Politics

Migrants behind 20-year jobs boom in big cities before Brexit vote, study shows


Migrants fuelled a two-decade jobs boom in Britain’s economic hotspots, research shows today.

A study by the Resolution Foundation think tank reveals migrant workers accounted for 67% of “net employment growth” – extra jobs – in the South East, 74% in the West Midlands and 107% in Outer London.

In contrast, migrant workers accounted for just 27% of employment growth in Wales.

The figures show the extent to which the UK’s record employment relied on foreign workers.

The research could be seized on by lower-migration campaigners as evidence a disproportionate number of new jobs in some areas went to people from overseas.

But pro-migration lobbyists could point to the statistics as proof the country benefited from importing labour from abroad.



Many seasonal workers arrived from abroad to work in jobs like fruit picking

EU immigrant numbers have dipped since the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Net migration from the bloc to the UK dropped from 207,000 in 2015-16 to 58,000 in 2019-20. The figures come as the Government prepares to implement its points-based immigration system from January 1.

Publishing the Resolution Foundation’s Home and Away report, senior research and policy analyst Kathleen Henehan said: “Migrant workers have played a big role in the growth of the UK labour force over the last 25 years, particularly in major cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester.

“But the UK has been attracting fewer migrant workers since the referendum, and has likely seen an exodus of them during the pandemic.

“The new immigration regime being introduced in just a few weeks’ time will reinforce this major change for the UK labour market.

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“Firms reliant on lower-paid migrant labour will need to change how they operate over time.

“Higher unemployment may allow them to delay such decisions, but they can’t be avoided altogether.

“Government too will need to change how it works in the face of this labour market change, with the enforcement of employment rules needing to be strengthened given that some firms may respond to the tighter rules by hiring irregular migrant labour.”



New immigration rules come into force from January 1

More workers from the EU’s “A8 countries” – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia, which joined together in 2004 – left than arrived after the referendum.

Net migration from the eastern European nations dropped from 69,000 in 2015-16 to minus 16,000 by 2019-20.

The Foundation says firms and industries which rely on foreign workers “will need to adjust to this new immigration regime by introducing new business models, investing in automation, raising prices or shrinking”.





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