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A study carried out by the Resolution Foundation think tank has found that migrants fuelled a 20-year jobs boom in Britain’s biggest cities, before the Brexit vote. According to the Resolution Foundation’s research, migrant workers accounted for 67% of ‘net employment growth’ – additional jobs – in the South East of England.
Meanwhile, migrant workers have also been attributed with jobs growth in the West Midlands (74%) and Outer London (107%). However, in Wales, migrant workers accounted for just 27% of employment growth.
Immigrant advocates have said that the Resolution Foundation study shows the extent that migrant workers are responsible for record employment figures in the UK. However, anti-immigrant groups claim that it demonstrates that too many jobs are disproportionately filled by migrant workers.
EU migrant worker numbers drop
The number of EU migrant workers arriving in the UK since the 2016 Brexit vote has slumped sharply. According to official data, net migration from EU countries plummeted from 207,000 in 2015-16 to 58,000 in 2019-20.
The Resolution Foundation’s study comes just weeks away from the launch of a new UK immigration system on 1 January, 2021.
Senior research and policy analyst for the Resolution Foundation, 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.
However, 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.”
Henehan warned that businesses reliant on low-paid migrant workers will have to adjust how they operate over time. She said: “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,” Henehan added.
EU ‘A8 countries’
According to official figures, more workers from the EU’s so-called ‘A8 countries’ – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia, which joined together in 2004 – left the UK than arrived following the referendum.
Meanwhile, net migration among Eastern European nations plummeted from 69,000 in 2015-16, to minus 16,000 by 2019-20.
The Resolution Foundation said: “UK firms and industry sectors that rely on foreign workers will need to adjust to the new UK visa and immigration regime by introducing new business models, investing in automation, raising prices or shrinking.”
A number of pro-immigrant groups have described the study as ‘proof that the UK has benefitted from importing foreign labour from overseas.’
The new UK immigration system has no provision for so-called, low-skilled migrants. Instead the Home Office has launched a new Tier 2 Skilled Worker visa program, which opened to applications on 1 December, to attract the best talent from around the world.
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