Migrant workforce returns to Europe over weak pound

22 May 2008 by
Migrant workforce returns to Europe over weak pound

Migrant workers are increasingly turning their backs on the UK hospitality industry because of the falling value of the pound, an industry body has warned.

According to Home Office figures released in February, more than 152,000 migrant workers were employed in hospitality, making up 19% of all Eastern European immigrants to the UK. By far the biggest number were Poles, followed by Slovakians and Lithuanians.

But over the past six months, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has mounted a campaign to lure back migrant workers from the UK because they are getting fewer zlotych to the pound. The rate currently stands at 4.2 zlotych to the pound, down from a high of 6.7 when Poland joined the EU in 2004.

Anne Pierce, chief executive at hospitality employment charity Springboard, said: "Over the past five or six years, hospitality has been recruiting from throughout Eastern Europe. What we are now finding is that workers are going back because of the value of the pound. If they are looking for really good value they are choosing France or Germany."

Bob Cotton, chief executive at the British Hospitality Association, agreed that migrants were slowly starting to return home, but said the exchange rate was not a real factor.

"Migrants move for jobs, it is a simple as that - if there are not any jobs in the first place it will not do you any good," he said. "Until a month ago you had more job creation in Britain than the euro zone. If we see unemployment rising, that will create more changes than the exchange rate."

Robin Derrett, vice-president of HR for Hilton UK and Ireland, said the hotel group had not noticed a sizeable shift in its migrant workers going home yet, but admitted this was likely to change. Its long-term recruitment strategy was focused on attracting UK workers, he added.

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By Christopher Walton

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