EU Migration to UK of Low-Skilled Threatened – Automation and Jobs

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In her speech on 3 October, the UK Prime Minister Teresa May said that once Brexit occurs, the UK will have a reduction in the number of low-skilled migrants with priority given to high-skilled workers and overall that there would be no favouritism given to EU migrants. According to The Migration Observatory, Oxford, there are about 500,000 EU migrants doing low-paid work in the UK. There are fears that for some, their jobs and position will be in danger.

Yet, this is not the only problem. Labour economists and futurists have voiced strong concerns about how automation and digitization could damage the entire low-skilled sector. There would be numerous redundancies and the wage gap increasing, with this mainly affecting the low-skilled. Research has been done by MPI Europe (the Migration Policy Institute) on this area and they warned how the situation for new migrants is likely to become more difficult.

MPI Europe’s report began when one of MPI’s researchers worried that the policy makers working on this area did not take into account the implications of the economists on the trends of the future workforce. Some policy makers seemed to believe that immigration of a large scale would be positive due to the increase in the elderly.  They felt that the country would need an increase in young people to deal with areas such as pensions.

However, what the policy makers seemed to have missed was that many migrants to Europe would have low-level skills with little formal education and those who did could have unrecognised qualifications.  So the latter could be overeducated. An OECD report done in 2012, found that 28.3% were overqualified for their job. With those born in the country, this was 17.6%.  It is more difficult for migrants to find work, than natives with or without qualifications. It is difficult for them to enter education or training in their host countries.