Accession to Recession: A8 migration in Bristol & Hull
The aim of this study was to examine the differential labour market effects from A8 migration on two contrasting city economies - Bristol and Hull. The research was conducted during October 2008 and January 2009 - a time when both labour markets underwent a significant contraction, as a result of the global downturn. By the end of January 2009, there were five Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants for every job vacancy in Bristol, compared to 22 in Hull. For the first time, A8 migration is now taking place against the backdrop of increased competition for fewer jobs.
Prior to the recession, much of the migration debate revolved
around the possibility of displacement. This study finds the real
barrier keeping the longterm workless out of the labour market,
however, was not migration - but the workings of the welfare system
(the ‘benefits trap’), job quality (hard-to-fill vacancies), and a
‘soft’ skills deficit amongst the local workforce (in contrast to
migrant workers ‘work ethic’).
As the recession deepens, and job vacancy rates decline, the global downturn leads us to a very different labour market dynamic. Previously hard to fill vacancies are becoming less hard to fill, and the increase in JSA claimants - those who are both actively seeking and able to work - could lead to more direct interaction between A8 migrants and the newly unemployed. The economic impacts will, however, play out very differently in each city - depending on the type of migrants attracted, their length of stay, and the structure of the local economy.
There has been no exodus of migrants from either city in response to the recession, so far. In Hull, migrants are predominantly employed in factory work, channelled through recruitment agencies - which have prevented direct competition with the local workforce. In Bristol, there is greater evidence of settlement, and of migrants possessing higher level skills. Migrants are employed in a wider range of sectors, and utilise a variety of recruitment channels. Taken together, these factors could point to more direct competition with the local workforce for fewer jobs, relative to Hull, as the recession deepens.
Bristol: The evidence suggests that a higher proportion of immigrants are settling in Bristol, relative to Hull, despite the recession. It is time to stop thinking of A8 arrivals as ‘migrants’. Rather, the City Council and partners on the Employment and Skills Board should be thinking about how to integrate ‘immigrants’ into the local economy, to maximise the benefits for local businesses. A8 arrivals predominantly work in low value sectors and occupations that are expected to be hit hard by the recession. Measures need to be in place to help keep immigrants, as well as the local population, in work. In the longer-term, businesses should be encouraged to make full use of immigrants’ skills - this will maximise their economic contribution, and help to fill the skill gaps that are expected to re-emerge in the upturn.
- In the short-term, the West at Work, functioning as the Area Active Force for the city-region, will need to ensure that existing measures to promote business and job retention extend support to immigrants, as well as the local population.
- In the longer term, Bristol City Council and the West of England Employment and Skills Board should implement an immigrant economic integration strategy, to improve the flexibility of ESOL provision (English for Speakers of Other Languages), and encourage employers to promote the progression of immigrant workers into jobs in line with their qualifications, including improved recognition of foreign qualifications.
Hull: A8 migration patterns in Hull have been more short-term than those in Bristol. The city needs to manage the way these flows have effectively created a ‘dual labour market’, with little interaction between A8 workers, and the rest of the local population. In the recession, there will be greater pressure to open up these channels of work.
- In the short-term, Hull City Council, East Riding and Jobcentre Plus should focus on improving relationships and joint working with migrant recruitment agencies. This will improve information on entry-level job opportunities for both local and immigrant workers, and help break down the ‘silos’ forming in the local labour market.
- In the longer-term, measures are required to ‘make work pay’ for local benefit claimants - who currently have insufficient financial incentive to take up entry-level jobs, unlike migrants. Strategies to deliver this are the focus of a separate Centre for Cities report written for Hull City Council.
All cities: All cities need to do more to understand and integrate A8 workers into their local economy.
- Councils should use the new economic assessments to measure immigrants’ role in, and contribution to, city-regional/sub-regional labour markets.
- This information should be used to inform councils’ use of 14-19 training powers from 2010 - to ensure that local young people have ‘soft’ skills, which businesses credit for their readiness to employ migrant workers.