Has freedom of movement of people lead to a reduction of wages, and a worsening of working conditions, in the UK?

From 'If you've got money, you vote in ... if you haven't got money, you vote out'

A few years later, we met builders in South Shields who told us that their hourly rate had come down by £3 thanks to new arrivals from eastern Europe

From Meet 10 Britons who voted to leave the EU

We should feel safe in our jobs and not feel as though if we’re not willing to work seven days a week, 10 hours a day then someone can quite easily be drafted in from abroad and subsequently thrown on the unemployment pile further straining local economy.


The bosses love foreign workers. They are non-union, cheap and pliable. The British people who used to do those jobs have not gone on to university, they have gone on the dole or worse.

  • Relevant research: migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/briefings/…
    – A E
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 12:58
  • 6
    This looks like a question for economics.SE, rather than Skeptics.SE. Getting a definitive answer to an economics question seems unlikely.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 13:03
  • 1
    Incidentally; in Boston, which had the highest Leave share in England, unemployment is quite low.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 14:46
  • 1
    I'd also argue the "worsening of conditions" part - without going searching for proof I can say that I'm 99% certain the EU has brought in far more workers rights than have arguably been lost to unscrupulous employers bringing disposable staff in from abroad. It's not difficult to argue these employers would likely behave worse without some of the EU mandated worker protections they now have to work under.
    – Miller86
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 12:40
  • Any chance of marking my answer as the accepted one? Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 17:07

1 Answer 1


The most detailed study on this was done by the University of Oxford.

The study concludes that there is a small effect on wages for low skill, low wage workers, with slight downward pressure. Those most effected are migrants themselves, rather than "natives". Also, the effect is temporary and offset in the longer term by the benefits of migration pushing up overall wages and prosperity.

As for freedom of movement specifically, the study notes that most of the negative effect is due to non-EU migrants. EU migration has an even smaller effect.

So the answer to your question is it depends on who you are and what timescale you are looking at, but in the medium to long term everyone benefits economically from freedom of movement.

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