Prime minister Boris Johnson’s plan to impose “restrictive” immigration rules to drive a ‘high wage’ economy post-Brexit will fail, a leading think tank has warned today.
The Resolution Foundation, in collaboration with the London School of Economics, expect the government’s policy to restrict work-related immigration to those with higher-wage jobs will force sectors such as food manufacturing, warehousing and accommodation to shrink in the years ahead.
“Despite claims from both sides of the debate, the UK’s new migration regime will do little to change the UK’s economic trajectory, or its central low investment, low productivity challenges,” said senior researcher and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, Kathleen Henehan.
“Ultimately, a migration strategy is not a substitute for an economic strategy.”
Johnson’s plan may have worked at the turn of the century, when migrants from within the European Union (EU) and outside of the bloc were likely to find themselves in high-skill, higher paid, managerial and professional roles, according to the report.
However, this trend has flipped. In 2019, workers from overseas were significantly more likely than UK-born workers to work in low-paid jobs.
Henehan explained that over the past two decades, immigration has had a “profound” impact on the size of the UK’s workforce, with migrants driving more than three quarters of the growth in Britain’s labour between 1994 and 2019.
The proof was in the pudding when a collision of post-Brexit policy and Covid-19 restrictions saw businesses in the logisitics and food industries struggling to find staff.
The labour shortage saw fruit abandoned in fields and shelves looking emptier than usual, as farmers saw very little uptake in produce picking jobs and supermarkets battled with the trickling supply of lorry drivers.
“Evidence does not suggest that the coming change in the level and nature of migration will transform our economy, or our public finances,” she said.