The economic characteristics of immigrants and their impact on supply

Quarterly Bulletin 2006 Q4
Published on 11 December 2006

By Jumana Saleheen and Chris Shadforth of the Bank's External MPC Unit.

Immigration to the United Kingdom has risen rapidly over the past decade, driven most recently by flows from the ten EU Accession countries. Monetary policy makers are interested in the impact of immigration on the macroeconomy and inflation. An increase in the number of immigrants, other things being equal, would raise the supply potential of the economy. But the extent to which potential supply increases will depend on the economic characteristics of immigrants. This article investigates the characteristics of immigrants, particularly new immigrants - those who have entered the United Kingdom in the past two years. It appears that new immigrants are more educated than both UK-born workers and previous immigrant waves, but are much more likely to be working in low-skilled occupations. The increasing share of new immigrants in low-skill, low-paid jobs seems to have led to the emergence of a gap between the wages of new immigrants and UK-born workers. The implications of these findings for overall productivity and the supply side of the economy are complex.

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