UK releases official figures for Romanian and Bulgarian workers, press goes wild, but levels same as in 2011
The UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS) has for the first time published a partial breakdown of figures for foreigners working in the UK to include details on the number of Romanians and Bulgarians in employment, “in response to popular demand,” according to the BBC. The ONS quarterly figures reveal an increase in the number of Romanian and Bulgarian workers in the UK in the first three months of this year to 112,000 people.
Previously, the ONS has lumped all EU nationals together, but in the latest statistics, EU citizens working in the UK are split into three groups: older Member States, such as France and Germany, newer Member States, Poland, Czech Republic etc and Romanians and Bulgarians.
The number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK rose from 102,000 in Q4 2012 to 112,000 in the first quarter of this year, counting those who were born in the two countries. The number of those with Romanian and Bulgarian nationality is lower, some 102,000.
Although the 10,000 increase could appear large, it is important to look at the trend over the last few years. There were 110,000 Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK in the first quarter of 2011. This figure dropped to 97,000 in Q1 2012, before rising to 112,000 in the third quarter and dropping again to 102,000 in the final quarter last year. It suggests a somewhat seasonal pattern, with the number fluctuating between around 100,000 and 110,000 over the last two years depending on time of year.
The anti-EU press in the UK has seized on the figures as evidence to support one its favorite themes: hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians sweeping across the UK. The Express runs the headline “Official: New Wave of Migrants Taking Our Jobs,” while the Mail goes with the 15 percent rise in Romanian and Bulgarian workers. Neither states that the number of workers from the two countries has recovered to same level as in 2011, which could suggest an improving situation in the UK's economy and job market.
Looking back over the time since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, there has been an overall rise in the number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK, with marked seasonal fluctuations. “These latest figures confirm that the numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians working in Britain has been increasing by around 14,000 a year in the six years since they joined the EU,” said Sir Andrew Green, the head of MigrationWatch, an organization that monitors and comments on UK immigration, quoted by The Mail. According to the MigrationWatch chief, the figures support his organization's estimate of 50,000 Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants a year following the lifting of temporary work restrictions on the two countries. He said “obviously” the number will increase with the ending of transitional controls. However, a recent BBC survey in Romania and Bulgaria found that more people from the two countries were planning on going to the UK this year, before controls are lifted, than next year.
The figures for UK citizens employed in the UK have risen steadily since 2011, with a slight quarterly slip in the first three months of 2013. Meanwhile, the total number of EU citizens working in the UK fell slightly from the level in Q4 2012, but showed a 3.8 percent year-on-year increase. The numbers from older Member States showed a small quarterly increase, while the numbers from the newer Member States (not including Romania and Bulgaria) fell back on the level recorded at the end of 2012.
Liam Lever, liam@romania-insider