The number of UK jobs for Romanians and Bulgarians jumps by over a quarter in the space of three months
Top employers are increasingly bemoaning the skills shortage in the UK's workforce. But could the solution be coming in the shape of a new wave of Eastern European migrants?
The number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in Britain has soared by 26% in three months, new official figures show.
As many as 141,000 were in employment during the period from April to June, compared to 112,000 in the previous quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The figure is also 35% up on the same time last year.
Laws limiting the kind of jobs migrants from Romania and Bulgaria can do will be eased from the beginning of 2014 in light of EU rules.
This has prompted predictions of a big increase in numbers coming to Britain.
The Government has hitherto refused to put a figure on the number of people it expects to arrive in the UK when the labour market becomes fully open to the two countries.
Romanian and Bulgarian officials have repeatedly tried to soothe concerns over a wave of immigration from their countries, which would also increase cultural diversity in the workplace.
Earlier this year Bulgarian ambassador Konstantin Dimitrov calculated between 8,000 and 10,000 would enter Britain next year, while ambassador Ion Jinga forecast 20,000 might come from Romania.
A new Immigration Bill announced in the Queen's Speech will make it more simple to remove individuals from the UK by restricting rights to appeal and tightening the use of human rights law, besides access to health care.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said this rise of more than a third in Romanian and Bulgarian workers in the UK over the last year is a steep jump on the previous trend.
He said it suggests that still larger numbers will arrive in 2014 when the UK's labour market is fully open to them.
Mr Green added: "This is consistent with our central estimate that net migration from Romania and Bulgaria will run at about 50,000 a year for the next five years"
A Home Office spokesman was reported as saying: "We welcome those who want to come here to work and contribute to the economy."
Copyright Press Association 2013