EU-born workers in the UK tops 2 million

British Prime Minister David Cameron's plans to limit benefits for EU citizens faces questions

British Prime Minister David Cameron's plans to limit benefits for EU citizens faces questions [Wikipedia]

The number of foreign-born workers in the UK has reached a high of 4.99 million, with a growing rate of migrants coming from EU countries.

New data from the UK Office of National Statistics shows a rise in Romanian and Bulgarian-born workers on the UK job market, totalling 188,764 in April-June 2015.

British Prime Minister David Cameron warned against the influx of workers from Bulgaria and Romania before labour restrictions for nationals from those countries were dropped at the start of 2014.

Since then, the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP) has campaigned to stop the growth of migration to the UK.

But the spike in the number of workers from EU countries isn’t pinned to migration from Romania and Bulgaria alone: there are 2.03 million people working in Britain who were born in the 27 other EU countries.

The largest group among them—972,877—comes from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Migration remains a hot-button issue as the UK prepares for its referendum on EU membership to be held before the end of 2017.

In an effort to stem mounting criticism about the perceived rise in migration from new EU member states, Cameron has said he will change laws to prevent people from EU countries from claiming any social benefits in the UK within four years of arriving.

But Cameron’s plans may backfire: The BBC reported yesterday (11 August) that UK government lawyers have indicated limiting benefits plans would break EU anti-discrimination laws.

To work around that legal restriction, the UK government is now developing a plan that could also prevent British citizens from claiming benefits between the ages of 18 and 22, according to the BBC.

There has been little change in the number of people born outside the EU who work in the UK, which reached 2.96 million in April-June this year.

Overall, the total number of foreigners working in the UK increased by 15%, roughly a total of 257,000 over the past year.

In 199, there were just 966,000 foreigners working in the UK – or one in 27 workers. However, this has increased over the last 18 years to reach just over one in 10 of the workforce.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Carlos Vargas-Silva, of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said the reason migrants were moving to Britain was because they can easily find jobs. He said: ‘As long as the EU economy remains weak and the UK economy is strong, you are going to see more people come in.’

The figures will add fuel to UKIP’s fire, the Guardian reckoned. They show the weakening labour market has hit UK-born workers hardest. The number of them employed fell by 170,000. By contrast, the employment of people born abroad but within the EU rose by 85,000, and other foreign workers by 30,000, reads the British paper.

According to experts, British unemployed should blame decades of under-investment that has led to them being hemmed in by a lack of aspiration on one side and a lack of education and training opportunities on the other.

After all, some of the new jobs are going to Polish construction workers and Greek waiters becasue no Brit would even dream to accept the conditions and salary proposed.

On the other hand, immigration will have many positive effects in keeping struggling businesses from going bankrupt or helping thriving ones win new contracts, as much as it has depressed wages in some parts of the economy, reads the Guardian.

Under growing pressure from the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) ahead of a May 2015 national election and from some of his own lawmakers, Cameron has said he would try to curb EU immigration if re-elected.

Critics of Cameron argue his approach to the EU could undermine its principle of freedom of movement.

Cameron's Conservatives want to stop what they regard as welfare abuse by poor immigrants from eastern Europe with no jobs and no health coverage, and ease pressure on local services, such as health and housing. Critics accuse him of exaggerating the problem to curry favour with voters who might turn to UKIP.

Cameron's bid to cap immigration in a more systematic way has provoked warnings from the European Commission, which regards freedom of movement as sacrosanct.

In a study published last year, the Commission found little evidence of "benefits tourism" happening in Europe. In most countries, EU migrants represent less than 5% of welfare beneficiaries and these migrants make an overall net contribution to the finances of their host countries because they pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits, the study found.

Cameron has promised to try to reshape Britain's EU ties before holding a referendum on the country's EU membership by 2017 if he wins next year's election.

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