The foreign-born population in the North East has nearly doubled over the last decade as overseas workers help plug a skills gap, it was claimed last night.
Research carried out by academics at Oxford University indicates around 5% of residents in the region – or 128,573 – were born outside of the UK. Business experts last night said the figures – which show an increase of 74% in the non-UK born population over the last decade – show overseas skilled workers were plugging a shortage of workers.
Last night Dr Hugh Metcalf, a senior lecturer in economics at Newcastle University, said: “We have the lowest percentage of non-UK born people in the country.
“This is rooted in history; if you think of Manchester and Birmingham and London they have a huge Caribbean influx for the NHS and buses but that didn’t happen in the North East.”
Oxford University’s Migration Observatory found Newcastle had the highest number, 37,579, as well as the highest population share, 13%, of non-UK born residents in the region in 2011.
Residents born in India represent the most numerous non-UK born group in the North East in 2011 with 10,375 residents, followed by residents born in Germany, Poland, Pakistan and China.
Last night Ross Smith, head of policy at the North East Chamber of Commerce, said the non-UK born workforce were helping to plug a skills gap – but warned that we should still be training local people to fill jobs.
He said: “We need to bring more skilled labour into the region and if you look at population projections we need to get more people of a working age into the North East.
“Whether that comes from within the UK or from overseas it’s going to be critical in growing our economy.
“Clearly alongside that we need to make sure we are training up people who are already in the region so they have the right skills to access jobs.”
Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, senior researcher leading the census project at the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, said: “The North East has the smallest foreign-born population in Great Britain, but has also seen notable changes in the last decade.”