Job applications from the 10 new EU states have surged dramatically since they joined in May, raising hopes that the new workforce could ease skills shortages in the UK hospitality industry.
A survey by recruitment agent Reed shows a sixfold rise in applications from the new European states year on year, with a majority seeking employment in hospitality and catering.
Some 17% of those registering with Reed for work between March and May this year said they sought work in the sector - good news for an industry with an estimated 100,000 vacancies.
James Reed, director of Reed Employment, said: "The UK is suffering skills shortages in a number of specific areas, so an increase in registrations from the EU may well ease this problem."
Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, also welcomed the new workforce. "The demand for work reflects the strength of the industry at the moment and in London in particular," he said. "We are also finding that candidates, particularly from Poland and Hungary, are highly skilled and motivated."
While the new workers are being welcomed, some disappointment has been expressed about the ongoing inability of the industry to capture employees from the UK's existing unemployed.
Matt Hirst, manager for Reed Hospitality, said: "The catering industry is still not doing enough to attract more people who already live here. While workers from the new states will ease the skills shortage they cannot entirely solve it."
Reed's job figures - 50% of applicants from accession states for May 2004 came from Poland, which has seen a tenfold increase in applications on 2003 levels.
- The greatest percentage increase of applicants was from Slovakia, where the number of registering jobseekers has risen from 25 in May 2003 to 304 in May 2004.
- A third (31%) of Latvians seeking work in the UK are looking for jobs in hospitality.
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 5 August 2004