Industry figures have cast doubt on new Home Office statistics which suggest that the hospitality sector is no longer the largest employer of Eastern European migrant workers in the UK.
According to the figures up until March, released last week, 20% of all Eastern European workers in the UK are employed in hospitality, but the administration, business and management sector (employing 37% of Eastern European workers) has overtaken the industry for the first time since the eight former communist countries joined the EU in May 2004.
Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, questioned the accuracy of the figures, saying there had not been a slowdown in people coming in to work in hospitality.
"While this may be an indication of other sectors catching on to how good the Eastern European workers are, hospitality is still the first point of entry for migrants and therefore likely to employ more than any other sector," he said.
This was echoed by Gary King, director of recruitment firm Collins King and spokesman for the Recruitment and Employment Confederation's hospitality industry group. "I do not think the figures quoted are entirely accurate as they would probably not take into account a lot of the smaller, unregistered hospitality and catering employers who pay their employees in cash," he said.
By far the biggest number of the 119,540 migrant workers employed in hospitality were Poles (64%), followed by Slovakians (12%) and Lithuanians (8%). More than a quarter (27%) work in London.
The Home Office also released statistics on the number of workers coming to the UK from the latest additions to the EU, Bulgaria and Romania, revealing that 65 people from the two countries have been employed in the hospitality sector since entry in January. Hospitality employed 15% of the total workers from the two countries, which have restricted immigration rights, with more than two-thirds of them being employed as chefs.
By Kerstin Kühn