Myth: EU immigrants are taking Brits’ jobs
InFact: Researchers at Oxford, the LSE and NIESR agree; immigration doesn’t affect British employment. Meanwhile, Brexit would hit jobs.
Allied to the myth of EU immigrants putting “colossal downward pressure” on wages is the idea that migrants take jobs that could have gone to British workers. The Express published perhaps the purest – and most South Park-ian – version of this story in February, running the headline “MILLIONS of EU migrants grab our jobs”.
Intuitively, if immigrants are taking jobs from British workers, it would seem odd that we’re seeing a record high employment rate of 74.2% at a time when immigration is high. This intuition is borne out by a string of academic studies – from the Centre for Economic Policy at the London School of Economics, the Institute for the Study of Labour, and the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford – that show EU migrants aren’t putting Brits out of work.
The idea that every migrant worker takes a British job is known as the “lump of labour fallacy”. Immigrants can and do compete with British workers for existing jobs, but they also create new ones. Migrants, not just from the EU, directly create jobs when they start businesses and take on staff, something they are almost twice as likely to do as native Brits. They also create jobs indirectly, by adding to demand for the goods and services made by British workers. And by providing skills in short supply, they help companies compete better and so create yet more jobs.
That’s all well in theory, but it’s not enough to prove that immigrants aren’t taking jobs from British workers. That also requires some number crunching.
A survey of existing research from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford found that studies show no significant impact of immigration on UK-born employment or unemployment.
Using more recent data, Jonathan Portes of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research points out that “even in the short term EU migration does not appear to have had a negative impact on the employment outcomes of UK natives”.
This view is shared by the Centre for Economic Policy, which concluded that “we can confidently say that the empirical evidence shows that EU immigration has not had significantly negative effects on average employment, wages, inequality or public services at the local level for the UK-born.”
What’s more, Brexit could trigger a recession. That would certainly be bad for British jobs – with the young particularly badly hit.
Contacted for comment, the Daily Express newsdesk said: “Do you have nothing better to do?”, before hanging up.
Edited by Hugo Dixon