The Economic Characteristics Of Migrants In The Uk In 2014

Key labour market outcomes of migrants to the UK show wide variation, particularly in employment status, wages and benefit claims.  In these terms migrants from some regions have particularly strong economic characteristics compared to those born in the UK while others have much weaker economic characteristics.

Assessments of the current and future impact of immigration to the UK often assume that there is no difference in the economic characteristics of migrants in the UK. The justification given for this is that overall the migrant population tends to be younger and thus more likely to be working.  However, such assessments rarely take into account either the type of employment or the rewards of it.

While much debate is conducted in terms that distinguish between EU and non-EU migration, it is clear that the picture of labour market outcomes is not simple, with both groups containing a mix of countries from which migrants to the UK exhibit very different characteristics.

The group of migrants in the UK from Western Europe, India, South Africa and the ‘Anglosphere’ exhibit strong economic characteristics – they have high rates of employment at good wages and low rates of benefit claim.

Migrants from Eastern Europe also have high rates of employment but they have lower wages and higher rates of benefit claim than those born in the UK.

Migrants from Africa apart from South Africa have overall employment rates and wages on a par with the UK-born, but much higher rates of benefit claim.

Migrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh have lower rates of employment combined with lower wages and higher rates of benefit claim.

Overall outcomes in comparison to the population of UK-born residents  are summarised in the following table.

  Employment rate Wages Rate of benefit claim Approx adult population
EU15 Better Better Better 1.25 million
EU A10 Better Worse Worse 1.25 million
USA, Australia

and NZ

Better Better Better 250 thousand
Africa (excluding South Africa) Similar Similar Worse 1 million
South Africa Better Better Better 150 thousand
India Better Better Better 700 thousand
Pakistan and Bangladesh Worse Worse Worse 650 thousand
Rest of World Similar Slightly worse Slightly worse  2 million

Some large migrant populations are not strong economic performers when examining these three key characteristics, and economic performance even equivalent to that of the UK-born population cannot be inferred simply from generally younger age or likelihood of being in work.

Read the full briefing paper here:


21st July 2015 - Economics

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