UK immigrants in poorly paid jobs, Oxford study shows

Figures show that 550,000 more foreigners are living in England than four years ago

Passengers arrive at Gatwick Airport. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Passengers arrive at Gatwick Airport. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire


Immigration into Britain from eastern European countries that joined the European Union in 2004 is heavily concentrated in poorly paid occupations in a number of key regions in England, according to figures released yesterday.

The latest numbers from the Oxford Migration Laboratory, which show that 550,000 more foreigners are living in England than four years ago, were seized on by all sides in the immigration debate.

However, graphs from the Oxford body show that eastern European immigrants are heavily concentrated in London and the west Midlands, as well as in crop-picking and meat-slaughtering jobs in the east of England and tourism in Devon and Cornwall.

For those opposed to immigration, the numbers are proof that British workers’ wages have been depressed by the competition. Others argue that it shows that immigrants do jobs that locals will not.

Meanwhile, 3.2 million foreigners now live in London, making it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and one, ironically, where concerns about immigration are at their lowest. This figure is 200,000 higher than in 2011.

The think tank’s findings offer a nuanced reading of immigration figures in the context of last week’s estimate that more than 600,000 people came to the UK last year.

Saying that Poland wants its immigrants to come home, the country’s ambassador to London said many Poles find Britain an attractive country to live in, not just as a place in which to work.

However, spending cuts that have removed a quarter of the budget of local authorities have impacted most heavily on the poorest communities – the very ones that usually receive immigrants because of low rents.

Income from government grants and tax revenues, including council taxes that have been largely frozen for nearly five years, means that average council budgets have shrunk by more than a fifth.

Poorest councils

The pressures were illustrated by the Labour mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, who deals with the largest number of immigrants of any council in Britain, from both Commonwealth countries and from eastern Europe.

Politically motivated cuts, not an increase in immigration, were to blame for pressure on local services, he said. “All poor areas in the country are being massively cut.”

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said the numbers proved he had been right about immigration, which “has been shown to be unsustainable. Councils are even seeing cuts in areas with booming populations.”