The ‘almost unprecedented’ influx of 1.5million Eastern European workers into the UK in recent years is likely to have driven down the wages of less well-off Britons, the equalities watchdog said yesterday.

Poorer parts of the country may become locked in a ‘vicious circle’ where the only jobs which are created are low-skilled and likely to be taken by migrants, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission said in a landmark study.

The research also found that, overall, Eastern Europeans had better employment rates than British workers and had received dramatically bigger pay rises from bosses who value their ‘excellent work ethic’.

‘Their wages have grown by an average of 5 per cent a year compared with 1 per cent for natives’, the study says. Many are highly skilled but downgrade their ‘occupational status’ when they come to the UK, making them more attractive to employers.

Researchers for the EHRC examined dozens of studies into the ‘almost unprecedented scale and speed’ of migration from Eastern Europe since 2004 when the UK’s labour market was thrown open to workers from Poland and seven other former Eastern Bloc countries.

They estimate that 1.5million people have arrived here, although only 700,000 remain, and found that the ‘new EU citizens’ overall fiscal impact is probably small but positive’.

But their report adds: ‘Perhaps more significant is the impact on local areas: local public services have had to adjust to concentrated increases in population and larger numbers of non-English speakers.’

The warning that wage levels for poorer Britons may have been hit will worry the Government – particularly coming just after Communities Secretary John Denham was forced to admit that many working class whites had been left struggling to adapt to the new Britain.

Ministers had always denied that pay to British workers had suffered from the influx of Eastern Europeans predominantly doing low-skilled jobs.

But the report, written for the EHRC by the Migration Policy Institute, says: ‘The recent migration may have reduced wages slightly at the bottom end of the labour market, especially for certain groups of vulnerable workers, and there is a risk that it could contribute to a “low-skill equilibrium” in some economically depressed areas.’ It defines this as ‘a situation in which the local labour force has low skill levels and so local employers only create low-productivity jobs’.