As Prime Minister David Cameron works to secure renegotiation of the terms of Britain’s EU membership, new labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics have thrown light on recent shifts in the UK workforce.
The most relevant statistic from the perspective of Mr Cameron’s talks in Brussels will be news that the number of workers in Britain born in other EU member states increased by 201,000 during 2015 (comparing October-December 2015 with October-December 2014). Of these around 94,000 were born in the EU14, 69,000 in the A8 and 41,000 in Romania and Bulgaria.
The total number of EU-born workers hit two million for the first time between April and June 2015, of which over one million were from Eastern Europe. The total rise during 2015 comes on top of a rise of 181,000 during 2014 and 119,000 during 2013. The latest 201,000 rise is the largest increase recorded in a calendar year.
While there was a slight drop in employment of EU workers in the final quarter of the year, there is a strong seasonal pattern to both UK and non-UK born employment. UK employment gets a big boost in Q3 as people leave education. EU-born employment growth is consistently higher in Q2. While in each year from 2007 to 2014 there was minimal growth or an actual drop in EU workers between Q2 and Q3 (average change -18k), in 2015, the number of EU workers grew by 74,000 between Q2 and Q3. So the fact that numbers shrank in the October-December 2015 period might merely point to a shift towards arrivals at an earlier point in the year rather than any reversal of the upward trend of flow.
Overall during the year, out of a total increase in the workforce of 532,000, UK-born employment increased by 258,000 (48%) while the number of non UK-born workers rose by 281,000 (53%), including an 80,000 increase in people born outside the EU (much the same as during 2014).
These figures confirm that the majority of the growth in the UK labour market during 2015 has been driven by more employment of people born outside the UK.