Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 15:59 UK

Workforce fears as migrants leave

Polish football fan

The Scottish Government has been urged to do more to avert a labour crisis in the Highlands as increasing numbers of migrant workers return home.

More than 2,000 people from Eastern European countries registered for National Insurance in the Highlands last year.

Unofficial figures this year show that a quarter of them have left.

The falling value of the pound is thought to be a factor, as well as improving employment prospects abroad.

Another agency has found that where there were formerly five candidates for every job in catering and hospitality, there are now five jobs for every candidate.

Mark Sutherland-Fraser, who runs recruitment agency Czech Match near Tain in Ross-shire, said businesses could be facing serious workforce shortages by next year.

He said: "Some of my colleagues have been reporting a 40% drop in the number of candidates registering with them.

"I have two anecdotes. It took seven weeks to find a kitchen assistant for a restaurant on Loch Ness-side and at the moment it is taking me four weeks to find two commis chefs for a hotel on the island of Skye."

He added: "It is going to affect the economy to a certain extent this year, but next year it could be devastating."

The Inverness Polish Association has made a number of warnings about a looming crisis, and has criticised the government for failing to respond to calls for help in retaining the Highlands' huge Polish workforce.

The criticism came as Minister for Europe Linda Fabiani met migrant workers involved in projects in Fort William.

Funded through the Cultural Bridges Fund, the schemes try to encourage greater understanding of immigrant cultures and social integration in Highland communities.

Joanna Napiorowska, a Pole living in Inverness, came to the Highlands for the experience but after two years she now feels it also her time to go back to Poland.

Ms Napiorowska added: "A lot of my friends who arrived here with me have decided to go home for good because in Poland it is better money, pay is better and our economy is growing."

Diverse cultures' impact on north
08 Jul 08 |  Highlands and Islands
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08 Jul 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Polish consulate mooted for city
28 Apr 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Family split by pull of the west
08 Jan 08 |  Scotland
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04 Oct 07 |  Highlands and Islands

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