Migrant workers will play a vital role in the UK’s economic recovery, according to a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research.

They will be an essential part of the UK workforce during the recession, the institute says, if large-scale projects such as the London Olympics go ahead as planned. An additional 40,000 construction workers a year will be needed until 2012, and immigrant workers will be necessary to ensure projects are completed and to help to fill skills gaps.

The institute suggested that the UK should introduce a more flexible immigration policy to attract and retain migrant workers who help to keep afloat certain sectors of the economy, such as construction and hospitality.

The report debunked the common belief that migrant workers make up a big proportion of employees, saying that only 6% of the total UK construction workforce comes from abroad.

Lisa Harker, co-director of the institute, said: “It is more important than ever that the government does not use the recession as an excuse to restrict the numbers of migrant workers coming to the UK. Our research shows that, even in recession, migrant workers are essential in delivering the key construction projects that will help to boost local economies.

“The government must also help British workers to reap the benefits of these projects by ensuring they have access to training to give them the skills needed for future jobs.” The report added that government measures were required to protect workers from exploitive employers.