Williams: Immigration impact varies across society

17 Jan 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The impact of UK immigration differs across the different sectors of British society, according to a recent comment piece in the Guardian.

Written by Zoe Williams, the work highlights the regularity with which think tanks and organisations deliver conflicting evidence to support or condemn UK immigration.

Loosely explaining the disparity in findings, Ms Williams observes: “You can't really look at the effects of immigration without breaking Britain up into constituencies – high earners, employers, median earners, low earners, unskilled workers.”

In researching her work, the journalist spoke to Martin Ruhs from the Migration Observatory, who highlighted existing migrants as one of the groups most severely affected; “which you'd expect, since that's the group most similar to the migrants, so they're competing for the same jobs”.

When this sector of society are taken out of the equation, it is the lowest paid workers who are likely to gain the most from limitations imposed on UK visa numbers. This is due to the fact that sectors like health and social care – both large employers of migrant workers – tend to have had average wages driven down because immigrants on family of student UK visas are more likely to work “longer hours for less money because they're not entitled to benefits”.

Meanwhile, at the higher end of the market, limiting immigration often has a less constructive effect as businesses struggle to find the required skills for growth. This has been demonstrated with the recent curb on UK Tier 2 work permits as businesses have struggled to continue to attract the best workers in sectors such as finance and IT due to a skills gap in local talent.

While the details of the effects of the immigration reforms introduced by the coalition government are yet to be conclusively identified, it is clear that there has been some turmoil within the market in the wake of the changes as employers and immigrants across the board struggle to get used the the stricter regulations.