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What impact does Immigration have on the UK's labour market?

From local coffee shops to kebab shops; from hospitality to business and finance, international immigration has permeated the very heart of the British economy. It has almost become key component of the complex machine called the British economy. This huge influx of internationals have both triggered Brexit and led to the success and stability of the British economy over the years.

Immigration account for over 1.5 million of the workforce in the wholesale, retail, health and hospitality industry, according to an official analysis.

According to a research from the Office for National Statistics, migrants from the EU make up to 10 percent of employees in certain key sectors of the UK economy.

The research also show that eastern European migrants are more likely to work longer hours for lesser wages than other workers. Further analysis of data from ONS show that UK international migrants in general are more likely to be over-qualified for the job they do than their UK counterparts.

Alarmingly, last year alone, around 3.4m workers (11% of the entire UK labour market) came from countries outside the UK. Over 64% of that figure was made of workers from the EU. 61% of eastern European migrants work over 40 hours a week, whereas their UK counterparts only work 32 hours within the same industry. The same ONS data show that around 14 percent (one is seven workers) in the wholesale, retail and hospitality industry are international migrants.

Even in the skilled sector, the impact that international migrants still cannot be overstated. International migrants make up around 12 percent of the entire workforce in the financial and business services sector in the UK.

The divide between Eastern Europe and Western Europe - An issue for negotiation table

Reports show that a divide exist between migrants from eastern European countries (eg Poland and Bulgaria) and migrants from western European countries (eg France and Germany). We see that migrants from Eastern European countries make up a large chunk of the unskilled labour force in the UK, while those from Western Europe appear to be paid higher and mostly find themselves in skilled jobs. This divide will have key ramifications in Brexit negotiations as ministers look to device a working immigration policy from Europe that will benefit the British people.

The wage levels between eastern European and western European migrants also reflect this divide. Migrants from western European countries earn an average of £12.59 an hour. Whereas eastern European migrants earn around £8.33 an hour.

Such is the magnitude of impact international migration has on the British economy.

Embarking on major immigration curbs after Brexit may result massive labour shortages in both the skilled and unskilled sector.

Summary of the numbers

International migrants make up to 14% of the workforce in the wholesale, retail and hospitality industry; in the business and financial industry, non-UK migrants make up to 12% of the workforce. More than a quarter migrants work in the public sector.


As Anna Bodey, a migration analyst for the ONS rightly put, "This analysis shows the significant impact international migration has on the UK labour market".

We do not for a second suggest the that UK will entirely cut immigration to the UK so are arguing to ensure that this does not happen; nor do we think that the government is blind to the role international migrants play in keeping the British economy booming. What we are saying however, is, if international migrants play a key role in the growth and prosperity of the British economy, we must have this at the back of our minds at the negotiation table for Brexit. Cutting immigration figures unreasonably may only be satisfying the wants of few Brexiteers, but in the bigger picture may hurt the economy.

Reiss Edwards is a leading immigration law firm based in Central London. If you have questions on any immigration matter, please feel free to contact our immigration lawyers on 02037442797 or send us an email on

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