It is impossible to look at the role of migrant labour without focussing on the links between labour and skills shortages, economic change and labour demand, immigration and public policy. Over the past decade most high-income countries have experienced rapid increases in labour immigration. A common assumption is that immigration policy and limiting numbers of visas issued, can effectively act like a “tap” to turn on and off the supply of migrant labour. COMPAS’ work in this area has shown however that labour immigration is influenced by a wide range of factors and public policies, not just immigration policies. Drawing on theories and insights from industrial relations, economic sociology and economics geography, COMPAS research has analysed the characteristics and experiences of migrants and their employers in low-waged labour markets as well as the nature and determinants of the demand for migrant labour in different sectors, occupations and geographical areas in the UK.
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