While many UK employers are choosing to address emerging skills shortages by contracting with flexible professionals such as Umbrella Company Employees, the skills shortfall that would result in the event of a UK exit from the EU or new restrictions on immigration could have seriously damaging effects on the economy, a new study has warned.

The joint research by recruitment firm Harvey Nash and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) found that non-UK workers who had migrated from the EU were more likely to be in employment than their native counterparts: 63% of migrants were in work compared to 56% of the UK-born adult population.

They were also more likely to be better skilled than their UK counterparts, occupying managerial roles and commanding pay rates 7.6% higher than British workers on average. In addition, 69% of EU migrants were economically active as opposed to 63% of UK-born workers.

The CEBR’s head of macroeconomics, Charles Davis, said: “Non-UK EU-born workers earned £39 billion in total in 2012, bringing a wealth of skills and experience to the UK workforce and adding value to the economy.”

Should these workers leave the UK or immigration controls be further tightened, Mr Davis warned, the result would “create skill shortages, hold back economic growth and worsen the position of the public finances.”

Harvey Nash CEO Albert Ellis said that little evidence existed to suggest that EU immigrants had a negative effect on UK wages and unemployment. On the contrary, he added, EU-born workers from outside the UK were bringing greatly needed skills and value with them.

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