South West Regional Skills Enterprise and Employment Analysis 2007/2008
6.6 Migrant workers
In line with national trends, the South West is now experiencing significant increases in the number of migrant workers(105). Between 2002/3 and 2003/4, the total number of migrant workers rose from 15,650 to 23,105. Overall between 2002 and 2005, the South West had a total of nearly 54,600 (4.7% of the total) National Insurance Number (NINos) registrations from non-UK nationals. In relation to the rest of the UK regions (London accounting for 41.2%) and the South East 11.4% of newly registered migrants, the proportion is very modest. The bulk of migrant workers are from Poland and the new accession states.
For many employers, migrant workers are seen as an important source of labour to meet skills needs and address recruitment difficulties. Evidence from the NESS 2005 in the South West suggests that migrant workers have contributed significantly to reductions in recruitment difficulties and skills shortages. A report by CIPD(106) showed that:
Within the region, as would be expected, it is the main urban areas and those areas located towards the far north of the region, and hence the M5 corridor and access to the Midlands, that have seen the largest numbers of NINo registrations by non-UK nationals. Between 2002 and 2005, the highest number of registrations was in Bristol at 10,700, more than double the number in Bournemouth, the area with the second highest number of NINo registrations. SWRDA have been carrying out extensive work on issues relating to Migrant Workers in the Food and Drink industry, which is very important in rural areas.
Migrant workers are concentrated in a range of industries. Of those who are in employment, the Workers Registration Scheme (WRS) estimates that nearly 70% of those registered on the WRS scheme with employers in the South West were working in administrative, business and management, hospitality and catering and agriculture. The region has the second highest percentage working within agriculture, 23% compared with 13.2% nationally. There are marginally higher numbers working within the South West in hospitality and catering, food/fish and meat processing and health and medical than the overall average for the UK, whilst there are marginally fewer within retail and construction.
Research conducted for the Department of Work and Pensions in 2002(107) showed that migrant workers are concentrated at both the low and high end of the skills distribution. Migrant workers were more likely to be highly qualified, with 19% of working age people holding degrees, compared to 15% among the UK-born. Indeed, in recent years, there has been a significant increase in highly skilled migrants coming to the UK.
However, a greater proportion among the migrant population also has no qualifications (19% compared to 16%), while fewer among the migrant population also have intermediate levels of qualifications such as GCSEs or A' levels. Notably, a much greater proportion among the migrant population has other (mainly unnamed) qualifications (32% compared to 12% among the UK-born).
A large number of migrants already have professional qualifications when they enter the UK. However, there is a significant demand amongst this group for access to appropriate English language courses. A recent report by the Institute for Employment Research(108) found that one of the major barriers to employment faced by some migrants was their lack of English language skills.
There has been a significant rise in demand for ESOL provision over the last few years in the South West, and indeed nationally, particularly from Eastern European migrants. People predominantly access Skills for Life/ESOL provision via the FE funding route of the LSC. This provision is delivered in FE Colleges and outreach centres managed by either colleges or the County Councils. However, people with Skills for Life and ESOL needs who cannot access provision through Colleges and/or the County Council are attracted to provision via learndirect, and Voluntary and Community organisations such as the Workers Education Association (WEA). Access to ESOL provision for migrant workers living and working in rural areas is a particular issue.
Clearly, demand for provision from this group will continue to rise as long as the number of migrants seeking work in this country continues to rise and as the European Union is expanded to include Bulgaria and Romania.
Migrant workers have made an enormous contribution to the economy of the South West region, helping employers with their recruitment and skills problems.
Access to ESOL provision remains an important issue.
At the same time, many migrants are facing discriminatory practices by employers and are experiencing difficulties in accessing services for themselves and their families. The ESP should take the initiative in the region to convene a multi-agency Task Group to develop holistic solutions to providing support for migrant workers in the region.
(105) Migrant Workers: The Challenge For The South West,
Learning Theme Report, SLIM, 2006
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