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What is the impact of Brexit on Europeans working in the UK?

1,000 Europeans reveal why they enjoy working in the UK, their opinion of the referendum and their post-Brexit plans.

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Brexit and Europeans

The national referendum deciding the UK’s membership of the EU is taking place in one month. On this occasion, totaljobs ran a survey with 1,000 Europeans living in the UK, to explore the reasons they enjoy working in the UK, their opinion of the referendum as well as their plans in the event of a ‘Brexit’.

The survey results can be seen in the infographic below and in our full report.

Jonathan Fryer, writer, broadcaster, lecturer at SOAS and Liberal Democrat politician, shares his insights on Brexit in an exclusive article below the infographic. For personal stories of Europeans living and working in the UK, click here.


Add this infographic to your website by copying and pasting the following embed code:

See the full survey results in our report:

Read the report

Brexit: Should EU migrants worry?

by Jonathan Fryer

The American novelist Mark Twain was fond of saying that there are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. And with both the Remain and Leave sides in Britain’s EU Referendum campaign sharing sometimes completely contradictory statistics in the run-up to the vote on 23 June, it’s no wonder people are confused.

How do EU citizens in the UK feel?

There are an estimated 2.2 million EU migrants who live and work in the UK, having taken advantage of the European Single Market’s freedom of movement of people, goods and services. How do they feel about the possibility of Britons voting to leave the EU?

Unsurprisingly, 87% of the 1,000 continental EU citizens living in the UK surveyed by totaljobs in May 2016 said they are concerned about Brexit. There is no guarantee that they could stay in Britain post-Brexit, though 75% of respondents said they would try to do so. That might mean they would have to apply for a work visa, which may not be guaranteed.

If they were pushed out of Britain after Brexit – perhaps passing thousands of expatriate Brits returning home from their lives in mainland Europe because of a reciprocal withdrawal of rights – many say they would go back to their home country. But slightly more would look for work in another EU member state, the survey uncovered. Wage differentials certainly make that worthwhile for people coming from low-wage economies.

Some British tabloids have claimed that EU migrants, especially from formerly communist states of central and eastern Europe such as Romania and Bulgaria, came to Britain essentially to take advantage of the country’s relatively generous, non-contributory benefits system, but the totaljobs survey findings do not support the idea of such a powerful ‘pull factor’.


Working in the UK

Fewer than half of respondents cited better benefits when asked how working in the UK had affected their career, whereas two thirds mentioned higher earnings. Notably, a majority of the European migrants surveyed were earning less than the average British salary of £26,000 a year. Career progression and a healthier work-life balance also figured prominently in their responses.

For a clear majority of respondents, coming to Britain was all about work: Better job opportunities and higher salaries than those available back home. By far the biggest group represented among the EU migrants in Britain are people aged between 25 and 44 – a prime stage of life for developing their careers.

Others cited educational opportunities, including the chance to improve their English, which is recognised as the number 1 language in the EU and in the wider world.

Some came to Britain for personal reasons, being married to or in a relationship with a Brit, or else joining family already living here. Yet others simply wanted to experience another culture, with many settling in London, which is currently enjoying a particularly vibrant period culturally and economically.

Employers in both the manufacturing and agricultural sectors in the UK often say they like to have workers from the continent because they have a good work ethic. In some cases, employers find it difficult to recruit suitable British workers to do the job.

Similarly, while some Brits argue that competition from EU migrants pushes down wages, a recent study by the London School of Economics maintains that is in fact not the case.

How many Europeans are in the UK?

EU migrants probably make up no more than 5% of the total labour force in Britain. The Poles are by far the largest single group of (non-Irish) EU migrants in the UK, and made up a fifth of the totaljobs survey respondents.

In 2004, when Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus joined the EU, Britain, unlike most other existing member states, did not impose transitional arrangements that would have stopped migrants from the accession states moving in for a number of years.

Inevitably Britain was something of a magnet, though not all those who came in the first wave stayed very long, particularly after the financial crisis of 2008. Incidentally, the government considers those who stay for less than a year to be ‘short term migrants’ and does not include them in the headline immigration statistics.

That largely explains why considerably more EU migrants were given National Insurance numbers than show up in the official immigration figures provided by the Home Office. Yet these statistics may only tell some of the story; although the British border force monitors people coming into the country, it does not check those leaving, so no one can be completely sure how many continental EU citizens are living here at any given moment.

