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CEP policy analysis

Immigration and the UK Labour Market: The latest evidence from economic research


During periods of strong economic growth, migration is and has always been important for filling gaps in the labour market. On balance, the evidence for the UK labour market suggests that fears about the consequences of rising immigration have been exaggerated. It is hard to find evidence of much displacement of UK workers or lower wages, on average. Immigrants, especially in recent years, tend to be younger and better educated than the UK-born and are less likely to be unemployed. They certainly do not receive preferential access to housing. But there have been some effects. The less skilled may have experienced greater downward pressure on wages and greater competition for jobs than others, but these effects still appear to have been modest. Unfortunately we do not know much about whether the effects of immigration are different in downturns. We also need to understand more about how capital and sectoral shifts in demand respond to immigration over the longer run. Future migration trends will, as ever, depend on relative economic performance and opportunity. But we still need to know more about the effects of rising immigration beyond the labour market in areas like prices, housing, health, crime and welfare.


Jonathan Wadsworth

25 June 2012     Paper Number CEPPA014

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This CEP policy analysis is published under the centre's Labour markets programme.