Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages

Ed Miliband shouldn’t let unsupported myths about immigration cloud his thinking on the issue.

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Ed Miliband today revealed Labour’s immigration strategy, in a speech much of the media saw as an “apology” for the previous government’s immigration record.

Ed-Miliband-IPPR-immigration-speechThe majority of what was said appears to have gone unchallenged, however, Miliband made one point about the impact of immigrants on wage levels that commentators have been quick to disprove.

He claimed:

“To have an effective immigration policy, we must also reform how our economy works so that it works for all working people in Britain, whoever they are and wherever they come from. That means tougher labour standards to do more to protect working people from their wages and conditions being undermined.

“And action to create a different kind of economy: one which offers working people rewarding and high-skill jobs. So what happened?

“First of all, as a result of immigration combined with weak labour standards in some sectors, there was a direct effect on wages, especially in lower skilled jobs.”

Jonathan Portes, writing for the Independent, referred to a number of sources that dispelled the overwrought myth of immigration affecting wage levels, as Chart 14 shows.

Chart 14:

A report (pdf) from IZA, the Institute for the Study of Labor, entitled “New Labour? The Impact of Migration from Central and Eastern European Countries on the UK Labour Market”, concluded:

Indeed, the impact of such a large and rapid migration shock on wages and unemployment is a crucial labour market issue. This is specially so given the heated public debate on migration – and in particular on migration from current and future accession countries.

Yet, there is currently very limited evidence on migration effects on the UK – and even less so on the  effects of the recent EU enlargement.

While a report (pdf) from the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) states:

Despite negative media coverage, there is no evidence that this expansion led, on average, to a setback of wages of workers born in the UK.


See also:

Time to talk about integration 6 Mar 2012

Playing the blame game – it’s all the immigrants fault… 20 Jan 2012

DWP evidence says migrants aren’t benefit cheats. DWP’s spin says… 20 Jan 2012

Immigration policy should support UK economic growth, not undermine it 5 Dec 2011

So is Britain really “full up”? 1 Nov 2011


Miliband shouldn’t let unsupported myths about immigration cloud his thinking on the issue.


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48 Responses to “Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages”

  1. Melanie RJo

    .@Ed_Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages, writes @LFFKatie:

  2. Stephen Hutchinson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages

  3. Geoffrey Pearson

    .@Ed_Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages, writes @LFFKatie:

  4. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages

  5. Jennifer Hynes

    .@Ed_Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages, writes @LFFKatie:

  6. Legal Aware

    .@Ed_Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages, writes @LFFKatie:

  7. Political Planet

    Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages: Ed Miliband shouldn’t let unsupported myt…

  8. Selohesra

    If there is a bandwagon he will jump on it – he just can’t help himself

  9. Kevin

    Wage bargaining in the building industry is done site to site and because its casualised piecework, highly cost sensitive. The influx of Eastern Europeans has had a dramatic effect on wages for British construction workers post-2004 EU accession of Poland.

    The other obvious effect is that large construction companies get off scot-free for contributing towards apprenticeships and training.

  10. Max Ryan

    Yes but there has been direct evidence showing that migration has caused a suppression of wages and employment levels of UK born workers in low-paid and low-skilled jobs (the people who Labour should be protecting) and an increase in earnings of the higher-paid. Simply pointing out an average effect does not show this.

  11. jaydeepee

    Absolutely right about the construction industry. Also, for some unknown reason, there was a large influx of Brazilian workers on sites around London via Portugal or the usual student visa route.

    This issue of workers being displaced by cheaper foreign workers came up time and time again on the doorstep in the mayoralty election (from all races, also) and was a huge barrier that prevented Labour voters voting and not voting.I presume this was fed back to the Labour leadership and has been acknowledged.

  12. Sumedh Rao Left Foot Forward blog response to Miliband's speech and migrant myths about lowering wages.

  13. Hamish Livingstone

    .@Ed_Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages, writes @LFFKatie:

  14. Yk129

    And if you believe what Migrationwatch tell you then you really are a lost cause

  15. Blarg1987

    The problem with the evidence is that it is things that won’t be put on paper, if we look at certain professions and jobs, i.e. bus drivers and store managers, where new people were imported from Eastern Europe or jobs advertised there, as well as cash in hand jobs and hours worked over contracted hours, it will be easier to see if wages have fallen.

    Also there is growing evidence to support wage suppression as about 5 years ago when channel 4 did an interview witha company employing labour from Eastern Europe their reply was we can not find the people in the UK as they are not applying, the other commentator then asked the question then why do you not increase the wages to which the reply was silence.

    Immigration can be a good thing but full eemployement should be achieved first if comapnies say they need skill sets, then they should have to prove it and not use cost as a reason.

  16. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages

  17. Look Left – After Austerity, Netroots 2012 and Cameron’s tax dodger hypocrisy | Left Foot Forward

    […] Miliband, who, in his IPPR speech on immigration today, repeated the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages. He claimed that, as a result of immigration “combined with […]

  18. Anonymous

    Like you, you mean. There’s never a way to murder the poor you don’t gushingly love.

  19. Anonymous

    That’s because of the low vocational skill training levels among British people.

  20. Anonymous

    And then guess what happens? That’s right, they go elsewhere where they can get the specialists they need without paying tens of thousands to the Government. We’re seeing it already, actually.

