Number of foreign workers rising six times faster than those born in UK
Data from the Office for National Statistics shows Britain now has 5.06million workers who were born overseas, after a rise of 281,000 year-on-year in the final three months of 2015.
That was more than the 258,000 increase in the number of UK born workers, to just over 26.4million.
In percentage terms, the growth in foreign workers at 5.9% is much faster than the 1% rise in UK nationals.
The biggest increase was people from Romania and Bulgaria, with 41,000 – up 24% – joining the workforce between October and December.
The issue of migration is set to be one of the key issues of the forthcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.
It came as figures showed wages are growing at the slowest rates for nearly a year.
The average worker got a 1.9% year-on-year pay rise in the three months to December, said the Office for National Statistics, and 1.5% in the final month of the year alone.
The rate – which includes bonus payments – was down sharply from 2.1% in three months to November and the lowest since February last year.
The slowdown comes despite Chancellor George Osborne boasting about the strength of the UK economy and record numbers in work.
There were 31.4million people in jobs in the final three months of 2015, up by 205,000 on the previous quarter.
Unemployment fell by 60,000 to 1.69m, with the jobless rate standing at 5.1%.
However, many people still scared from the downturn are worried about losing their jobs or wary of moving employers.
Experts believe some firms are using this and the rock bottom inflation – currently 0.3% – to hold off passing through bigger pay rises.
The 1.9% average masks big variations, with private sector pay up 2.1% but public sector wages rising by an average of just 1.3%.
The ONS report showed the number of public sector workers has fallen to the lowest level since comparable record began in 1999.
The figure stood at 5.35m in September last year, down 59,000 in the past year, with just over 17% of people now employed by the state.
One reason for the fall, from more than 21% five years ago, is the reclassification of Royal Mail and Lloyds Bank workers after a big sell-off of the two firms.
George Osborne said: “In the face of significant turbulence in the global economy, it is encouraging that more people than ever have the security of a job and a rising pay packet.
“With a record number of people in work and unemployment and youth unemployment reaching 10-year lows, this is further evidence of the need to stick to the Government’s long term plan to deliver economic security against the cocktail of risks affecting the world.” TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“It’s good news that employment is rising, but more needs to be done to ensure these jobs are decent quality.
“Wage growth remains in the slow lane. Putting money back into people’s pockets is essential to securing a strong recovery, and avoiding the debt-fuelled spending boom that caused the last financial crisis.”