Should the UK limit low-skilled immigration?

Politics, Knowledge & Migration

The UK debate on immigration has taken a surprising new turn over the past few weeks. Commentators from the centre-left – including senior figures in the Labour Party and the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee – have started to articulate concerns about the negative impact of low-skilled immigration on native workers. The argument runs as follows: in a number of low-skilled sectors, British workers are being displaced by foreign workers who are willing to accept salaries below the living wage, or, in the case of posted workers, at rates below the minimum wage.

A bit of context is in order here. Arguments about immigrants competing with or undercutting native workers are far from new in European countries: indeed, trade unions and social democratic or socialist parties have been making these sorts of arguments against low-skilled labour for decades. As Gary Freeman has argued, the UK has been somewhat of an…

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