    I’m talking high-five-figure salary earners here…

  21. Anonymous

    Great, where’s the peer reviewed study showing this? After all, anything that obvious WILL have been studied.

  22. Blarg1987

    And I was talking about bus drivers, plumbers, and every day jobs, that most ordinary people can do with a bit of time and investment as well as an appropiate salary to supportthemselves which seems to be the thing lacking from most companies.

  23. Anonymous

    “Bit”? Plummer is a vocational skill, ffs, a trained profession.

    (No offence, but this is exactly the problem, a bias against technical/hands-on jobs in English society. I’m in a creative job for which I have a talent, but I worked for some years as technician and the snobbery…)

    And the thing is, without the experts they won’t set up here. They might need two experts and a hundred normal people, but without the experts? Not happening. They can get the normal people anywhere.

  24. Adam Ladley

    Though on average there isn’t any evidence of a setback in wages, it is likely that for those on lower incomes there will have been a setback.

  25. stickyourpeerreview

    Fake Labour are so out of touch with Real Labour it’s frightening.

  26. Blarg1987

    I was using them as examples of jobs where we have imported labour on the pretense of we need those skills rather then train people. I agree there is a bias towards academci rather then practical skills, however I find it sad that private companies expect tax payers to provide specilists for them to employ straight away without having to do any training themselves when in many other countries employers train people up as an investment.

  27. henryflea

    hey check out a chance to talk with real progressive activists and suport charity

  28. Anonymous

    Not to mention the crappy ongoing training provided in most jobs (Or rather, none).

    But I’d point out that the right have (successfully, sadly) had a thing about reducing university attendance RATHER than increasing vocational training.

    Add their plan in to award 25% of students trash qualifications…

  29. Last of the steeplemen

    Trouble is you will never have fair wages whiled the people of this country refuse to pay anything for products. Whiled we continue to buy the cheapest options employers will continue to use whatever means necessary to keep costs down.

  30. Blarg1987

    There needs to be a system where by peoples skills are found out as young as possible so if they are very good academically encourgage the academic route idf they are good vocationally then the vocational route should bee encouraged.

    It is ironic that the current goverment was the one that pressured academic qualifications over others as it was cheaper to the tax payer rather then look at the system that would benefit the who;e economy long term.

  31. Kevin Donnelly

    #LabourParty Leader Miliband talking rubbish on immigration – says LeftFootFprward #YESscot @ScottishLabour #sp4

  32. Stephen Bond

    This argument isn’t that convincing, as someone who has studied this subject (and as a progressive). Two reasons –

    1) You can’t put a graph and claim that causation only works one way. Immigration could have a negative impact on wages, but immigration could equally go to places with higher wage growth – the two could cancel out.

    2) Certain SECTORS will be impacted. If immigration is unskilled, unskilled wages will fall because employers have more power. But other groups (i.e. skilled, capital holders) can do well, so the aggregate impact isn’t negative even though one group of people has been very negatively impacted.

  33. Rebekah Delsol

    .@Ed_Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages, writes @LFFKatie:

  34. Anonymous

    I can’t agree. Streaming before 16 is considered detrimental in evidence-based teaching.

  35. Derek Scott

    #LabourParty Leader Miliband talking rubbish on immigration – says LeftFootFprward #YESscot @ScottishLabour #sp4

  36. UK Workers News

    Miliband shouldn't repeat the myth about immigrants' impacts on … – Left Foot Forward

  37. Anonymous

    So Milliband lurches Labour even further to the right? What price socialism now? Labour have just become Tory-Lite.

  38. Blarg1987

    Not necessarily if you keep reviewing their skill sets as well i.e. some peoples skill sets develop at certain rates, one thing that shouldd be done is having specilists going into school every few years to pick up on any mental disabilities so that teaching can be tailored around them more easily so people reach their full potential and can make adjustments to their own lives earlier on making it easier for them to more easily assimilate into society without finding out later in life and making adjustments later.

  39. Alan Cowan

    Miliband shouldn’t repeat the myth about immigrants’ impacts on wages | Left Foot Forward

  40. Anonymous

    Sorry, evidence-based teaching’s results is quite clear. This isn’t about mental disabilities (where the cheaper, more effective option is training teachers to do proper referrals), but normal differences in aptitude, where instead of streaming having quicker pupils assist slower ones is more advantageous. To both sides.

    Really, have a read up on the Finnish school system.

  41. Anonymous

    I can madlib as well, but as a little point? Left wing, not labourite.

  42. Anonymous


  43. JC

    A plumber is a trained professional? I suppose they are in comparison to amateurs, but on par with a barrister or a surgeon?

  44. Anonymous

    Who said “on par”? They remain trained professionals…this is the very prejudice which is a problem, again!

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  48. Pawel

    Earlier in 2012 the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) reported an established link between displacement, wage/salary suppression and immigration. Miliband was entirely correct in his remarks.

    “..[MAC] also looked at the effect of migration on salaries, and found overall wages for the most well-paid people went up, while those at the bottom went down..”

    The rich getting richer and the poor having their wages/salary suppressed and reduced, nice! I’ll not accuse the author of this article of being a liar or of deliberately omitting mention of MAC’s findings, but they are certainly wrong to perpetuate the myth, and should retract this article.

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