‘Asylum migrants’ earn less than UK-born workers

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People that come to the UK as “asylum migrants” are more likely to be unemployed, earn less and work fewer hours than UK-born workers and other economic migrants, a study has revealed.

Those who arrived in the UK as a result of a crisis in their home country earned, on average, 55% less per week and 38% less per hour than UK-born workers, according to research by The Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (Compas) at the University of Oxford.

Only half the estimated 374,000 people who originally migrated to the UK for asylum reasons were employed, according to its analysis of 2017 Labour Force Survey data, compared with 73% of the UK-born population. The gap is still present, albeit narrower, even after such migrants have lived in the UK for more than 25 years.

The Refugees and the UK Labour Market report finds that on average, those who arrived in the UK for asylum reasons earned £9.12 an hour, compared with £13.69 among UK-born workers and £14.13 an hour among economic migrants.

They also worked four fewer hours per week than UK-born workers, were 20% less likely to work full-time and were more likely to work in routine or elementary roles than the UK-born population, all of which have an effect on their earning potential.

“Asylum migrants” included people who reported moving to the UK for asylum reasons, though many now do not depend on refugee status. Most asylum migrants have spent many years in the UK and are now British nationals.

The report gives several reasons why this group might struggle to find and remain in employment, including: having “less readily transferable” skills than those who moved to the UK to work; lengthy legal restrictions to access the labour market while their claim for asylum is being evaluated; periods of labour market inactivity which has affected their employability; and the likelihood of having experienced traumatic events that have affected their physical and mental ability to work.

More than a third (37%) of asylum migrants reported a health condition lasting longer than 12 months, while a quarter of those with a physical health disorder also have a mental health condition.

“Naturally, we found that asylum migrants – who have often fled conflict and other trauma – are more likely to suffer long-lasting health problems that affect their ability to work than people born in the UK and other migrants,” said Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, Compas research director.

“So an important recommendation is that when allocating funding geared towards the economic integration of asylum migrants, governments should first address health issues that impede work performance, including mental health. This could lead to better labour market outcomes for this group in the future.”

However, the report notes that individuals who came to the UK for asylum reasons are more likely than UK-born or other migrants to be self-employed and to employ other people. Twenty-one per cent of those who said they were in work were self-employed – eight percentage points higher than the number of UK-born workers who said they were self-employed.

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