Employment

New research shows the migrant employment boom has not impacted UK workers

The Resolution Foundation report shows lower-employment urban Britain as playing an integral role in work growth while “catching up” with the rest of the country, though equivalent rural areas struggled to keep up

EPA/Andy Rain

Research by think tank the Resolution Foundation has revealed that migrants have benefited from employment growth since the 2008 financial crisis – but not to the detriment of native workers.

Report Setting the record straight found that the number in work has risen 2.8 per cent since the onset of the recession in 2008, sitting at 32.5 million as of October last year.

But it refuted the oft-pedalled idea that migrants are behind the employment boom, or depriving native workers of jobs. Migrants accounted for two-thirds of the rise in employment since 2008, partly because they have grown in number. But UK-born people in work rose to a record high of 75.8 per cent in the same period.

Figures also showed that disadvantaged groups including ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and people with few qualifications were brought into employment at higher rates than before.

The report described lower-employment urban Britain as playing an integral role in work growth while “catching up” with the rest of the country, though equivalent rural areas struggled to keep up.

While employment levels are now healthier than they were pre-financial crisis, its impact is evident in insecure work figures. The numbers of agency workers, part time and zero-hour contracts are higher than they were before the economy tanked. One in seven workers are self-employed while 780,000 people do not work with fixed hours and 950,000 get work through agencies.

Young people have been hit particularly hard by precarious employment, with agency and zero-hour contract work rising 50 per cent faster for 18 to 29 year-olds than other groups. That said, atypical work was found to have plateaued since 2016 as the labour market tightened.

Additionally, wages were confirmed as having stagnated over a “lost decade” – the average remained at £25 lower than the wage high prior to the financial crisis.

The think tank pointed to the “extremely poor performance of pay and productivity” in recent years as being definitive of the last decade’s employment record and at the root of unreliable employment.

Stephen Clarke, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Ten years ago, when the UK was in the depths of recession, few would have predicted that Britain would break new employment records again so quickly. But that is exactly what has happened.

“Record employment levels have changed Britain and seen falling ‘employment inequality’, as the 2.7 million jobs boom has particularly benefited lower-income families and disadvantaged groups.

“While the jobs surge has not been as dominated by London or low paid work as some claim, new challenges have developed – particularly for younger workers and with a big rise in insecure work. And while more people are working, as a country we are still earning less each week for doing so than we were ten years ago.”

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