Also notable, each year the EU migrants arriving in Britain are outnumbered by immigrants from other parts of the world, a higher proportion of whom are hoping to settle permanently.


Do EU citizens think it’s worth staying?

Well over half of the migrants polled said they were satisfied with the experience of working in Britain and that they felt more comfortable in the work culture of Britain than they did back home. Yet not all were comfortable in the current political climate as the EU Referendum approaches.

A third of respondents, notably those who had been in the UK for less than five years, said they would feel discriminated against if they were looking for a job now. They also worried about possible political developments in the country after a potential Brexit.

One option for some would be to protect themselves by applying for UK nationality. Half of the 1,000 survey respondents said they had indeed considered it and nearly 10% were in the process of doing so. Yet in contrast, a significant proportion of the total believed they would leave Britain within the next two years.

The British government says it called the Brexit referendum in response to public demand; the last such vote, to confirm Britain’s membership of the then-European Economic Community, occurred back in 1975.

The decision to hold this referendum has affected many migrants’ opinion of Britain negatively, especially among those aged 34 or younger. Perhaps they belong to a generation that takes the realities of the European single market for granted and are especially unhappy that freedom of movement might be curtailed.

Job security is the top concern, with younger migrants in particular fearing they will be kicked out of the country. Some also worry about a possible rise in xenophobia and possible discrimiation.

Other preoccupations are primarily financial. Currency fluctuations could mean that the pounds migrants earn by working in Britain would be worth less back home post-Brexit, while air fares – important for those who return to their home country regularly to visit family and friends – might rise substantially.

The information and speculation about the consequences of Brexit available are so inconsistent that it is hard for people to judge what the likely impact really would be. To make matters worse, according to the survey, 60% of the EU migrants questioned said the HR departments of the firms where they worked had not kept them informed about the potential work policy changes caused by Brexit.

That may appear shocking, until you realise that the HR people probably have no idea themselves.

More questions than answers

The truth is, no one knows exactly what the consequences of Britain leaving the EU would be, or indeed what sort of future relationship the UK would have with Europe. A Norwegian or Swiss model – both of which have been suggested – would mean that freedom of movement for EU workers would continue, whereas a Canadian model would see that right ended.

What does seem certain is that it would take several years of negotiation and legislative changes for Britain to disentangle itself from the EU, which means that a vote in favour of Brexit would not be the end of a process, but just its beginning.

For personal stories of Europeans living and working in the UK, click here.
Find out about Brexit fears from recruiters’ perspective here.

What is your opinion of the Brexit referendum? What impact do you think it will have on the UK job market? Tell us in the comments below!

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(All comments have to be approved before they appear)

  1. Gareth Bound Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Everything is about how this effects migrants in the UK. What about us Brits that are living in EU countries. I’m in Germany and I lost my job here and finding it almost impossible to get another. I’ve already had 4 tell me I am a risk due possibly having to have visas and difficulties in getting them. People and politicians forget their are over 3 million Brits living and working abroad. So tell me what happens to us? As we will also become outsiders in These countries and it will make it even more difficult for us. I vote to stay.

  2. John Henry Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I will be voting out as for me it’s a question of democracy. I want our own MP’ s whatever party that’s elected to decide what the UK can or cannot do. At the end we can kick them out at a general election, unlike the unelected EU commission. I love Europe and its people, culture and history but just against the EU. On the topic of Europeans working in the UK, I believe nothing will change to their status. It will just mean that any future migration will be controlled and I can also see the Schengen Agreement getting ripped up as more countries want to control their own borders.

  3. Ian stanley Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I want out because the wages will go up and there will be a return of apprenticeship

  4. agha khan Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Dear Sir,
    i am Agha waleed khan,i want work .please give me
    information with detail.


  5. Marvenros Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 1:22 pm


  6. Julian Goodfellow Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    I believe this European Referendum has 2 main points to it. Firstly whether you vote in or out nobody in the entire UK has any idea as to how things shall pan out.
    Secondly, whether or not we vote in or out do you seriously expect me to believe that things shall be so much better for the man in the street ? Hmmmm, I don’t think so as the Foodbanks shall still rise and Pensions shall be cut.

