British firms are relying on migrant workers, says survey
Posted on October 13, 2014
Employers are relying on migrant workers to fill job vacancies because they are more experienced than British candidates, according to a new survey.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said a poll of more than 1,000 British businesses showed many were making a “rational decision” to hire foreign labour.
The CIPD said its research had found that negative assumptions about the growth of the migrant workforce were untrue.
For example, only one in eight employers admitted they hired foreign workers “because they have lower expectations about pay and employment conditions”, it said.
A 46-page study produced by the CIPD found that firms who employ workers from the European Union were more likely to have grown their business in the past two years.
Peter Cheese, CIPD chief executive, said: “Employers have been turning to EU migrants to fill vacancies, particularly for lower skilled jobs, often because they are a bit older and have more work experience than young people in the UK, emphasising the competitive nature of the market for entry level jobs.
“Employers are making rational decisions to employ more experienced and qualified workers from overseas over less experienced UK workers, or are hiring migrants because there are simply not enough applicants in the local labour market.”
He admitted it was a “highly charged political issue” but added: “Our research shows that many of the negative assumptions about immigration are untrue.”
Only a “small proportion” of employers polled by the CIPD, or 12 per cent, said they recruited migrant workers because they were cheaper or had lower expectations about working conditions, the report said.
The most common reason given, by 26 per cent of firms, was “difficulty attracting UK-born candidates to fill unskilled or semi-skilled jobs”.
A fifth of companies said foreign workers had better work ethic or motivation than home-grown candidates.
However, nearly a quarter of employers admitted job opportunities for young people had been damaged to some extent by the presence of a large EU migrant workforce in this country.
The study said: “A small minority (6 per cent) report that the availability of EU migrants has reduced opportunities for young people to a large extent, a further 9 per cent to some extent and 8 per cent to a small extent.
“By industry, employers in the manufacturing and production sector are most likely to report that opportunities for young people have been reduced by the availability of EU migrants, with 11 per cent reporting this has reduced opportunities to a large extent and 15 per cent to some extent.”
The CIPD report suggested that politicians should look at improving young native workers’ skills so they could “compete on a more level playing field not just with migrants but with all older workers”.
Employers should create more skilled jobs and better progression, as well as more long-term investment in their workforce, it said.
There should also be closer links between employers and schools, as well as better careers advice.
Mr Cheese said: “Policy makers and job-seekers also have to recognise that a competitive global labour market is a fact of modern life, and that British workers are competing in this market for roles at all levels.
“This highlights a particular need for even greater efforts to close the gap between education and work by government, business and employee representatives, to provide better guidance and support to young people, and help create a more level playing field by improving their employability skills and therefore employment prospects, especially the low-skilled and unskilled.”
Earlier this year an official Government report concluded low-skilled British workers have been forced out of jobs by migrant labour during the recession.
Its main conclusions boosted the Government’s ongoing argument with the European Commission over the need for radical reform of EU “free movement” rules.
30 Sep 2014