Has Labour got it right on the immigration and jobs debate?

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration at the Labour Party Conference:

Date: Monday, 1 October, 2012

Time: 18:00 – 19:30

Meeting Room 1, Hilton Hotel, Manchester

Awale Olad, Public Affairs Officer at Migrants Rights Network and parliamentary liaison officer for the All-party Parliamentary Group on Migration, writes about Monday’s meeting at the Labour Party Conference.


The Labour Party fringe meeting will explore the impact of immigration on skills, wages, and jobs – and the development of Labour’s policy position before the 2015 General Election. The meeting will offer up the opportunity to discuss current problems faced by universities in recruiting foreign students and their possible impacts on the UK’s economy and labour market.

It looks like the debate around the impact of low skilled migration on wages and employment opportunities is set to be a key battleground theme in 2015, with some arguing that the presence of migrants in low-paid sectors of the labour markets results in lower pay and employment for ‘native’ workers. This debate has become particularly inflamed when talking about the high levels of youth unemployment in the UK in recent years.

Labour’s response to this issue so far is reflected key economic policies of the shadow cabinet, following Ed Miliband’s recent speech on immigration. Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, confirmed on the Andrew Marr Show that Labour’s new idea of “pre-distribution” will be deliberately aimed at managing unskilled migration as the labour market suffers from “over-casualisation”. The result is, according to Balls, that unskilled migration is putting “downward pressure” on wages. To address the concerns of the public, a Labour government would concentrate on increasing the availability of skilled apprenticeships to young workers and persuade companies to pay the living wage. This would in turn reduce the over-dependence on unskilled migration, according to Balls.

So how could Labour further develop its response to this issue? Various pieces of analysis from the National Institute of Social and Economic Research and the Work Foundation suggest that the relationship between employment, wage levels and migration is far clear cut than many detractors may claim, with some concluding that there is actually little perceptible relationship at all. This research suggests that a wider lens will need to be taken when looking at the causes, and impacts, of low-paid migrant labour in the UK – and that Labour would do well to incorporate a view on wider issues such as the effective regulation of key sectors where migrant workers are known to be exploited.

The panel for the meeting includes Chris Bryant MP, Jack Dromey MP, Paul Blomfield MP, Neil Lee (The Work Foundation), Mumtaz Lalani (NIESR), and Don Flynn (MRN). It will be chaired by Chris Wimpress of the Huffington Post. It will be a joint meeting between the APPG on Migration, The Work Foundation, Universities UK and Barrow Cadbury Trust. See the video from MRN fringe at Labour party conference last year by clicking here.

If you would like to sign up to attend the APPG on Migration fringe at Labour party conference, you can register here.

This piece first appeared on Migrants Rights Network blog.