Belfast Telegraph

Employment high among EU migrants

Three quarters of migrants from mainly central and eastern Europe to Northern Ireland were in employment in 2011 despite the economic downturn, it was revealed.

The more youthful settlers from EU accession countries were more likely to hold down jobs than those born in Northern Ireland, census figures showed.

Danny Kinahan, an Ulster Unionist MLA who chairs an all-party Assembly group on ethnic minorities, said: "Some people born here are not prepared to take the jobs and may not have the same work ethic and skills."

Some 57% of usual residents aged 16-74 and born in Northern Ireland were in employment on Census Day 2011, making up the major part of the 66% who were economically active.

Those born in the EU accession countries like Poland, in countries which were members of the EU before 2004 or in other states had higher levels of employment and economic activity, with up to 77% employed.

While people born in EU accession countries represented 3% of usual residents in employment, they comprised 8% of process, plant and machine operatives and almost 8% of those employed in simple and routine tasks known as elementary occupations like selling goods in streets and cleaning.

While 2.5% of those in employment were born outside the EU, they constituted 4.3% of people employed in professional occupations. Over a third (35%) of usual residents aged 16-74 in employment who were of Asian ethnic origin worked in professional occupations (including 22% as health professionals), more than double the proportion of people of white ethnicity (17%).

Mr Kinahan added migrants brought an enormous benefit to Northern Ireland in outside skills and knowledge and had enormous productivity: "There are a lot of people doing jobs we don't like doing or who are being paid lower than anyone here would accept but above the minimum wage. There is a murky world there because there will be nervousness of people coming to talk about it."

David Goodhart, director of the think tank Demos, said there was little overall economic benefit to migration, although those from Eastern Europe were generally younger and more likely to be seeking work and healthy than other parts of the world where family ties were a motivation.

"There is often an impression that large-scale immigration is a significant economic benefit that produces some social and cultural side-effects that we have to suffer in order to enjoy the economic benefits," he said. "The significant economic benefit is not there in the data. That does not mean to say you should be against immigration or even large-scale immigration but it then becomes much more an argument about how you see the country, the speed of change."

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