MAC Report: Growth of EU and non-EU Labour in Low-Skilled Jobs

This month, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its report on the growth of EU and non-EU labour in low-skilled jobs and its impact of the UK. In May 2013, the Minister for Immigration asked the MAC to review migrant employment in low-skilled. The Minister wanted to know what drives migrants to go into low skill work and the impact that it has on the UK’s socially and economically. In 2013 there were around 13 million people in low-skilled jobs in the UK, of which 2.1 million  were born abroad. This increase in migrants in low-skilled occupations has sparked concern of exploitation in the form of:  a failure to pay minimum wages; ensuring decent working conditions; forcing workers to accept sub-standard accommodation; forcing workers to pay for things that they do not need through deductions from their wages; and having workers’ passports retained.

Migrants and UK workers in low-skilled jobs

The report published by MAC, found that 58% of migrants in low skilled work were born outside the EU. Since the introduction of the Point Based System in 2008, the UK has not created an immigration route for low-skilled employment. There was the Tier 3 route which would have applied, but never came into fruition.

Since 2004, over 300,000 Polish nationals are working in low skilled jobs in the UK. Half of all migrants in low-skilled jobs have come to the UK since 2004. This is due to the  EU enlargement in 2004 and 2007. Since 2010, approximately 289,000 migrants from countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy, have come to the UK to work in low skilled jobs. This explains that the relatively poor economic performance of the Euro zone economies and the reasoning for high unemployment. It was found that just over 100,000 came from non-EU countries.

In 2013, there were 29.7 million people aged 16 & over working in the UK. 13.4 million of those were employed in low-skilled occupations, approximately 2.1 million migrants occupied these positions.

Changes to Immigration Policy have been a Significant Factor
behind the rise in Migration to the UK

The changes in the patterns of migration in the UK over the last 20 years has been heavily down to the changes to UK immigration policies. Other domestic policies play a part too. These include education and training policy.

There has been an increase in the number of work permits granted and a rise in the number of asylum applications accepted. There has also been modest increases for family and student immigration, all contributed to increase non-EU immigration by over 100,000 between the mid and late 1990s. Tier 1 applications have increased from 118 in 2009 to approximately 10,000 in 2013, with the UK Government fearing that the entrepreneur visa is being used as a route to low-skilled work for migrants. UK born employees in high skilled work has increased by 2 million, in comparison to the 1.1 million decline in UK born employment in low skilled work. Migrant employment increased by 1.1 million in low skilled work and increased by 1.3 million in high skilled work.

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