EU migrants of working age living in the UK who do not have a job account for a city the size of Bristol, new figures have revealed. One in seven of the 2,733,000 EU migrants aged 16-64 - a total of 390,000 - are unemployed or “inactive”.
A survey by the Office for National Statistics does not give a breakdown of how many claim benefits, but those who are unemployed will be eligible for jobseeker’s allowance and may also claim housing benefit and child benefit. People who are “inactive” include those claiming disability benefits.
Brexit campaigners said the figures showed the need to freeze migration for unskilled workers after Britain leaves the EU. Steven Woolfe MEP, of the Leave Means Leave campaign, said: "We fully recognise the benefits EU nationals bring to Britain - and we want to maintain the inflow of skilled workers - but the man in the street will be alarmed that there are so many EU citizens without a job, potentially claiming benefits and competing with them for jobs.
“The Government must seize the opportunities from Brexit and ensure we freeze unskilled migration for five years. Too many wages have been depressed and too many jobs displaced for this uncontrolled immigration to continue."
The survey is the first time the ONS has compiled comprehensive figures on unemployment among migrants. It also shows that EU migrants make up ten per cent of employees in some job sectors, showing the challenge the Government faces in balancing the needs of industry with the curbs on free movement that will follow Brexit.
Migrants from wealthy European countries, such as Germany, Italy and France, earn more on average than British workers - £12.59 per hour compared with £11.30 per hour. But those from Romania, Bulgaria and other eastern European countries had the lowest pay at £8.33.
One in six Romanian and Bulgarian migrants work more than 40 hours per week, compared with just a third of British employees.
A total of 3.4 million people working in Britain last year were from abroad, equating to 11 per cent of the total workforce. They comprised 2.2 million EU nationals and 1.2 million non-EU nationals.
One in seven people working in wholesale and retail are foreign. One in 12 working in manufacturing are from the eight central and eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 - the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Alp Mehmet, Vice Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: "Today's release confirms that some sectors of the economy employ large numbers of EU migrants...business must now focus on recruiting and training from the domestic workforce and wean itself off the cheaper East European option.
“Employers should turn to overseas workers only when they face genuine skills or labour shortages. Work permits confined to those offered skilled work on the same basis that applies to non-EU nationals could achieve a reduction of around 100,000 a year; this would go a long way towards delivering on the government's promise to reduce overall net migration."
The report said the highest number of migrant workers are employed in elementary occupations, such as selling goods or cleaning, with 669,000, including 510,000 EU nationals. This is followed by professional occupations, with an estimated 658,000 non-UK nationals, including 352,000 from the EU.