The freedom of movement of persons is one of the core tenets of the European Union. Immigration however is often seen as a cause for concern amongst native workers, as rising labour supply may threaten jobs and create downward pressure on wages. National politicians are increasingly under pressure to guard against it - in times of recession particularly. Despite this, there is evidence that highly-skilled migrant labour has the potential to raise competitiveness significantly and in theory this may feed into productivity. In this paper, we explore first the composition of inward migration to the EU and within the EU, concentrating specifically on the role of the highly-skilled and the extent to which migrants are overqualified within their jobs. We then analyse whether migrant workers affect productivity at the sectoral level. We find underutilisation of skilled foreign labour and there is little evidence in general to suggest that migrants have raised productivity which may in part be attributable to over-qualification. However, we find robust evidence that migrants - particularly highly-skilled migrants - play a positive role in productivity developments in industries which are classified as skill intensive.
Published: July 2010