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The impact of student and migrant employment on opportunities for low-skilled people

This project, funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, is being conducted by a research team from different disciplinary backgrounds and knowledge of employment and skills policy issues, to develop an innovative approach to researching the complexity of contemporary labour market restructuring.

The profile of the UK lower skilled workforce has changed markedly throughout the last decade. Employment among higher education students during their studies has grown and there has been an increase, particularly since 2004, in the number of migrant workers from Eastern European countries. There has been little analysis of the impact that such job-seekers have had on opportunities for employment in entry-level positions and training available to lower-skilled people in the labour market.

A pilot study to provide new information about the changing dynamics of local labour markets will investigate the main features of student and migrant employment by occupation, sector and location in one West Midlands city. In developing methodologies and research instruments to explore the complexities of segmented and parallel labour markets to which low skilled people have access, this will subsequently be replicable in other structurally-different locations. Survey and case study investigations and interviews will be conducted on how employers recruit applicants for low skill jobs and how members of the three categories of job-seekers obtained employment, among sectors and in relation to particular types of vacancies.

By examining not only whether students and migrants are displacing low-skilled workers from particular sectors and jobs, but also the impact these new workers have on the sustainability of employment amongst lower-skilled people and their opportunities for training and progression in the workplace, the findings will inform skills policy development.

IER Project Team:

Gaby Atfield

Professor Peter Elias

Anne Green

David Owen

Professor Kate Purcell


Teresa Staniewicz, Department of Sociology