'Nine in 10 UK jobs go to foreigners'

The Telegraph | March 2, 2008
By James Kirkup and Robert Winnett

Almost nine in 10 new jobs created over the past decade have been taken by foreign-born workers despite a sharp increase in the number of skilled British workers, official figures show.

The number of British people in work has slumped to the lowest level since Labour was elected in 1997, undermining claims made by Gordon Brown that employment was at a record high.

Since 1997, some 1.4 million fewer Britons work in manufacturing, yet 113,000 more foreign-born workers are in the sector. Of the 1.7 million more people in employment since 1997, 1.5 million were born outside the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The figures have been uncovered by a former Labour minister who is urging the Government to urgently restrict immigration from eastern Europe to help young Britons gain employment.

Frank Field, the former welfare minister, said that since 1997 the number of skilled Britons in the workplace - those with a National Vocational Qualification at level two as a minimum - had increased by 2.8 million.

However, there had been only a 310,000 net increase in the number of Britons in work in that time - and the number had actually dropped since 2003 after mass immigration from eastern Europe.

Mr Field said yesterday: "What the Government needs to do is face up to the fact that we need to restrict the movement of labour from eastern Europe.

"We had the ability to do that, but now we would need to ask the European Commission for permission. And the Government seems unwilling to do that."

Controversy over the employment of foreign-born workers has increased since Mr Brown pledged to create "British jobs for British workers" last summer. After initially publishing incorrect data last autumn, the Government was forced to admit that 54 per cent of new jobs had gone to foreign workers.

However, the latest figures suggest the actual figure could be as high as 85 per cent. The new data shows that the number of British people in work has fallen to the lowest level in a decade, while the number of foreign-born workers employed in the UK has almost doubled.

Figures from the ONS Labour Force Survey for the last quarter of 2007 show there were 27.5 million people in jobs in Britain. This figure includes 3.4 million foreign-born workers, including 2.3 million from outside the EU. The 1.1 million from inside the EU has risen from 544,000 in 1997.