The number of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals working in Britain rose by eight per cent in the second quarter of this year, much less than some predicted after border controls were lifted in January.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of workers arriving from the two EU countries actually fell by 3,000 in the first quarter of the year, to 122,000.
Despite this figure increasing to 132,000 between April and June – a four per cent increase on the same period last year – the official number of Romanian and Bulgarians in the labour market is far off some forecasts set at the beginning of the year.
“These figures expose the scale of scaremongering by Nigel Farage and Ukip over Romanian and Bulgarian migration,” said Atul Hatwal, director of the Migration Matters Trust.
“Farage predicted there would be 5,000 a week arriving for several years. Today’s government statistics show that in the first six months of the year, the total rise in the numbers of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals was just 7,000.”
Hatwal said that according to Ukip’s predictions, the number of Romanians and Bulgarians joining the UK by the end of June should have been 130,000, “an overestimate of almost 20 times”.
The government aims to reduce net migration from 182,000 in 2012 to tens of thousands by 2015, however Hatwal said discrepancies in the way official data is measured might skew migration forecasts for the rest of the year.
“It’s worth bearing in mind that these [ONS] figures will include people coming to Britain for short periods of work, lasting a few weeks or months. Only those who come for 12 months or more count towards the government’s official net migration target,” he said.
According to the statistics, UK nationals took 601,000 of the 820,000 extra jobs created in the economy in the past year, while 219,000 went to foreign nationals.
Experts have warned that government efforts to restrict net migration have greatly reduced the international talent pool available to British businesses, and despite unemployment being at a six-year low, employers are advised to make the most of the skills coming from outside of the UK.
“Our policy makers need to put politics to one side and take a sensible approach to immigration which focuses on helping British businesses get the skilled people they need,” said Kevin Green, chief executive of REC, in response to the latest employment figures.
Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said while an increase in the number of workers coming from Romania and Bulgaria was “significant”, the latest ONS figures correlated with their predictions.
“Once dependants are factored in it is likely that the increase in population over the whole year 2014 will be between 30,000 and 70,000 as we predicted. Our central estimate of 50,000 remains a very likely outcome,” he said.