  7. Andrew Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    I feel a exit from the EU is better I only can speak of what I’ve seen since UK join the EU everything get worst no jobs the NHS is burden down, and from the Caribbean a commonwealth country witch is head of us the queen and we been pushed to the side like dogs, my fourth parents work hard and slave for this country even until this day and since the EU we come in effect everting get hard in us it’s not like we was getting any hand down we work and now we can’t even get one, immigration even got worst on us and look at the type of criminals or coming from the EU into the human trafficking and amongst many other’s.. and the worst things is most of them don’t care about the ok of even like English people and that’s a known fact…

  8. jb Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    In 2014 there were estimated to be over 3million EU migrant in another 275000 entered 82000. Leaving a negative migration of 185000 long way off your 2million

  9. Pankaj Kumar Singh Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    My self Pankaj Kumar Singh mechanical engineer fresher. I wants to search a core industry job

  10. Chris Dowbekin Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Consecutive British Governments since World War 2 have failed in their duty to the British public to do what was best for GB.Politicians believe the public cannot see how they have sold out GB to sponsor their own campaigns.
    I remember a penny chew one British penny overnight becoming one new penny , twice the financial cost,this
    trend continued through many products. Although we had cheaper supermarket goods , the British Tax Payer
    were paying subsidies to our own farmers to plough food back into the ground, and the farm workers were made
    redundant and needed subsidies from our welfare system to exist.There is no benefit to GB from the EU we
    should be Self Sufficient again and Shut The Door.Politicians should fear binging back hanging for Treason

  11. Rajesh Kalia Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    I am voting “OUT” on the 23rd June 2016!!!!

  12. doru Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    i don’t thing uk will leave eu.
    no one has interest to loose

  13. Istvan Halasz Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    Dear Jonathan Fryer

    Thank you for the opportunity to tell my own opinion of Brexitről this messy political situation where politicians began to play a very dangerous and misleading the public about the real interests are not presented with background created this situation as Brexin, the possibility.
    In reality, there is a misconception in great power commotion, which involved the United Kingdom, on the other hand, Germany and France.
    False British economic interests are being pushed to the fore Brexin patrons. Such as: costs too much to Eastern European immigrants and Brittannia too much to make a payment to the joint EU coffers.
    The real interest is different, and very dangerous. Here it is actually about is that the former British Empire Commonwealth organized British interests “oppose” the European Union’s interests.
    Earlier, the British colony of the Empire was the next generation. Brittaniában the products have been produced with cheap labor from colonial empire. The cheap labor is the salary he sent to the colonies, and that the labor market has created a Brittaniában British manufactured products.
    This system exists and operates in the UK, this day is not wasted three and a half times greater than the volume of the British economy, the German economy in volume.
    Why is there currently a problem – Eastern Europe Employees in this system?
    Because they’re sent home the same way their wages and the money does not buy British goods to their families, but also the German products because Britain markets – Eastern Europe is not strong. This indirectly working in the UK – Eastern Europeans, the German economy is strengthening. Which is a very narrow interest approach. In the same narrow focus which means the idea is that if the Eastern European workers will be sent home, the British workers will work for you. While I ask, where? The hotel room cleaning faeces as fish whether the minimum wage? The construction of concrete incorporated? The stations of the public areas of cleaning garbage bold? These works then the former British Empire countries will be carried out, incoming workers from the current British Commonwealth country, who will send their salaries home to UK-based countries from re-British goods in and restored order! What’s more, Germany will not strengthen British money.
    This idea states in a very narrow-minded, and absolutely no great religion in positions of power. Very dangerous.
    Because if we look at the EU’s existence, the organization in its present form, it has to be said that in Europe the only guarantee of peace and security in the EU. The one that did come up was a consequence of a very wise policy for Britain and the US. The politicians then assessed to Germany after World War II, the loser will be economically restored very quickly, because if you do it all in ruins of reconstruction is enormous economic potential.
    They knew well that if you are not tied down by Germany, the EU mandatory realignment hung poorer countries, then Germany will be devoted to the armaments produced possessions again! Created by the EU, which is included in Brittannia is, quite rightly, and this can be checked by the political process can speak into the political process on the continent! As a true superpower is a full member of the EU! Without firing a shot and the creation of the Fourth Reich of the European Union. In which Germany plays a leading role in the economic and financial strength. The German brand strength was the basis of the common currency the euro was created. High Brittannia feel politically disadvantaged has led to the separate passenger policy. What false belief. It will be at a disadvantage if you exit from the EU. Politically, Europe will not be able to influence political processes, and will suffer significant economic disadvantage by the current economic product of that 42% is directed to the EU market, you lose!
    I’ll try with a few simple ratio to illustrate the magnitude of the expected loss, which will cause a recession in Britain.
    Example: Russia – Crime of aggression – international sanctions – 33% decline in oil prices.
    Russia lost because of the oil price drop a significant proportion of sales – I do aGDP 20 -30% of the cart – a huge hole in the Russian budget.
    Britain due to a possible Brexin voluntarily waive 42% of its products in the market, and it is by 42% reduction in revenues. Consequence: recession. German products in place of Britt products are on the market, it will run even harder by the German economy.
    Brittannia becomes weightless.
    The other question is, what will the EU migrants in here? We do not give them a job and go home. How can we not work? We will require them to the yellow Star of David pattern of the national flag sewn to produce and star in coats? In order to know who they are and where they should be deported back home, they are easier to be taking them off the streets? And if they stay? Pluck them forcibly into cattle cars and guides the direction of the Continent?
    Where’s the humanity from the principle of equality between people, solidarity, and freedom? When the first civilian constitution Brittaniában the world was created.
    This is a shame the Brits will not allow themselves.
    I really hope. I am an Eastern – European’m a Hungarian man, and I consider myself a European citizen. European human thinking. Six years ago I live in the UK, and with all due respect to the Queen and the Royal family. Because if they do not pursue a policy which for generations have been conducted, Britons now you can not walk in it so well, in peace and in freedom, by other countries never underfoot. I love Britain as the land of freedom I feel in Europe.

