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Once again news is emerging surrounding immigration statistics in the run up to the fast approaching decision on whether the country will opt to stay or leave the EU. Data has just been announced that reveals that the number of EU nationals currently working in the UK, has risen to a new record height of 2.1m.
Since 2013, the number of EU workers in Britain has dramatically increased. They now make up a sizeable 6.8% of the whole of the UK’s workforce, which is 4.8% higher than it was 3 years ago and a further 2.6% up from a decade ago.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) pointed out that this data was intended to measure employment figures and shouldn’t be used as an indication of immigration. However, as the Brexit campaign hot’s up, campaigners have already begun to use this data to support their case and highlight their belief of the uncontrolled nature of immigration from Europe.
The actual number recorded of EU workers was interestingly 224,000 higher than that of a year ago. Furthermore, record levels were almost achieved in light of the official migration figures, as they revealed that 257,000 longer term migrants from the EU arrived in the country in the year leading to September 2015.
A positive result to take note of however is that despite a slowdown in the pace of British job recovery this year due to a reducing economy and the pending referendum, the UK remains in strong shape. Employment rates hit a new record high of 74.2%, with unemployment held steady at 5.1%, the lowest it has been prior to the recession. Wage growth on the other hand has been rather uneventful, which is another perceived problem that Brexit campaigners attribute to migrant levels.
A United Kingdom Independence Party employment spokesman, Jane Collins, who is a Vote Leave supporter, described the 2.1m EU national worker’s findings as ‘a huge boom to multinational companies who can exploit the oversupply of labour to keep their wages low’.
In response to this, Jon van Reenan, the director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, rejected that claim by stating that workers would not come out favourably if the Brexit went ahead. ‘There is no evidence that EU immigration does much harm to the jobs or pay of British people. By contrast, Brexit will inflict major damage on the real wages of ordinary workers by damaging trade, investment and productivity’.
LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance research into the matter revealed that the areas that are experiencing the biggest influx of EU immigrants haven’t actually seen the most dramatic of falls in employment or even wages for that matter since 2008. There are studies that support that there has been an impact on local’s wages in the unskilled service sector jobs such shop assistants and care workers, however the findings have been found to have a minor effect. Economists have furthermore warned that it’s misleading to state that individuals born outside of the UK claimed over half of the new jobs within the past year, since this uses a net employment growth figure. In addition, non-EU workers only account for a small share of the total of all new hires.