According to Chuka Umunna, Labour MP for Streatham and prominent pro-EU campaigner:

People were told: "if immigration levels fall, it will be easier to get a job, and easier to get a job that's paid well." Since 2016, net immigration from the EU has fallen. Yet this indicator has gotten worse.

He did not cite which study the numbers came from, but let's just assume it's true. From a purely supply / demand perspective it does seem counter-intuitive, but it could be more nuanced and complicated than that.

My personal best guess was: this result could be from a lagged effect of all the previous immigration up until then. With the red tape and time needed to immigrate, settle down, get a sponsored visa, find a job, it may take months or years for immigration levels to have a measurable influence on jobs. I first envisioned conducting a lag / lead regression analysis to test my hypothesis, but have since redirected my interest in theory.

Question: Is there anything in existing economic theory that could explain a fall in immigration correlating and/or causing higher difficulty in finding employment? (note I use and/or for causality) And related, what other empirical findings outside the UK support Umunna's claim?

Further Clarification:

  • "easier to get a job": I am not quite sure how to quantify this section of Umunna's claim, I'm guessing he meant: average number of months unemployed before finding a job, or perhaps he meant: average availability of jobs in said sector. In your answer, explain which interpretation you use.
  • $\begingroup$ There is no red tape needed to immigrate from the EU. There are no sponsored visas needed for EU citizens. So your own explanation collapses at the first reality check. $\endgroup$
    – 410 gone
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ @EnergyNumbers For what it's worth, I am neutral on Brexit. Also, I really am not an expert at this at all. I'm just curious more than anything as to the theory. I'm hoping someone can break it down for me. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 12:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No economist with integrity are able to produce such paper. Because job is unlike product, it is never simple price matching. Unless it is under planned economy , where people are force to relocate and force to take up the job, then it is easy to "get a job", which you don't .have the rights to refuse. $\endgroup$
    – mootmoot
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 13:43

1 Answer 1


Is there anything in existing economic theory that could explain a fall in immigration correlating and/or causing higher difficulty in finding employment?

In addition to the lagged effect you outline, there are at least two possible causes for the paradox you describe. These theoretical possibilities are independent of which interpretation of unemployment is adopted. I'm unaware of (and not even searching for) statistical evidence of whether this actually occurs.

  1. A reduction of immigration could also entail a reduction of demand of goods and services. If there's no demand, some businesses are likely to reduce their staff, leading to an oversupply of labor (i.e., unemployment).

  2. High-skilled immigrants might boost the industry in a different country to an extent that renders that foreign economy more competitive than the domestic economy. A significant trend in that direction could prompt domestic companies to slash jobs or even to relocate to one such country where supply of high-skilled labor is stronger. That would lead to the unemployment of low-skilled workers in the domestic labor market.

As for 2., it is reasonable to say that --almost by definition-- the low-skilled workers outnumber high-skilled ones.


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