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RR691 - Improving the reliability of estimates of migrant worker numbers and their relative risk of workplace injury and illness

This study has reviewed the literature on migrant workers for substantive evidence that migrant workers are more susceptible to injury and illness in the workplace. The study has examined the sources of data available to facilitate this type of analysis and has evaluated their relative quality and availability.

Survey sources typically fail to adequately capture migrant populations, whilst administrative sources lack the richness of data content. Statistics on accidents in the workplace (RIDDOR) are subject to considerable under-recording, particularly for the self-employed, for smaller businesses and, the evidence suggests, for migrant workers. No information is captured to differentiate migrant workers by their nationality, country of birth or first language. Health records are generally only accessible through health surveillance schemes; providing limited coverage on health and the workplace and with no statistics on nationality, country of birth or first language. These combined inadequacies result in a dearth of UK studies that make an explicit link between migrant workers, the workplace and health outcomes.

The few studies which looked explicitly at the relationship between migrant status and occupational injury/illness have typically reported inconclusive evidence on the effect of migrant workers upon issues of health and safety, primarily due to inadequate data capture and coverage of the target population. However, a number of studies that have examined the impact of the recent influx of migrants from outside the UK have reinforced the general view that migrant workers, engaged in low-skilled jobs, are more at risk of accident and injury due to the nature of the work they are doing and the conditions in which they are doing it.

The research evidence suggests that there remain significant difficulties associated with the capture of new and reliable data on the geographical distribution and socio-economic profile of migrant workers. There is no substantive evidence that provides robust and representative data to improve existing estimates of migrant numbers and their relative health and safety risk. This study provides a number of options for enhanced data collection as a basis for improved local intelligence for HSE’s monitoring and targeted enforcement.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2010-03-19