E.g., 04/17/2024
E.g., 04/17/2024
Moving Up the Ladder? Labor Market Outcomes in the United Kingdom amid Rising Immigration
May 2014

Moving Up the Ladder? Labor Market Outcomes in the United Kingdom amid Rising Immigration

The 2000s saw a significant increase in the foreign-born working-age population in the United Kingdom, in part because of the decision to forgo restrictions on the inflow of workers from the new European Union Member States. Starting in 2004, a large influx of labor from Eastern European countries—especially Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania—transformed the country’s immigrant population and labor market. 

This report analyzes the labor market integration of recent immigrants to the United Kingdom, based on UK Labour Force Survey data.  The report is part of a series of six case studies on labor market outcomes among immigrants to European Union countries.

This report is part of a research project funded by the European Union and conducted in collaboration with the International Labour Office. The case studies in this phase of the project consider the influence of individual characteristics and broader economic conditions on the employment prospects of foreign-born workers. The second phase will evaluate the effectiveness of integration and workforce development policies in helping foreign-born workers overcome these barriers and move up into middle-skilled positions that pay a family-sustaining wage. The six case study countries are the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.


This project is funded by the European Union

The analysis distinguishes between different cohorts based on the year of their arrival in the country. Newcomers—especially those who have arrived since 2000—were far more likely than natives to be in the lowest-skilled jobs. And new arrivals from within the European Union were almost three times more likely to be in low-skilled work than natives in 2012. However, over time all groups showed some progress in moving out of the lowest-skilled jobs.

In part as a result of their relative youth and high education levels, many new arrivals (especially those from the European Union and in particular the EU-12 countries) moved straight into work. The plentiful supply of labor from immigration coupled with the United Kingdom’s flexible labor market encouraged job creation during the 2000s. While the economic crisis of 2008 and subsequent recession affected employment rates, the United Kingdom did not experience the large-scale unemployment that other countries suffered. However, immigrants who entered after 2008 found it more difficult to get work. Newcomers' countries of origin, level of education, and time since arrival all shaped their occupational mobility and employment outcomes.


Table of Contents 

I.     Introduction

II.    Immigration in the United Kingdom

Educational Attainment, Gender, and Age Distributions

III.     Employment

A.    Region of Origin

B.    Level of Education

C.    Comparing Economic Conditions and Individual Characteristics as Explanations for Employment Outcomes

IV.       Occupational Distribution

A.    Sectoral Distribution

B.    Sector Pathways out of the Lowest-Skilled Jobs

V.    Conclusion