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80% of Migrant Workers’ Skills ‘Wasted’ by North West Job Sector

A study of migrant workers in the North West, carried out at the University of Liverpool, has revealed the majority are employed in jobs that undervalue their skills.

Researchers from the University’s Merseyside Social Inclusion Observatory (MSIO) conducted interviews with migrant workers from Eastern Europe and found that despite holding degrees and other professional qualifications, they were employed in relatively low-skilled occupations such as machines operatives and junior administrators.

The report also revealed that despite the availability of skilled migrant workers in the region, there has been an increase in vacancies in a number of skilled occupations in the North West over the past year. Furthermore, there remains a deficit of around 80,000 indigenous people qualified to degree level in the region required for such skilled jobs as managers, senior officials, and associate professional and technical occupations.

Migrants however, face several problems entering skilled jobs due to language barriers, issues with crediting their qualification in the UK and - perhaps most importantly - recruitment agencies automatically placing them in lower skilled occupations when they arrive in the country.

Dr Simon Pemberton, Director of the MSIO, commented: “There is a clear need for regional labour market policies to be linked to an immigration system which explicitly sets out skills requirements relevant to job market shortages. For example, in the North West there is currently a productivity gap of around £13 billion - £10 billion of which relates to lower productivity per worker. There is clearly a need for more skilled professionals to both support and retain higher skilled jobs in the region, especially within ‘knowledge-based’ industries.

“Although the migrants we interviewed are reasonably content with their working life in the North West, a significant majority were over-qualified for their current occupations and keen to be employed in a role more suited to their abilities.

Dr Pemberton added: “We hope that measures are put in place to ensure migrants entering the UK are provided with the support and services to enable them to enter jobs which will not only fulfil their potential but will strengthen our workforce and boost the economy.”

The report will be used to inform the activities of a new Migrant Workers North West (MWNW), being set up in Manchester to advise and promote ‘best practice’ in the employment of migrant workers in the region. The MWNW will provide a reference point for employers on training and skills issues and information on services available to migrant job-seekers and employees.

The MWNW will also be suitably placed to help address any issues arising from the anticipated arrival of immigrants to the UK from Bulgaria and Romania, who will be joining the EU in 2007. Following the accession of Poland to the EU in 2004, a total of 36,555 jobseekers from central and eastern Europe signed up to the Worker Registration Scheme in the North West - a threefold increase per quarter.

Joanna Robotham | alfa
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