Eastern Europeans take jobs Britons don't want

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The Independent Online

From bus drivers to beauticians and from clowns to civil engineers, the influx of east and central Europeans has had a dramatic impact on the British jobs market.

Everyone has heard of Polish plumbers and Slovak nannies, but new figures disclose that newcomers from former Iron Curtain countries are working in every conceivable capacity across the United Kingdom.

The number of immigrants from the EU's new member states registering to work in this country has reached half a million for the first time since the EU expanded in May 2004.

By far the biggest group are Poles, who make up 307,660 of the new arrivals, followed by 54,640 Lithuanians and 50,230 Slovakians.

Office and business jobs were the most popular, with east Europeans filling 169,130 such posts, and just over 100,000 are working in restaurants, bars and catering. Agricultural work - the vast majority in seasonal employment - and factory jobs also had high numbers registering. But a detailed breakdown by the Home Office of the figures demonstrates the extraordinary variety of jobs filled by the newcomers, many of whom stay for a year or two before returning home.

They include 2,450 bus drivers, 2,020 bakers, 1,495 gardeners, 920 child-minders, 370 road sweepers, 355 civil engineers, 305 accountants, 165 hospital consultants, 140 software analysts and 120 fishermen. There were even 50 musicians, 40 opticians, 15 circus performers, 10 authors, 10 physiologists and five ship's captains.

More than four-fifths of the newcomers were aged between 18 and 34 and nearly 60 per cent were male.

Contrary to expectations, only a minority are heading for London and the South- east. With 73,035 workers, eastern England is the favourite destination, reflecting its large amount of agricultural land and heavy concentration of food processing factories.

But they are moving to every part of the UK in the search for the work, including 37,570 in Scotland, 12,670 in Wales and 18,530 in Northern Ireland.

Liam Byrne, the Immigration minister, said the new workers were "benefiting the UK, by filling skills and labour gaps that cannot be met from the UK-born population".

Ministers were initially advised that only up to 13,000 east European workers would head to the UK after the EU's expansion and were taken by surprise by the scale of the influx.

But they will be relieved by data showing only 3 per cent of the newcomers are out of work, with only a few hundred given help for homelessness or being considered for jobseeker's allowance payments.

Meanwhile, John Reid, the Home Secretary, faced embarrassment after the Home Office admitted that the number of failed asylum-seekers deported from Britain had fallen by more than a quarter.

There were 3,635, including dependants, deported from July to September this year, compared with 5,070 in the previous three months. It was the lowest quarterly figure since 2004. The Government also failed to meet Tony Blair's target of removing more failed asylum-seekers than the number of new unfounded applications. The 3,635 deportations compared with an estimated 4,500 unfounded applications.

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "These figures expose more serious failures behind the Government's rhetoric. John Reid's tough talk since he became Home Secretary has not been matched by effective action." The Immigration minister Liam Byrne said: "We have seen in the year so far more failed asylum-seekers being removed than predicted unfounded asylum claims, but there is still more to do."

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