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Examination of Witnesses

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 12th February 2019.

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Professor Manning:

It is not just simple supply and demand, but supply and demand is relevant. It is important not to exaggerate the role that immigration plays in everything that is happening in the labour market as a whole. We have a very tight labour market at the moment, and demand for labour is running ahead of supply in many sectors. There are complaints about shortages and vacancies in a lot of places. Solving that through immigration, it is said, means increasing the supply of labour to bring demand and supply into line, but in our view that will not work because when immigrants come, they increase supply. They earn money, spend money, and add to labour demand more or less in balance. That is why the overall effect is neutral.

We think the way in which you should respond to imbalance in the labour market is through raising wages. Where do those rising wages come from? Partly, employers are put under pressure to use labour more efficiently when labour is scarce, so that is part of the efficiencies that you talked about. There might be some sectors that have been quite profitable in recent years, so there is some scope to squeeze profits, although there are many sectors where margins are tight. If you talk to employers, they would say they really have not got that much choice.

It is also the case that workers will vote with their feet and go to work for employers that they think offer them the best deal. In that process, there are good employers and bad employers. When labour markets are tight, good employers do well and bad employers find it harder. That is a natural process by which we have rising living standards in the economy.