Contrary to the popular myth, European workers aren't just baristas and fruit-pickersby Jonathan Portes / August 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
When we talk about ending freedom of movement, commentators tend to joke about workers leaving posh coffee shops, or fields of fruit going unpicked. But these stereotypes ignore the real cost. For this month’s Speed Data, Jonathan Portes explores why ending freedom of movement could affect us all.
European workers aren’t just fruit-pickers and baristas
“Leave” campaigners claim that Brexit would curb “low-skilled immigration.” But most migrants from the European Union aren’t in low-skilled jobs. Indeed, migrants from “old” Europe—before the eastward expansion—are actually more likely than Brits to be in high-skilled jobs, while even for the most recent joiners, Bulgaria and Romania, less than a third are classed as being in low-skill posts. Overall, and just like Brits, most EU migrants work in middle-tier jobs—ranging from butchers to lab technicians. If we do curb migration by ending free movement, we’ll exclude many people doing productive, middle-income jobs: the sort of people you might think our economy needs.