  14. Mark Jones Saturday, 28 May, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    I’m glad that they feel that it’s having an impact on them, why do total jobs feel so sorry for them. it’s the UK citizens “YOU” should feel sorry for ..being displaced by the migrants, you should support British workers for British jobs ..have you sold out!, you should be ashamed of yourselves for even thinking the way you have done in the bulletin above.


    Mark Carney
    What a load of tosh , he says there will be Unemployment! AFTER BREXIT , if we remain, many millions of our native people will be unemployed, they will be displaced by a cheap migrant workforce, our own citizens will be the losers,, our country will never be the same again …what’s better? a doubtful couple of years of recession or a lifetime of unemployment for our own people!

    BEING ON THEIR SIDE YOU’VE: taken our country one step closer towards system collapse – meaning; Housing, NHS, Social services, Fostering, Schools, and Welfare! will be maxed out and overloaded., I thought that was already the case …hence I predict, if it carries on: TOTAL SYSTEM COLLAPSE!

    JOBS ..ISN’T THAT WHY I’M HERE! ….oh nearly forgot you want to give them all away to foreigners!

    2015 government figures – Foreign national prisoners in the UK, – equal to 14 percent of the total prison population! AND THATS 2015! want to predict the next few years do you!

    As you can tell I’m voting out leave!

  15. Roya.K Rezaee Sunday, 29 May, 2016 at 9:05 am

    I am not from EU and not a Refugee or Asylum. However I agree with your article and i wish the information were out earlier to people who are confused and an speeches of extremists are still stuck in their head.
    I personally do not trust the government giving away our wealth, privatising NHS, changing Disibility to an inhuman level, treating highly professional doctors and surgeons badly, and closing the Steel industry (that is a must in the economy of the any country ).
    If China taking over the Steel Market, it is because of heavily subsidised attempt of government.
    Steel industry if often subsidised in other countries.
    However all these leave no choice but staying in EU; even though there are many criticism from me to how EU functioning. I don’t never know what is actually going on there too.
    There migrant may cause difficulties in UK are non EU.
    Thanks for your article. I am going to forward it to my colleague to read it too.

