The impacts of migrants and migration into Scotland

Aims to summarise and evaluate the recent literature on the impacts of migrants and migration into Scotland.

Executive Summary

The evidence review

The aim of this review is to summarise and evaluate the recent literature on the impacts that migrants and migration have had on Scotland's economy, labour market, public services, communities and culture. Where information is available, the review also explores ways in which the impacts of migrants and migration have been experienced differently in Scotland from the rest of the UK. The focus is on economic migrants, students, and those who accompany or join family members [1] . It does not cover refugees or asylum seekers, or second or third generation migrants, except where people in these groups are not distinguishable from other categories of migrant. The review also examines the scope, scale and quality of the existing evidence and identifies gaps in the evidence base.

An overview of the evidence base

Migration is the most difficult component of population change to estimate. There is no comprehensive system which registers migration in the UK, including migration to or from overseas, migration to or from other parts of the UK or migration within Scotland. Therefore, estimates of migration have to be based on survey data and administrative data. The National Records of Scotland ( NRS) website includes a section on the availability and sources of migration data, and a spreadsheet detailing the strengths and weaknesses of different sources [2] . The quality of migration data is a long running issue (at both UK and Scotland level) and has been examined several times, most recently by the UK Government Public Administration Committee in 2013. Improvement work is ongoing and ONS are taking forward work to link data sources to look at the characteristics of migrants.

Scotland-specific evidence on the impacts of migrants and migration is, generally, limited. However, a good deal of relevant research has been carried out since the last review of this type was commissioned by the Scottish Government in 2009. This includes literature reviews, quantitative analysis of national survey data and a number of qualitative research studies, although the latter are based in, and relate to, particular locations with specific socio-economic characteristics. As such, while they provide a rich picture of impacts at a local level, findings are unlikely to be representative of Scotland as a whole.

The evidence base relating to labour market impacts is more developed than evidence on public services, social and cultural impacts. In particular, in the discipline of economics, there has been extensive work in recent years on the fiscal impacts of migration, although this research is all at the level of the UK. Most recent research in Scotland relates to migrants from countries that joined the European Union in 2004, primarily Poland. There is little or no research in Scotland which explores the impact of migrants from the rest of the UK.

Information on migrants' contribution to the provision of public services in Scotland is sparse. However, individual studies are beginning to fill the gaps in the evidence base, both at the UK and Scotland level.

Impact of migration on the labour market

Migrants tend to be young and economically active. In general, they arrive with qualifications, so have the potential to complement the stock of human capital in the host country. However, qualifications are often not fully recognised or utilised in host countries and some migrants with higher level qualifications are working in jobs of low skill and minimum wage rates. At the UK level, there is some evidence that qualification/occupation mismatches are associated with country of origin, with migrants from countries that joined the EU from 2004 onwards doing less well than those from Northern Europe.

Several studies in Scotland and the UK have found a 'U-shaped pattern' of wage distribution among migrants, with employment concentrated at the top and bottom of the occupational distribution curve.

A body of Scotland-specific evidence exists on the use of migrant labour. Migrants, particularly recent EEA migrants, tend to be concentrated in hospitality and catering; in agriculture; and in food processing sectors. In general, migrants meet demand for low-skilled labour, and address sector-specific skills shortages at the higher end of the labour market. In addition, migrants act as a flexible supply of labour when demand exceeds local labour supply. However, in sectors such as agriculture, where employers find it difficult to source labour regardless of prevailing economic conditions, demand for seasonal migrant labour remains more constant.

Migration does not appear to have had a statistically significant impact on the average wages and employment opportunities of the UK-born population in periods when the economy is strong, although there is some evidence of labour market displacement when the economy is in recession. The available evidence indicates that any adverse wage effects of migration are likely to be greatest for resident workers who are themselves migrants. Evidence also suggests that displacement effects dissipate over time, as the labour market adjusts.

Impact of migration on public finances

The impact of migration on the public purse is complex and difficult to measure. Much depends on the characteristics of migrants, their impacts on the labour market and the characteristics of the social security system. Several relevant papers have been published in recent years, although this evidence is at the level of the UK.

