This afternoon, after a wave of criticism, the government finally published a controversial report on the impact of migrants on British jobs – adding to a coalition row over immigration policy. Yesterday, we reported that Downing Street were blocking the publication of the politically sensitive report which revealed the impact of immigration on the job prospects of British workers is well below that claimed by ministers. The joint Home Office and Business Department report acknowledges that the impacts of migration on the UK are complex and wide-ranging, affecting economic, social and cultural aspects of life in the UK. The report, which was compiled by government analysts, concludes that there is “little evidence” migrant workers have a “statistically significant” impact on jobs of British workers, especially when the economy is strong.
The analysts state that although it was difficult to predict the impacts of future migration on native employment with any great degree of certainty, they were able to make an informed judgement based on existing evidence to provide the following conclusions:
- There is relatively little evidence that migration has caused statistically significant displacement of UK natives from the labour market in periods when the economy has been strong. However, in line with some recent studies, there is evidence for some labour market displacement in recent years when the economy was in recession.
- Displacement effects are also more likely to be identified in periods when net migration volumes are high, rather than when volumes are low – so analyses that focus on data prior to the 2000s are less likely to find any impacts. In addition, where displacement effects are observed, these tend to be concentrated on low skilled natives.
- This suggests that the labour market adjusts to increased net migration when economic conditions are good. But during a recession, and when net migration volumes are high as in recent years, it appears that the labour market adjusts at a slower rate and some short-term impacts are observed.
- To date there has been little evidence in the literature of a statistically significant impact from EU migration on native employment outcomes, although significant EU migration is still a relatively recent phenomenon and this does not imply that impacts do not occur in some circumstances.
- The evidence also suggests that where there has been a displacement effect from a particular cohort of migrants, this dissipates over time – that is, any displacement impacts from one set of new arrivals gradually decline as the labour market adjusts, as predicted by economic theory.