Wednesday, March 28, 2018

More on the UK's Migrant Workers

The migration advisory committee debunks a number of myths, in particular, the claim that employers deliberately choose to recruit migrants rather than natives: 
“The vast majority of employers do not deliberately seek to fill vacancies with migrant workers. They seek the best available candidate. When a European Economic Area (EEA) migrant worker gets a job, it is because the employer thinks they are the best, sometimes the only, qualified applicant.”

Nor, taking into account occupation and so on, are there big wage gaps – even workers from new EU member states earn only about 4% less, while other EU migrants are paid much the same as UK-born workers. The Mac has no time at all for claims that immigration has had much to do with the abysmal performance of UK real wage growth since the financial crisis.  MAC concludes that EU migrants are, if anything, less likely to be paid less than the minimum wage than UK-born workers.

 Migrants from outside the EEA are significantly more likely to be underpaid.  It’s not hard to work out why this might be the case – non-EEA migrants, particularly if their right to be here is tied to their job, or if their immigration status is questionable, may not be able push back against bad employers. EEA workers can just walk. Free movement is good for workers’ rights – an often unappreciated point.

But while there’s no evidence of widespread undercutting of wages, the report also pushes back against claims by some employers that increasing wages wouldn’t make it easier to recruit British-born workers. Of course, it would, and some people would be better off. But it also notes that doesn’t mean making it harder for employers to recruit workers by reducing immigration would necessarily increase wages or living standards for the rest of us. Some firms would simply shrink or go out of business, and prices might rise.

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