year before.

The dramatic increase in overseas workers has caused tensions in a number of communities, with local authorities pleading for more central government cash to fund extra demands on health, housing and education services.

As unemployment rises above two million in a stalling economy, the use of foreign workers from continental Europe has also sparked wildcat disputes at a number of construction sites, particularly in the energy sector.

In the latest outbreak of industrial action, workers at the South Hook gas terminal in Milford Haven in west Wales walked out on Wednesday over the use of Polish labour by a sub-contractor.

Research from Citibank shows that British-born workers are suffering more from unemployment than foreign workers, who actually saw a rise in jobs in the first quarter of 2009.