  16. Anna Zarecka Sunday, 29 May, 2016 at 9:22 am

    I am Anna from Poland, I live 4 years in England – Northampton.
    In my opinion would be better to leave the UE because too many countries joined there and too many people arrive in the UK.
    Every year there no work in winter for every one.
    Most of these people want to have benefts for their live. Some of them commits a crime…
    It is not good sytuation…
    By the way I see that everywhere there is a lot of rubbish, and the country becomes a big garbage dump…

  17. Tim Etchells Sunday, 29 May, 2016 at 9:32 am

    I vote to leave and I’m encouraging everyone I can to do the same..
    That is all

  18. John Sunday, 29 May, 2016 at 9:41 am

    I have seen my money go down and down due to this influx of cheap labour on our construction sites £2.50p per m2 less tax for plasterboard work !! If I was to show you 50 m2 an area you would have to complete just to get £125 less tax u would understand how angry I am about this whole immigration thing ! I see nobody shouting out for construction , no wonder the big construction firms are showing record profits ! What I absolute disgrace ! I just pray to god brexit wins .

  19. Mary Cavill Sunday, 29 May, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Lots of scaremongering going on, particularly from the “PM” and I have to question what is in it for him personally. It is totally wrong that Taxpayers money has been used to produce a leaflet at a cost of some £9m which, in effect, was little more than a series of photographs. It told us very little.
    Nobody can predict the effects of Brexit, it is all supposition, speculation and scaremongering.
    If we want to blame anyone for the migration, all the EU nationals “swamping the UK”, perhaps we need to look at who was PM in 2004?
    When we joined the “Common Market” its purpose was to ease trade since when faceless people have created so many laws, rules, pieces of legislation that only the UK appear to follow – other countries appear to ignore a lot of the dictates.
    Since our joining this supposed Common Market, we have lost so much. So many small businesses folded because of the legislation; we have lost 99% of our industry. More importantly, we have lost our identity

  20. Agata POLISH Sunday, 29 May, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    I’m stayed in the UK from different reason than work. My only sympathy for this country is that I met my love over here. I must say most nice people is mostly foreigners, not white British ones. Brit may give you illusion that they like you, but you never know – I hardly believe they might like each other. I feel this country is underestimating people’s skills, treat ALL immigrants as cheap labour, and if your name sounds not familiar or non-english, you won’t get a good job. We all under same racist treatment, unless you know how to kissing the a***s and make Brits feel better than yourself. I never ever been before in such hypocrite, delusional country where on the outside all is great, tolerance is popular and you may feel welcomed as foreigner. And on the other hand have deep emotional based problems, racism, jealousy and indirect discrimination. Who’s is say when family member died, someone got cancer or you lost your job “Carry on”? Honestly you need to have lack of emotion or some undisclosed problems to staying here for life. Please don’t think that this country have many good benefits to offer – I mean great healthcare, jobs are just waiting for you or you’ll get nice big house for funny money. Unless you have ambition and strong character this country will destroy you. What I’m trying to say – don’t expect too much and don’t be fooled.

  21. Dimitar Dimitrov Monday, 30 May, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    I am a citizen of Bulgaria and my opinion is that Brexit is good for UK and Europe too. EU is incredible red tape and that is deadly for small and medium business.

  22. Matthew Smith Wednesday, 1 Jun, 2016 at 11:21 am

    This is just more proof that our Government only care about non-British people. What with all the fake threats, misleading information and lies about vote out groups. There is no where in this article about how British people feel and how it will or will not benefit/affect us, we are not important.

  23. J Batchellor Friday, 17 Jun, 2016 at 12:27 am

    If people think the EU is bureaucratic, wait until after Brexit. Every industry standard and measurement process in every industry vertical will have to renegotiated on a piece by piece basis in every deal with every country the UK trades with. Tomes and tomes of documentation will need to be rewritten. A golden age for contract lawyers awaits, but misery for everyone else as the pound nosedives through investor fright, UK citizens find themselves getting the stereotypical ‘Parisian waiter’ treatment far and wide on their pricier holidays abroad and the City and the massive secondary economy spawned by it decamps to Frankfurt. Divorce is messy. The EU cannot give us good trade deals post-Brexit: it will be obliged to be punitive towards Britain, if only to deter further break-offs. A nasty, brutish Leviathan awaits, with Britain finding itself largely friendless in the world.

  24. R Saturday, 18 Jun, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    £26,000 is the average? I wish I was earning anything near that! And that’s as a graduate with a degree and a masters. The figures are so obviously badly skewed by the over paid few! And do they take into consideration the many people on part time or zero hour contracts who earn only a few thousand a year!

  25. John Rimmer Saturday, 18 Jun, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    it is about time that the British people have there say for a change as this is getting to be a port for every other EU country. What about the british people it is about time the government did something for use and started to put the Great back into britian.

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