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The impact of the migration on the tourism labour markets in UK after the enlargement of European Union in 2004.

The impact of the migration on the tourism labour markets in UK after the enlargement of European Union in 2004.
Author: Ksenia Palmu
1 Commentries

Recent political reforms in the European Union warmed up the discussion about the impacts of the increased labour mobility in the United Kingdom. The literature towards this topic is extremely diverse and controversial but one of the commonly accepted factors is that the topic is under researched and overlooked by academics. This work will attempt to fill the gap in the knowledge and discuss impact of the increased migration on the labour markets of tourism and hospitality industry.

Keywords: migration, labour market, tourism and hospitality, migrant workers.

The enlargement European Union in 2004 brought to the UK over six million migrants who are seeking for employment and permanent basis of living (Scullion and Pemberton, 2015). Commonly migration have been seen as a positive phenomenon and a flexible tool to help the economy to recover, however several papers have recently pointed out concerns related to the competitiveness on the labour markets, wages and quality of provided services (Scullion and Pemberton, 2015). The research of Longhi and colleagues (2010) did not recognise heavy effects on the employment markets including wages and competition but highlighted that the effects is more clear in the smaller communities rather than bigger regions. It have been stated that migration carried out positive impact on the economy of UK as it brought much needed skills and boosted productivity of the workers (Economic Outlook, 2006). The literature about this topic is extremely diverse; several academics see migration as a positive flow for the sector, as well as others state that the outcomes from increased migration are negative. However, there is no chance that such movement will remain without consequences and it has forced academics to examine the phenomenon, but mostly from the behavioural point of view (Ladkin, 2011). Most of the studies concentrate on the experience of the migrant workers and discuss the topic from the worker’s perspective overlooking the impact on the economy and labour markets in general.

Despite the fact that migrant workers are well educated and have high levels of work ethics and motivation, the migrants are seen as cheap, unskilled labour that occupies low-skilled jobs including seasonal and low paid vacancies (Dustmann et al., 2005). According to the statistics, one of ten tourism jobs in tourism are occupied by migrants and only in London over 70% of all the workforce in the tourism and hospitality sectors consist of foreign employees (Economic Outlook, 2006; Piso, 2014). It is characteristic for the sector that it is dominated by the students, part-time workers, low-skilled labour, seasonal and often unstable working conditions and is popular among migrants with limited language abilities. However, migrant workers are filling those gaps that native workers are not willing to do, but still natives cannot be perfectly replaced with migrants (Duncan, 2014; Kangasniemi et al., 2014). The migrant employees attract employers, as they are willing to stay in the job for longer, have higher level of commitment and motivation and have lower pay expectations then native workers (Zopiatis et al., 2014). Increased levels of migration will carry out same outcomes as regular rise in the labour supply and will put pressure on salaries, increase competition and raise output and will affect tourism and hospitality industry in terms of experience, product and the image (Kangasniemi et al., 2014; Janta et al., 2011). As the phenomenon is relatively new, the long-term effects are still unclear and the evidence on the effects of migration on labour markets are extremely limited and academics argue that the issues related to the labour migration are seriously overlooked (Ladkin, 2015).

The major part of the literature identifies mostly positive impacts of the increased migration on the labour markets and economy in general, however recent discussions in the media carried out negative tone. The concern towards the impact of the migrant workers on the wages and increased competition remains the biggest concern among native workers and there is an evidence of the willing to reduce migration to the UK (Dustmann et al., 2005; Scullion and Pemberton, 2015). More to that, the research made by Blinder (2015) showed that the native population have mostly negative attitudes towards migrant workers. People construct their opinions not based on the statistics but different sources of information and own observation, therefore the media need to be extremely gentle while talking about migration as it have a colossal impact on the public opinion that can later become a problem in the society. Considering the interest towards the tourism and hospitality labour markets, the attitudes and regulations towards migrants are essential to investigate as the segment is especially important for the industry due to high number of foreign workers. The research evaluate that migrant workers are extremely underestimated among native population even that the official statistics have not yet identified any comprehensive negative impacts on the employment or wages. The agenda of this paper is that increased mobility carries serious impact on the sector, economy and labour market. However, it is almost impossible to state was the impact bad or good – the phenomenon is relatively new and during these 10 years since the giant movement to the UK started, the effects cannot be seen yet with needed clarity to make the conclusion.

Scullion, L., Pemberton, S. (2015) The UK Migrant Cap, Migrant Mobility and Employer Implications. International Migration 53(2) 291-302.
Blinder, S. (2015) Imagined Immigration: The impact of different meanings of ‘immigration’ in public opinion and policy debated in Britain. Political Studies. 63(1) 80-100.
Dustmann, C., Fabbri, F., Preston, I. (2005) The Impact of Immigration on the British Labour Market. The Economic Journal. 115(507) 324-341.
Author: Rachael Williams
I chose this paper to comment on as it is of particular interest to myself but also reflects some point I highlighted in my own conference paper. The 2004 enlargement of the European Union meant that many workers were able to migrate to the UK and find jobs, however since then a financial down turn took place and the economy is still in a recovering state meaning the impact can be difficult to analyse.
The author outlined the issues regarding migrant workers in the workforce and that although there are issues migrant workers fill a gap in the labour market that it much needed. It would be interesting to find in further research the opinions on why the workforce is in the way it is currently. Although there is a vast amount of research on the migrant workers opinions and thoughts of the industry it would be intriguing to know how they feel about their job in the long term perspective, and what compels them to say within the industry. The telegraph released an interesting article about the government’s plan to introduce a new rule that would mean a foreign worker would have to earn a minimum of £35,000 a year if they would intend on staying for over five years (The Telegraph, 2012). This would change the work force as many migrant workers in the hospitality industry do not earn this amount. The government’s idea for this is to make sure that the best workers end up staying in the UK a posed to workers that are less committed. This plan can be seen as creating a possible impact but also a negative.
A report published by the UK Government found that after the 2008 financial crisis employment for both migrants and native workers fell due to the lack of positions. They suggest however that the equilibrium is stable and in many cases the impact can be positive due to the flexibility of the conditions. The report shows that there is very little negative impact on the native population in terms of migrant workers and their employment status and when the economy is strong there is even littler impact (Gov.uk, 2012)
Gov.uk, (2014). Impacts of migration on UK native employment: An analytical review of the evidence. Gov.uk.
Szewczyk, A 2015, '‘European Generation of Migration’: Change and agency in the post-2004 Polish graduates’ migratory experience', Geoforum, 60, pp. 153-162
Telegraph, 2012. Two thirds cut in migrant workers staying permanently under minimum salary plans. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/9106780/Two-thirds-cut-in-migrant-workers-staying-permanently-under-minimum-salary-plans.html