Migrant workers 'crucial to economy'

A report that aims to explode the myths about migrant workers today reveals that they benefit the economy, leading to higher employment and wages, and that some industries would collapse if migrant workers were removed overnight.

A report that aims to explode the myths about migrant workers reveals that they benefit the economy, leading to higher employment and wages, and that some industries would collapse if migrant workers were removed overnight.

But the Trades Union Congress (TUC) says that there are some cases where migrant workers are being exploited.

The report published today, called the Economics of Migration, says there is no truth in the idea that migrant workers are a drain on the welfare state. Instead they pay more in taxes than they receive in public services and on average pay more in taxes than native British workers.

Migrant workers are more likely to work in professional jobs than British workers, but also more likely to work in unskilled jobs, and less likely to work in middle-range jobs.

This pattern may be changing, with more recent arrivals more likely to work in unskilled jobs, even though they are still more highly educated than the average British worker.

Nationally, health and medicine are the biggest employers for those granted work permits, followed by computing and business and administration. For the 65,000 migrant workers in this region, food processing is the largest employer, followed by agriculture.

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The TUC says they usually earn more money in this country than they would have done at home, but "can face significant risks of exploitation and social exclusion".

And it says that problems can occur if those running public services fail to plan for the arrival of migrant workers and their families. The TUC is urging the government to make more accurate predictions of how many migrant workers are likely to arrive. It also wants more enforcement of the minimum wage along with better rights for agency workers and a crackdown on unscrupulous employers.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Migrant workers are making a substantial contribution to Britain's economy, and some sectors would collapse if they were removed overnight. But we do not do enough to protect vulnerable workers."

Richard Howitt, Labour MEP for Norfolk and Suffolk, said: "This underlines my very strong conviction that migrants are adding much more than they take. I hope this will help explode some of the myths."

Adriano Guedes, migrant workers officer for the GMB union in Norfolk, said: "A lot of migrant workers have good qualifications and are doing non-qualified work, anything just to live here. It is added value for employers. They do jobs that British people don't want to do."

For more migrant worker analysis, see The Business in tomorrow's EDP.