In a recent poll about the nation’s economic anxieties, the Guardian and ICM found out that 46 % of respondents consider ‘Immigrants undercutting workers’ as the primary motive behind the present state of British economy. The Guardian cites Martin Boon, director of ICM Research: “Ten years ago immigration would have been in the second half of the top 10 of Britons’ list of concerns. Now it is in the top three.” (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/16/insecure-britain-poll-economic-recovery-immigration)

There’s no doubt about one thing – the surge of immigrants during the last decade has radically changed the British job market. During the first decade of the 21st c., net immigration to Britain , i.e. the balance of people arriving over those who leaving, was on average under 200,000 per year. This figure stands in stark contrast to those of the preceding decades – in the 1980s, it was about 10,000, in 1990s – 50,000. It’s estimated that the surge of immigrants has delivered what can be considered the biggest change of the British population in the nation’s modern history.

The various concerns regarding the subject of immigration and its connection to the British job market were voiced during the 2014 EU elections, where questions like “Do immigrants take jobs from British people?” popping up. Some surveys, like the one conducted by the ONS’s Labor Force, would suggest immigrants to be responsible for the current economic shrinking – the report in question stated that while EU visitors have an employment rate of 77.2%, Briton’s chance to eb employed has fallen to 72.4%.

The idea that foreign-born workers hurt the wages of the British ones has therefore become a kind of consensus in British politics. To cite the Home Office and Business Department report: “Using a simple supply and demand model, immigration will tend to lower the wages of workers who are considered to be ‘substitutes’ to the immigrants.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/05/29/migrants-wages-uk-immigration_n_5409319.html)
But that’s not all – a 2009 study by London School of Economics has also pointed to the fact that the surge of immigrants is hurting most the unskilled job market, having a “significant, small, negative impact on average wages.” (http://ideas.repec.org/p/cep/sercdp/0034.html)

Is blaming immigrants for the current economic situation fair? The negative view promoted by the studies mentioned above is challenged by other empirical inquiries into the state of the British job market. Jonathan Portes, head of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, concludes: ” […] there is some evidence that migration, while having some positive impact on wages overall, might have a small negative impact for the low-paid. But these impacts appear quite small – other factors, like general labour market developments, or the minimum wage, appear to be considerably more important.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/05/29/migrants-wages-uk-immigration_n_5409319.html)

Cindy Boesel, BizStats.co.uk

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