The impact of free movement on the labour market: case studies of hospitality, food processing and construction

| Publication date: 27 Apr 2016 | Theme: Exiting the EU | NIESR Author(s): Rolfe, H; Hudson-Sharp, N

This report is an in-depth study of three sectors employing large numbers of EU migrants – hospitality, food and drink, and construction – and finds employers concerned about their ability to fill vacancies if free movement of labour is reduced or comes to an end. Some are also worried that any EU workers they currently employ would lose their right to live and work in the UK in the event of Brexit. 

The research also reveals that:

  • Employers do not look specifically to recruit EU migrants, but use recruitment methods aimed at achieving the highest possible number of applications
  • Employers reported no differences in work ethic, productivity and commitment between British workers and EU migrants once in employment
  • There was little evidence that employers are choosing to recruit EU migrants instead of training UK workers
  • EU migrants are concentrated in low-skilled occupations, but some have progressed to supervisory and management roles
  • There is some evidence that migrants are forming part of the core workforce, rather than being hired as temporary workers to help meet fluctuations in demand

The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of its UK in a Changing Europe programme. 

Keyword tags: 
migration
Brexit
freedom of movement
labour market
Publication type: 

Research programmes