With a mere whimper, the government has released its controversial report (pdf) on the effects of immigration on ‘native UK employment’. Following Newsnight’s revelations that the report was being ‘held back’, Labour demanded its release. 24 hours later, it was put online while Theresa May was informing MPs of an inquiry into undercover policing after revelations about the treatment of Stephen Lawrence’s family. Here are the top five things you need to know from the paper:
1. There’s minimal evidence of migrants taking British jobs
The Home Office report titled ‘Impacts of migration on UK native employment‘ reveals there is ‘relatively little evidence’ of British workers being displaced — i.e. migrants taking the jobs of ‘natives’ — during good economic times. But the opposite may be true during recessions. As the report says:
‘The labour market adjusts to increased net migration when economic conditions are good. But during a recession, and when net migration volumes are high as in recent years, it appears that the labour market adjusts at a slower rate and some short-term impacts are observed.
2. Low-skilled Brits are affected more by migration
The authors believe any displacement that does exist is more likely to affect ‘low-skilled’ workers than the ‘high-skilled’ ones — tallying with James Brokenshire’s remarks in his Demos speech this morning:
‘The literature consistently suggests that any displacement effect is likely to be greatest for the low skilled – studies that distinguish between impacts on high-skilled and low-skilled workers more frequently find displacement effects on low-skilled workers, sometimes when there is no apparent displacement effect in aggregate.’
3. Even so, displacement will decrease over time
The report stresses that much of the research was undertaken during a period of high migration, which also happened to be a time of great economic growth. But they’re pretty sure that the market will always adjust for new arrivals:
‘The evidence also suggests that where there has been a displacement effect from a particular cohort of migrants, this dissipates over time – that is, any displacement impacts from one set of new arrivals gradually decline as the labour market adjusts, as predicted by economic theory. ‘
4. The ‘EU effect’ might not exist
The report says there is ‘little evidence’ of a ‘statistically significant impact from EU migration on native employment outcomes’. It does however note that such migration is still a ‘relatively recent phenomenon’. The report points out that net migration was negative from the late 60s to the early 80s, before turning around in the early 90s. When our immigration policy became less restrictive in the late 90s, there was a significant change, which increased further in 2004. Recently migration has fallen back, as a result of changes to our migration policy.
5. Digest with caution: the report has a narrow remit
Some of the concerns expressed over migration are related to social or cultural issues — none of which are covered by this report. The authors note their work ‘focuses narrowly on one of the potential economic effects’, which is on existing UK residents.
Therefore, one should take the findings in this context and not seen as a judgement on the immigration issue as a whole. Still, that doesn’t mean the Lib Dems and Tories can’t argue about what it says.