Immigrants aren't taking your job

After your job? Research shows no connection between immigration and unemployment
After your job? Research shows no connection between immigration and unemployment
Ian Dunt By

One of the things about immigration which makes it so politically explosive is the way it plays on the fears of right and left. For the right, it signifies a dilution of indigenous British culture. For the left, it threatens to dampen worker's wages and living standards by allowing foreigners to compete for jobs. Many in the Labour party and beyond look at youth unemployment levels and fear immigrants are at least partly responsible.

Except it isn't true. New research from the London School of Economics (LSE) found immigration does not keep down wages or lead to an increase in unemployment. They don't even disproportionately take new jobs. In short, the economic effects we presumed of immigration appear to be false.

Researchers collected data from British counties, comparing their unemployment rate for UK workers with changes in their immigration share. There was no correlation.

Of course, the fact there was no average effect might just have been masking changes in the low wage market, where many immigrants tend to find work. But again, the authors found no connection between changes in a counties' immigration rate and the number of people who left school at 16 and were not in education, employment or training. Counties which experienced the largest rises in immigrants experienced neither larger nor smaller rises in native-born unemployment.

Once they were satisfied immigration wasn't increasing unemployment, authors switched their attention to wages. Here again, they could find little evidence of a strong correlation between changes in wages of the UK-born and local area immigration.

Finally, the paper looked at new jobs. There is a fairly common assertion among politicians and journalists that immigrants are taking all of them, typified by Boris Johnson's concerns about why sandwich chain Pret a Manger always seems to be full of foreign workers. Again, it's nonsense. The actual immigrant share of jobs which have lasted less than three months is broadly the same as the share of immigrants in the working age population.

As the authors noted:

"On balance, the evidence on the UK labour market suggests that fears about adverse consequences of rising immigration regularly seen in opinion polls have not, on average, materialised. There is still no evidence of an overall negative impact of immigration on jobs, wages, housing or the crowding out of public services. Any negative impacts on wages of less skilled groups are small. One of the largest impacts of immigration seems to be on public perceptions."

The right wing fear of immigration has always shown a remarkable lack of faith in the endurance and strength of British culture. This very old, very consistent country has far more effect on the character of those who inhabit it than they do upon it, although the changes they do bring - to food, culture and general vitality - are very welcome. It now appears the left's concerns are no more valid than the right's.

How long will it be before the UK realises that immigration is a win-win, for immigrants and Brits alike?


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