Is EU migration letting lazy or miserly employers off the hook?

The addition of a million EU migrants to the UK workforce over the past decade has led to considerable debate as to what impact this may be having on the UK labour market. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recently reported that most of the academic studies found 'either a small or no impact on the employment or unemployment outcomes' of British workers. 

However, there is little evidence covering the specific impact on the employment and training prospects of young people, or indeed the growth prospects of UK businesses.  Our report, 'The Growth of EU Labour: Assessing the Impact on the UK Labour Market', published today seeks to answer some of these questions - with conclusions that will challenge some common assumptions.

Employers are hiring EU migrants because of the skills, experience and commitment they bring to the role.  Many employers also report hiring migrants due to a shortage of UK candidates. The result is that employers who've employed EU migrants during the past two years are more likely to have grown than those who haven't. And growth is what is needed to create jobs and further reduce UK unemployment.

We've also found that, far from hiring 'off-the-shelf' migrants to offset the need to invest in training, employers who recruit EU migrants are more likely to invest in training schemes such as apprenticeships. Nor are employers hiring EU migrants to cut the wage bill.  Only a small proportion (12%) recruits EU migrants because they have lower pay and employment conditions' expectations.

However, while it is true that migrants are largely playing a complementary role to the existing workforce, the report also makes clear that EU migrants have made it more difficult for low skilled or unskilled young people to find work. This is because EU8 migrants (those from the eight countries that joined the EU in 2004), a disproportionately high number of whom are experienced employees aged 24 and above and often with degrees, are finding work in the same low-skilled sectors as young people are targeting for their first jobs.

Which leaves the question, what we can we do to improve the prospects of young people?  Improvements to careers advice and closer links between employers and schools and further education will certainly be important vehicles to bridging this gap.  I also wonder if Government should also be considering restricting government funding for apprenticeships for existing employees, so there is a greater incentive to make these opportunities available to younger workers, just entering the labour market.

One thing that our research suggests won't help is adding further arbitrary restrictions on employers ability to recruit the migrant workers they need to grow. Our research suggests this would be likely to do more harm than good to job creation and the availability of opportunities for all jobseekers.

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  • Missed you in Manchester tonight but my question is where are the migrants working and for whom and what are the flow stats.

    Peter Copping CFCIMP