The Impact of the Post-Brexit Migration System on the UK Labour Market

Jonathan Portes, John Springford

Research output: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper

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The end of free movement and the introduction of the post-Brexit migration system
represents a major structural change to the UK labour market. We provide a descriptive
assessment of the impact on a sectoral basis. We examine how overall labour force growth
has differed between sectors, both overall and in terms of the extent to which this growth
was driven by migrant workers, both from the EU and from outside the EU, prior to the
pandemic. This allows us to construct counterfactuals, which we contrast with observed
outturns, as well as with data on visas issued by sector under the new system. Our analysis
suggests that, although migration overall is currently running at least at pre-pandemic levels,
the post-Brexit migration system has produced, as designed, a clear break with pre-Brexit
trends, reducing labour supply for some sectors. There remains a substantial “shortfall” in
migration for work, even taking of the impact of the pandemic. However, these impacts
differ very considerably between sectors. In lower-skilled sectors, work-related migration
under free movement does not appear to have been replaced by additional visa issuance
under the new system. Meanwhile, in higher skilled sectors, increased visa issuance has
increased, and does appear to be consistent with levels of migration that are broadly in line
with pre-pandemic, pre-Brexit trends.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Publication series

NameIZA Working Paper series


  • Brexit, immigration, labour markets


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