The UK’s shift towards a more restrictive migration regime after Brexit will not deliver the “high wage” economy promised by prime minister Boris Johnson, a report shows.
The analysis from the Resolution Foundation says the restricting freedom of movement will drive change in the labour market but will not have a big impact on the UK’s economy in terms of wages.
Immigration has significantly altered the size and composition of the UK labour force over the past two decades.
Between 1994 and 2019, the UK labour force grew by 18% (4.9 million), with migrants comprising over three-quarters (77%) of this growth, and EU workers alone accounting for over a third (34%) of total labour force growth.
Over this period, EU migrants have become increasingly over-represented in lower-paid occupations. By 2019, EU workers were significantly more likely than UK-born workers to work in low-paid jobs such as plant operatives or elementary roles.
The report argues that the impact of the new migration regime on the economy as a whole is likely to be small.
“The prime Minister’s claims that controlled migration is the key to a new high wage economic strategy are overdone,” the report said.