Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

More Migrants Fill the Skills Gap

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

More Migrants Fill the Skills Gap

Article excerpt

Byline: By Zoe Hughes Political Editor

The number of Eastern Europeans employed in the North-East has increased five-fold in the past two years with more than 47,000 migrants now registered to work in the region, new figures reveal.

Latest Home Office statistics show more than 6,000 people from the former Eastern bloc countries have migrated to the North-East in the past three months alone, pushing the official Eastern European population above 47,400.

It means the North-East now has the fifth highest number of Eastern European migrants in Britain, with five times as many people seeking work in the region compared to two years ago.

In December 2004, just over 9,000 people from the eight "accession" countries of Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, had registered to work in the North-East.

But by September 2006 that had risen to 47,420, with 6,105 people arriving between July and September alone.

Only East Anglia, London and the Midlands have attracted more Eastern European migrants since the European Union expanded in 2004 with the South-East's migrant population just 34,000 in total.

The growth in migration is the only reason for the North-East's population boom, with a recent Government report showing there were still too few children being born in the region.

But ministers last night warned against another "free-for-all" when Romania and Bulgaria join the EU in two months' time.

Assistant regional director of CBI North Liz Smith praised the impact of mainly Polish workers on the region's economy which she said was helping plug a severe skills shortage.

"The key issue though is to ensure we continue to fill skills shortages rather than displacing local workers," she said. "People coming over from Eastern Europe are well qualified but we need managed migration if we are not to create problems in the future."

The Home Office figures show almost 17,000 of the 47,420 people now registered to work in the North-East under the Government's worker registration scheme have arrived since the start of 2006. …

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