On migration and economic migrants in the West Midlands

A migrant worker is someone who immigrates to another country to seek employment and improve his/her financial position. More and more people are becoming migrant workers, shifting from one country to another, either to seek work or progress to a better job.

Economic globalisation has triggered a rapid increase in cross-border movement of both goods and people, especially over the last two decades or so and human capital has become more flexible than ever. Foreign workers are increasingly common in certain countries (for example, in some Western European countries or the US).

Migrant workers are often concentrated within particular local economies, where they are helping to address labour and skills shortages in key sectors.

According to a survey released by Gallup (November 2009) around 16% (700 million adults) of the world’s population would like to permanently move to another country. If this happened the number of global migrants would more than quadruple.

There are about 686,000 official migrant workers in England at the moment (this is about 1.3% of the total population).

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Understanding labour migration

Anne GreenAt the launch of the State of the Region dialogue on population change Anne Green, from the Institute for Employment Research, spoke about recent developments in labour migration, such as the impact that the recession may have on migration and about the difficulties of measuring short-term international mobility.

Understanding migration is important when trying to understand population change.

Anne began by talking about the changes in migration from Eastern Europe and the implications for local areas. Recent data show that there has been a decrease in worker registrations from Eastern Europeans, particularly in large urban areas.

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Migrant workers mini scenarios in Wychavon

Hop field in WorcestershireWychavon District Council have produced a set of mini scenarios looking at the possible impact on the economy and local communities of changes in the numbers of migrant workers coming to Wychavon.

The new report suggests that:

…the public and private sector will have to work to attract migrants to the area in the face of stiff competition from other parts of the UK, in particular Kent and the South East. In order in particular for our farming and food production to prosper, conditions have to be attractive to potential employees.

The full report, executive summary and data appendix are available:

These new scenarios build on Wychavon’s 2004 study on the extent, size and characteristics of the migrant workforce in the Vale of Evesham (pdf, 364kb).

There is also an interview with Councillor Audrey Steel where she discusses the report’s findings, the changes in Wychavon since 2004 and how new evidence presented in the mini scenarios is helping decision making.

Economic migrants

The subject of economic migrants and what benefits or problems they bring has not been quite as topical in recent months as it has been in the past.

The downturn in the economy and the weakening of the pound are assumed to discourage migration and to encourage economic migrants in the UK to think of returning home.

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Threat to rural industries highlighted by Lantra

Tom Scotney of the Birmingham Post has highlighted a report by Lantra, the environmental and land-based sector skills council, that warns how rural businesses are being threatened by a lack of migrant workers and fewer younger people moving into the rural sector.

Lantra warns that the rural economies of counties such as Herefordshire and Worcestershire have relied on migrant workers to fill jobs such as fruit picking, but that changing conditions in Europe mean that the region can no longer rely on migrant labour. This, coupled with an aging indigenous rural workforce, has led Lantra to embark on a campaign to encourage young people to consider a career in the rural sector.

Tom’s full article, Lack of migrant workers is real threat to rural industries, is available on the Birmingham Post website.