Dispelling the myths: Do immigrants steal British jobs?

It’s a claim that gets thrown around all the time. All the far-right political parties focus their manifesto around sickly-sweet patriotism which usually amounts to racial purity and supporting the troops instead of asking when they can come home. Many claim that they can reverse the theft of “British jobs” by nasty, scary immigrants. In fact it’s an argument which seems to be the entire focus of the BNP. Aren’t we glad that party’s dead in the water.

Before I get into the statistics, I just want to comment on how bizarre and xenophobic it is to say that jobs should be reserved for British people. Think for a moment how horrified we’d be if a political party said it doesn’t like black people or gay people. Why then, do we settle for a political party like UKIP which openly doesn’t like Romanians?

See, when people say that British jobs are for British workers, they’re actively uninviting anybody who isn’t a citizen of the United Kingdom to employment. And yet, these same people get worked up about benefit-claiming immigrants and want to make sure they can’t get any government funds for the first 3 months, 6 months, or at all. So what exactly would you like to do with migrants? You don’t want them to work because jobs are only for British people, but you don’t want them to go on Jobseeker’s Allowance or have Housing Benefit. Would you like them to starve? Or not come at all? Let’s have the truth.

Anyway, to dispel the myth, I examined data from the BBC, The Office for National Statistics, and Gov.uk, and compiled some graphs to see if the number of migrants coming into the UK has a displacing affect on British employment. Here are my findings:


So, at the very least, there is no discernible link between the unemployment rate and the rate of migrants granted visas. People coming to live in the UK, who have secured the right to work, don’t seem to be contributing to the difficulty of finding work. As you can see, between 2010 and 2013, the number of migrants granted the right to work fell from (around) 84,000 to 69,000 to 62,000 to 59,000. In the last 4 years we’ve had fewer migrants granted the right to work and yet an unemployment rate that has remained relatively steady between 2.51 million and 2.34 million. In fact, if you look closely, between 2011 and 2013 the number of migrants fell and yet the unemployment rate rose. Who’s stealing all the jobs then? Most critics of immigration would have you believe that millions of people are pouring in to the country and snapping up jobs left, right and centre. The numbers do not support that fantastical imagery.

A similar myth that people like to throw around is that Romanians and Bulgarians are disproportionately coming to the UK and stealing all of our jobs. I cannot find the exact quote, but I remember Nigel Farage once claimed that over 20 million Bulgarians were coming to the UK for work, despite the fact that Bulgaria’s population is only 7 million. The Sun is equally guilty of this myth, claiming that the number of these migrants will increase by 40%. The horror!


Thankfully Ampp3d and The Telegraph have done my statistical work for me here, and analysed new data from the ONS to show just how small the amount of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK are. I have recreated their data:


Look at that enormous pink band of job thieves! I actually had to greatly increase the size of the doughnut chart to make it more visible, because at the default size it’s almost impossible to see the pink segment. The number of Romanians and Bulgarians coming to the UK is actually falling. We must learn to discern fact from propaganda – just because Britain has opened its doors to millions of people, that does not mean millions of people are coming to the UK.

Finally, the number of migrants who come here for the purposes of work is greatly exaggerated, and as is demonstrated below, since 2008 over half of the permanent stays granted to migrants each year were not for the purposes of work:

Migration rates themselves peaked during 2009-2010, (probably as a result of the recession) but have continued to fall ever since. Between 2011 and 2013, the number of migrants granted permanent stay for work fell from 69,892 to 62,204 to 59,249. Overall, fewer people are coming to the UK each year, and even fewer are coming for work purposes.

Here’s the thing – the UK economy does not consist of a finite amount of jobs. Job opportunities are opened and closed all the time, and this picture of a “crowded” Britain overflowing with nasty foreigners is not only an insult to intelligence but also factually wrong. Jobs are not a non-renewable resource, and they are not being stolen. In fact, what is to say that migrants who enter this country to work don’t end up employing workers of their own? I shall cover that in a future blog post once I’ve researched the statistics properly.

Update 06/07/14: Most recent migration statistics show that since Croatia ascended to the EU, a grand total of 416 work-related visa applications have been submitted. That’s about 52 applications per month. So much for the threat of mass migration.


Have your say

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s