Record number of EU workers in Britain despite Brexit vote
Overall there were 2.37 million migrants from EU countries employed betweeen July and September this year, up 112,000 on the same period last year
The number of EU citizens working in Britain rose to a record high in the year after the Brexit referendum, official figures revealed yesterday.
Despite fears of a so-called Brexodus, 2.37 million migrants from EU states were employed between July and September, an increase of 112,000 on the same period last year.
After an initial drop in the three months after the vote in June 2016, the number of EU citizens employed has risen in every quarter this year.
This month the National Farmers’ Union said that fruit and vegetables were being left to rot because of a shortage of seasonal workers, suggesting that more were needed for unskilled roles.
Yesterday’s figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest, however, that with full employment in Britain there remains strong demand for migrant workers.
Numbers from the 14 western EU countries, including France, Italy and Germany, rose by 45,000 to 987,000 in the year after the referendum. The number of Romanians and Bulgarians jumped by almost 90,000 to 347,000.
Those from eight other eastern European states known as the EU8 fell by 19,000 to just over 1 million. Despite the fall there are now more citizens of Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia working in Britain than shortly before the referendum.
Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of Migration Watch UK, which campaigns for lower immigration, said: “The figures show that predictions of a Brexodus — an outflow of EU workers — are nonsense. In fact there has been an increase in the last year. Part of this is a net inflow of Romanians and Bulgarians who mainly go into low-paid work.”
Overall the number of people in employment has fallen for the first time in a year, the ONS figures showed, raising questions about the resilience of the labour market but providing a welcome boost to productivity.
Employment dropped by 14,000 in the three months to September to just over 32 million. It was the first decline since October last year and the largest fall in more than two years, the ONS said. The employment rate of working-age adults fell to 75 per cent from 75.1 per cent in the three months to August and a record high of 75.3 per cent in July.
Unemployment held steady at 4.3 per cent, a 42-year low, with 1.42 million people out of work — 59,000 fewer than in April to June this year. There was an increase, however, in the number of people not seeking work, which explains the decline in both employment and unemployment.
The dip in employment helped to improve the nation’s weak productivity, measured as output per hour worked. Productivity grew by 0.9 per cent between the second and third quarters, the best performance in six years, as the economy expanded faster than jobs.
Weak productivity has bedevilled Britain since the financial crisis. It has barely improved in nine years and is almost 20 per cent lower than it would have been had past trends continued.
The lack of productivity growth has been highlighted as a significant cause of poor pay, the fall in living standards over the past decade and the government’s persistent budget deficit, but it has also been accompanied by a remarkable resurgence in employment compared with countries that have a better productivity record.
Yesterday’s figures suggested that some of those trends could be reversing. Higher productivity was not caused by an increase in the rate of growth but a 0.5 per cent fall in hours worked, the ONS said.
There was little sign of an improvement in earnings. Real wages, excluding bonuses, shrank by 0.4 per cent in the year to September as the rate of inflation outpaced earnings growth for a sixth month running. Average weekly earnings growth fell to 2.2 per cent from 2.3 per cent in August, compared with pre-crisis rates of more than 4 per cent.