Immigrants have always come to the UK to find work. Many foreign nationals will need a visa before they can work in the UK and, depending on the type of work to be undertaken, they may also need a job offer or sponsor before they can get a work visa. In recent years more foreign nationals have become entitled to work in the UK without a visa because they come from a country which is a member of the European Union or the European Economic Area.
A growing number of UK employers now look overseas to fill perceived gaps in the labour market. Some UK industries suffer from a lack of UK citizens qualified to work in those jobs and must, therefore, look to foreign and migrant workers in order to survive.
Workers from the European Economic Area generally have the same rights to work in the UK as UK citizens. However, there can be difficulties if an employer chooses to recruit from the rest of the world. Some foreign workers will accept lower wages than European or UK workers. Whilst it is accepted that foreign workers may be needed in some industries there can be a concern that foreign workers are sometimes recruited purely because they are cheaper than UK workers.
In addition to the need to fill gaps in the labour market many employers feel that foreign or migrant workers can make a positive contribution to the industry in which they work and also to the wider community.
Jobs Listed by the Migration Advisory Committee as Requiring Overseas Recruitment
A recent report by the Migration Advisory Committee of the Home Office set out categories of jobs which it considers should be filled from outside Europe. The report has caused some controversy and many of its conclusions have been criticised as being short-sighted or unrealistic.
The Committee drew up a list of specific jobs which it believes merit recruitment from outside Europe. Examples of jobs listed include:
- Tier 1 Workers – construction managers; civil engineers and chemical engineers.
- Tier 2 Workers – some categories of doctors and dentists; veterinary surgeons; maths and science school teachers; some categories of nurse; skilled senior care workers; skilled chefs; and, skilled sheep-shearers.
Construction in the UK
The construction industry has a history of recruiting from outside of the UK and, although the Migration Advisory Committee did not list this as a major shortage area, it is likely that this area of recruitment will continue. Despite the threat of recession leading to some cutbacks in construction other major projects will continue regardless of the wider economic climate. The 2012 London Olympics, for example, requires a major programme of construction to be completed on time. It is anticipated that migrant workers will be needed to ensure that works are completed on schedule.
Unskilled Jobs, Seasonal and Casual Work in the UK
Another area where migrant works have traditionally formed a significant proportion of the work force is unskilled labour and seasonal or casual work. The wages paid for this kind of work are often lower than a UK worker would consider acceptable. Every year many migrant workers come to the UK to pick fruit, to work in unskilled factory jobs or to harvest seafood. As well as low wages the working conditions for these jobs are often hard and uncomfortable – many UK citizens simply do not want to do them.
Junior nurses and junior care home workers receive low wages relative to the stresses and difficulties of their jobs. Migrant workers may find the lower wages more acceptable as they may be higher than would be paid in their home country. In addition hospitals in both the National Health Service and the private sector have struggled to fill staff posts from UK and European candidates alone.
Hotels, bars, restaurants, transport and taxi companies all recruit widely from migrant workers. Not only may there be a shortage of UK or European candidates for these jobs, and for those in the categories listed above, but foreign workers are often believed to have a better attitude to work than their UK counterparts.