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Potential Impact of Cuts to EU Migration

Employers in different sectors of the UK economy could be affected in very different ways if measures are introduced to restrict the jobs that EU migrant workers can occupy following a vote for the UK to leave the EU.

This is one of the key findings of new analysis by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, which also found that most jobs in the UK labour market are not eligible for employer-sponsored work visas under the current immigration system.

For the purposes of its report, the Migration Observatory used current Government policy to restrict non-EU labour migration as the basis for its analysis – while recognising that post-Brexit immigration policies may well be more liberal than the current rules. A key factor to qualify for a Tier 2 visa at present is a job offer in a graduate-level job position at a minimum of £20,800.

The share of the UK workforce that is employed in such positions varies dramatically by industry. In 2015, this included only 4% of workers in the ‘Agriculture’ sector and 6% of employees in the ‘Distribution, Hotel and Restaurant’ sector – which also includes retail and is currently the largest employer of workers born in EU countries.

The workforce in other sectors, such as ‘Banking and Finance’ and ‘Public Administration, Education and Health’ were much more likely to be in higher-paying graduate jobs, at 34% and 33% respectively. In 2015, these sectors were the second and third largest employers of the UK’s EU migrant workers, respectively.

“Most sectors of the UK labour market now have a significant EU migrant workforce – and many of these are lower paid sectors, such as hotels and manufacturing,” explained report author Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva. “Even if the immigration system is redesigned after a Brexit vote, any system that selects EU workers based on skills and pay is likely to hit these sectors hardest.”

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