Belfast Telegraph

NI jobs growth 'driven by migrant workers from EU', says report

By Andrew Madden

Migrant workers from the EU have accounted for almost all employment growth in Northern Ireland for nearly a decade, according to a report.

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The Department for the Economy has compiled a report following a study of employment data from 2008 to 2016.

Over the eight-year period, the number of people in employment here rose by 36,000 - from 779,000 to 815,000. The number of EU-born workers in employment rose by 40,000, while the number for UK-born people fell by 10,000.

The other 6,000 additional people in work in Northern Ireland were from the Republic of Ireland (4,000), or elsewhere in the world (2,000).

"It is clear that between 2008 and 2016, employment recovery and growth in Northern Ireland was driven, particularly since 2014, by migrants born in the EU," the DfE said.

Migrant workers have also accounted for most of the employment growth in England and Scotland in the same time period. However, in those countries the growth is evenly split between EU and non-EU migrants.

"Northern Ireland, uniquely amongst the regions of the UK, was dependent for employment growth almost entirely on an increase in employment of those whose country of birth was the EU," the DfE said.

Andrew Webb, economic advisory director at Baker Tilly Mooney Moore, said the report confirms that employers have been using migrant labour to fill emerging skills gaps.

"In fact, migrant labour has prevented a full-blown labour supply crisis emerging in key sectors such as agrifood, manufacturing and tourism," he added.

"This reliance on migrant labour brings a dichotomy at the heart of our labour market into sharp focus. Job creation has been strong yet inactivity levels are increasing," he said. "Why are local people disengaging from the labour market in increasing numbers? Is it a case of 'crowding out' by cheaper labour, or has education and skills policy trained us for the wrong opportunities?

"The report from the department must now prompt a new focus on employability and skills policy, especially if Brexit is going to lead to much reduced immigration."

Belfast Telegraph