Scotland's Future Struggle for Migrant Workers

Scotland's Future Struggle for Migrant Workers

Issued: Mon, 25 Jun 2018 12:10:00 BST

Professor Rebecca Kay and Dr Holly Porteous, based in our Central and Eastern European Studies area, have produced new research, along with Kyle Taggart and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, which suggests Scotland may struggle to find low-skilled migrant workers from the European Economic Area (EEA) post-Brexit. 

Their study, 'Choices Ahead: Approaches to lower skilled labour migration after Brexit' found that key Scottish sectors such as agriculture, care, construction and hospitality are likely to lose out to countries such as USA, Canada, Australia, and countries within the EEA. 

Rebecca said 'Each year thousands of European nationals fill lower-skilled job vacancies in many UK industries like agriculture and care work. Many have stayed longer-term, raising families and contributing to their local communities. Policy makers designing new immigration policy must consider the varied needs of these workers and the attractiveness of the UK as a destination. Policy design will impact both on our ability to attract migrant workers at all, and on the types of migrants who are willing to come to, or settle in our country.' 

The report's policy recommendations include:

  • Policy makers need to balance a range of labour market, demographic and social goals in developing policies to regulate low-skilled migration. But crucially, they also need to consider how different programmes are likely to affect decisions on mobility and settlement. A shift to a more restrictive system is likely to have substantial effects on the supply of EEA nationals into lower-skilled jobs.

  • Whatever programme is adopted, the UK and Scotland will have to compete with other countries as potential migrant destinations. For EEA nationals, other countries within the EEA will become attractive alternatives. Other English-speaking countries (USA, Canada or Australia) with more complex entry requirements may also begin to emerge as more attractive destinations, especially for younger migrants with good English-language skills.

The research has attracted widespread media coverage, with the team interviewed for TV and radio, and the research featuring in several publications. 

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