It’s all about the flex: Preference, Flexibility and Power in the Employment of EU Migrants in Low-Skilled Sectors

Pub. Date
01 October, 2017

In the last ten years, EU migrants have come to play an important role in the UK labour force. They have become increasingly present in low-skilled occupations, where the largest proportional increase has been migration from Eastern and Central European countries. Drawing on research carried out between November 2015 and July 2016 on the employment of EU migrants in the sectors of hospitality, food and drink and construction, we find that EU migrants have met employers’ needs for a flexible labour force but that the use of mobile workers in these sectors is long-standing. The prospect of a reduced supply of EU migrants following the UK's vote to leave the EU and the government's target of reducing net migration poses a challenge for employers. We explore the tension between political pressure and economic need through posing a range of options for new immigration policy post-Brexit.