The Economic Impacts of Migration on the UK Labour Market

Published Thu 26 Feb 2009
The effects of migration in both the short and long run are too complex for economic theory to deliver exact predictions about its impacts on employment and wages. However, the best previous evidence suggests that the overall effects of migration on wages are either insignificantly different from zero, or slightly positive. The evidence base on the effects of migration on employment in the UK, though relatively thin, suggests that the effects are not significantly different from zero. All effects noted are very small.

The impact of migration on the UK labour market has become a contentious issue in public and political debate, with critics suggesting that immigration reduces wages or employment for the UKborn population. This argument has become particularly prominent since the arrival of large numbers of migrants from Central and Eastern Europe since 2004.

This paper attempts to cut through the distortions and hyperbole of recent debates. We provide a balanced and informed assessment of the best existing evidence on the effects of migration on the labour market.

The effects of migration in both the short and long run are too complex for economic theory to deliver exact predictions about its impacts on employment and wages. However, the best previous evidence suggests that the overall effects of migration on wages are either insignificantly different from zero, or slightly positive. The evidence base on the effects of migration on employment in the UK, though relatively thin, suggests that the effects are not significantly different from zero. All effects noted are very small.

Report Co-Author Howard Reed delivered this presentation at a seminar held by the Swedish think-tank FORES in May 2009.

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