T. Frattini
Report for the Migration Policy Institute
Publication year: 2014


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.

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.