There are major variations in recent estimates of the fiscal contributions made by migrants. While the evidence is contested, research indicates that EEA migrants, in particular those who entered the fiscal system after 2000, have made a more positive fiscal contribution than non- EEA migrants and people born in the UK.

The evidence base on social security receipt by migrants is patchy due, at least in part, to the availability and quality of data. There is evidence that migrants from the EEA are less likely to claim out-of-work benefits, but more likely to claim in-work benefits, compared with people born in the UK. It is likely that there is a connection between the level of in-work benefit claims and the types of low-paid jobs taken by many migrants.

Impact of migration on public services

Systematic data and analysis about migrants' use of public services is limited, and there is even less information about the value of migrants' contribution to the provision of public services. However, individual studies are beginning to fill the gaps in the evidence base, both at the UK and Scotland level.

At the UK level, aggregate expenditure on state education and public services (health and personal social services) in the UK was calculated using 2009-10 data. Analysis indicated that an estimated 12.5 per cent of total expenditure on state education and public services was allocated to non- UK migrants and their children. As migrants made up 13 per cent of the population as a whole at the time, this was slightly less than their share.

Impact of migration on health and social care services

Health services in Scotland need to accommodate the needs and expectations of an increasingly diverse population. However, migrants from outside the UK are, in general, young and have low healthcare needs. Consequently, there is little evidence of increased demand for health services resulting from migration into Scotland. Where evidence on specific demand exists, it is associated with social deprivation, poor language skills and, possibly, lack of knowledge of the health system, rather than migration per se.

The literature indicates relatively low rates of GP registration among migrants. While some studies have stated that there may be a connection between low GP registration rates and the use migrants make of Accident and Emergency departments for primary healthcare needs, there is no robust evidence of this.

Available evidence indicates that uncertainty over entitlement to health care and treatment, differences in provision and approaches to treatment in Scotland and in their country of birth, and language barriers, all contribute to low levels of migrants' trust and willingness to access health services.

Evidence relating to migrants' general health is sparse, and literature addressing the mental health and wellbeing of migrants does not distinguish between migrant groups and length of residence in the UK. However, there is evidence that the demand for health services is likely to increase as migrants age, and as their health behaviours change (in relation to alcohol use, smoking behaviour and eating habits, for example) the longer they stay in the UK.

As in the rest of the UK, health services in Scotland are reliant on migrant labour, particularly the labour of recent migrants from non- EEA countries. Twenty per cent of recent non- EEA migrants who were in employment at the time of the 2011 Census worked in human health and social work. This compares with 15 or 16 per cent of adults born in Scotland, the rest of the UK, EEA established and non- EEA established migrants.

Impact of migration on housing services

There is little systematic evidence that allows the direct and indirect impacts of migration on house prices, rents and social housing to be assessed at national and local levels. Much of the evidence available relates to housing choices and housing conditions of migrants and, at the Scotland level, a number of small, qualitative studies have examined housing choices and housing conditions for particular migrant groups in specific locations. Findings are not generalisable, but there is some evidence that moving migrants into the available housing supply can enable them to live independently and make improvements to their accommodation. On the other hand, evidence suggests that migrants may pay higher than average rents for poor quality accommodation in areas of social deprivation.

Among migrants to the UK, there are lower rates of home ownership, and greater representation in the rental sector. Recent migrants are also less likely than the UK-born population to be accommodated in the social housing sector. As would be expected, the available evidence indicates that, the longer migrants live in the UK, the more likely they are to become owner occupiers, and the less likely they are to be in the private rented sector.

Impact of migration on education services

The majority of evidence on migrants' use of education services is at the UK level. The main focus of research has been the impact of recent migration, particularly from Eastern Europe, on schools in the UK. Data limitations have restricted the scope, scale and robustness of the research, although in Scotland, at least, the way data are collected and reported has been improved in recent years, which should support more detailed analysis.

A number of studies (in the UK and in Scotland) have examined additional demands on schools arising from the needs of some migrant pupils. These include translation and interpreting services. There is some evidence to suggest that school performance and pupil achievement may be enhanced by the presence of non- UK migrants in schools. However, the relationship between the number of migrants in schools and performance is not clear cut, and it is often the case that the schools receiving the highest number of migrant children are in some of the most deprived areas.

