Migrant Workers | A8 Countries | Great Britain: Overall, have contributed to the growth of the UK economy

“In May 2004 the UK, Sweden and Ireland were the only EU countries to fully open their labour markets to migrant workers from A8 countries.[1]” write Nick Clark and Jane Hardy in Free Movement in the EU – The Case of Great Britain, a report publisher on Bibliothek der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

“The same access to labour markets was not offered by the UK to workers from Romania and Bulgaria in January 2006.” they add.

“Establishing the precise number of A8 citizens entering the UK has been difficult” (≈ 1,8 % of Britain’s worforce in 2008) . But, “The majority of A8 migrants come from Poland. They are generally young, with a high proportion of women. Many migrants work in jobs that are significantly below their qualifications. The main industries are hospitality and catering and manufacturing and food processing and many are employed by temporary labour agencies.”

“The popular press was generally hostile to A8 migrant workers. This was part of an overall hostility to immigration, and specifically entailed a focus on the prospect of ‘benefit tourism’.

“However, fears about social dumping and pushing down wages or taking advantage of social security benefits have no foundation. Various studies have struggled to find any impact on the wage levels or employment prospects of native workers.”

“The minimum wage has played a role in providing a floor beneath which hourly wages should not fall. However, the widespread employment of migrant workers by temporary labour agencies means precarious or insecure work for many. Migrant workers are often employed in poor working conditions where they find it difficult to access or enforce legal employment entitlements. “

“Contrary to the claims of ‘benefit tourism’, A8 workers are far less likely to receive benefits or live in social housing than native workers. They contribute significantly more to the tax and benefit system than they receive. Therefore they have made a substantial contribution to the UK fiscal system.

But, “the concentration of A8 workers in some localities has put an additional burden on affordable housing and increased demand in some schools for language support.”„„

“From a sender country perspective, the scale of outward migration from A8 countries and Poland in particular has raised concerns about the loss of human capital and labour shortages, which has led to ‘return to Poland’ campaigns nationally and by some regional governments.”

“Overall migration has contributed to the growth of the UK economy through increasing the working population. There have been claims that this been particularly important in parts of the UK with aging populations, such as Scotland, in alleviating labour and skills shortages. However, as we have discussed, there has been ambiguity regarding the exact nature of labour and skills shortages.”


[1] Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia

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