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UK under-utilising degree-educated migrants


The UK is under-utilising degree-educated migrants, according to a recent Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and JP Morgan report.

The research, Migrant employment outcomes in European labour markets, found that degree-educated migrants from new EU member states working in the UK are 10 times more likely to be in low-skill work than degree-educated non-migrants.

The report suggests this may be due to discrimination, employers being less likely to recognise qualifications and experience gained abroad, and pay differentials between countries of origin and countries of destination – meaning a greater willingness on the part of some migrants to work in lower-skill jobs. 

One in five degree-educated new EU migrants work in low-skilled jobs in the UK. This means that the UK is the only EU country where degree-educated EU migrants have a higher employment rate than their similarly educated UK counterparts.

IPPR researcher Alfie Stirling highlighted this high employment rate as a positive phenomenon, but said the UK needs to better capitalise on migrants’ skills.

“While the employment rate of EU migrants is good in the UK, we need to be thinking about the best ways to utilise the skills and talents of all migrants by ensuring that they are in jobs suited to their skills, and particularly that integration is improved at the higher end of the jobs market, as well as in community life more generally,” said Stirling.

“By doing this we can make sure that migrants who do come to the UK can make the maximum economic contribution.”

The report, published as part of a programme of research supported by the global JP Morgan Chase New Skills at Work initiative, found that 12% of employed new member state migrants work in hospitality, and 13% work in construction, compared with 4% and 8% respectively for non-migrants.

The research also found that migrants coming from outside the EU have by far the lowest employment rates in the UK – on average seven percentage points lower than for non-migrants. This gap is almost entirely accounted for by low female employment rates among non-EU migrants, irrespective of qualification level, according to the IPPR.