Youth Unemployment and Immigration: More than a Coincidence Says Report


January 09, 2012

A new report has highlighted the ‘remarkable coincidence’ between the rise in youth unemployment in the UK and the huge surge in immigration from Eastern Europe over the last eight years.

The report by think-tank Migration Watch UK shows that there is an apparent correlation between this surge and the surge in UK youth unemployment that followed.

Between the first quarter of 2004 and the third quarter of 2011, employment of workers born in the so called A8 countries increased by over 600,000. Over the same period the number of unemployed young people in the UK almost doubled, from 575,000 to just over a million.

‘As our report makes clear, measuring the effect of the recent unprecedented immigration levels on youth unemployment is not an exact science - and many attempts to do so have been criticised,’ said Sir Andrew Green, Migration Watch chairman.

‘Correlation is not causation but when the two statistics are placed side by side most objective people would consider it a very remarkable coincidence if there was no link at all between them, especially as migrants from the A8 have tended to be disproportionately young, well-educated, prepared to work for low wages and imbued with a strong work ethic,’ he said.

Such studies as have been undertaken have had greater success with gauging the impact on wage levels of migration into the UK, which – for the lowest 15 per cent of earners – have been adversely impacted.

The accession of eight former Soviet-bloc countries in Eastern Europe – the A8 - to the European Union from May 2004, led to a very substantial migration from these countries to the UK. Around 1.6 million workers from the A8 came to the UK during the seven year transition period and the number of people from these countries working in the UK increased by 600,000. The impact on the UK labour market has been significant – for example, in 2006-07 alone almost 223,000 Polish migrants registered in the UK to work. However, a study by the NIESR in April 2011 of the economic impact of this EU enlargement found that “the long run impact on [UK] GDP per capita can be expected to be negligible”

Sir Andrew said that while the economic downturn has undoubtedly had a major impact on youth unemployment the fact that so many migrants have found work in such difficult employment conditions demonstrates that there are jobs there to be had - although large numbers of them are going to foreign born workers.

Said Sir Andrew: ‘It is implausible and counter-intuitive to suggest – as the previous Government and some economists have done - that A8 migration has had virtually no impact on UK youth unemployment in this period.

‘Accurate estimation of the size of the impact is beset with problems of statistical ‘noise’ and more research is needed to assess the true scale of the impact.  We hear a great deal from employers about the value of immigrant labour, especially from Eastern Europe, but there are also costs some of which have undoubtedly fallen on young British born workers’, he said.



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