This review was unable to find any research focusing specifically on migrants as providers of education services. However, analysis of 2011 Census data found that approximately one in ten non- EEA recent and established migrants and established EEA migrants in employment were working in the education sector, compared with 8 per cent of people born in Scotland.

Impact of migration on crime and justice services

The evidence base on the relationships between migration and crime/justice has been strengthened in recent years, although research relates to the UK as a whole, rather than Scotland. Researchers have identified a number of difficulties in interpreting the available data: arrest/conviction rates may be affected by migrants committing crimes that are easier/harder to detect; police and court services may allocate resources differently and be more/less ready to arrest and convict migrants; and there may be differences in the willingness of migrants and UK-born individuals to report criminal activity.

The relationship between migration and crime and justice can be looked at in two ways: the contribution of migrants to criminal activity; and criminal activity perpetrated against migrants. Several studies at the UK level have shown that there is no consistent relationship between crime and migration, with most studies finding only small and insignificant effects. Where it has been possible to distinguish between groups of migrants, evidence has generally been consistent with the standard economic model of crime: groups with strong labour market attachment are less likely to be associated with criminal activity. In addition, models of individual crime participation tend to show that migrants are less likely to commit crime than observably similar people who are born in the UK. This review found no academic papers relating specifically to the impact of migration in terms of criminal activity in Scotland.

Migrants appear to be less likely to report being victims of crimes than people born in the UK although, as time in the country increases, migrant experiences of crime tend to mirror those of the UK-born population. Analysis of survey data indicates that there is lower reported crime and self-reported victimisation in neighbourhoods with a higher share of migrants in the local population than in similar neighbourhoods with lower migration densities. This suggests some measure of protection from crime for local populations living in areas with higher numbers of migrants.

Migrant integration and culture

The experiences of migrants, and the ease or difficulty with which they can integrate into local communities may be key to whether they decide to stay or leave. 'Integration' can be used as an umbrella term for different models of migrant incorporation, and includes a number of dimensions. In relation to cultural and civic integration, there is generally insufficient evidence in the existing literature to allow impacts to be defined and accurately measured.

In rural Scotland, qualitative research highlights the pressures faced by migrants to assimilate to the norms of the dominant majority, and the difficulties in maintaining their distinct cultural identity, especially in the absence of co-ethnic groups within reasonable distance. In the urban context, several quantitative and qualitative studies have established that factors such as the ability to speak English without difficulty, employment and educational qualifications all have a significant impact on migrants' ability to develop a social support network and access social amenities within the community. The longer that migrants live in the same area, the more likely they are to feel integrated in the community.

The importance of language in relation to migrant integration has been emphasised in several qualitative studies conducted in Scotland. It affects access to information, employability and engagement; the ability to make friends, adapt to new environments and deal with loss and loneliness. The process of learning a language in itself encourages mutual adaptation of migrants and the host society. However, there is a wider range of evidence to indicate that migrants are often defined as being out of place in their new enviornment, despite being multilingual.

This review found little research relating to potential impacts on Scotland of religions unfamiliar to people born in Scotland, or the arrival of large numbers of people practising specific religions. A study exploring the impact of Polish migrants on Catholic parishes found a range of both positive and negative effects.

The process of adaptation and integration involves both new and host communities and cultures, so the attitudes of host communities are important. The evidence base relating to public attitudes to migration, both in the UK and in Scotland, is substantial. Data at the UK level indicate that, the greater the ethnic diversity of neighbourhoods, the less likely it is that people think levels of migration should be reduced. Research also suggests that people differentiate between types of migrant, being more likely to favour reducing the number of low-skilled workers than skilled migrants and students. There appears to be a difference between attitudes in Scotland and the rest of the UK, with people in Scotland generally more positive. However, attitudes to migrants are mixed and fluid, and data suggest that in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, a majority want to see an overall reduction in migration.

Gaps in the evidence base

Given that the evidence base in Scotland is weaker than the UK as a whole, and that Scotland's experience of migration is relatively recent, it is important to gain a better understanding of the dynamic of migration in Scotland. This is particularly the case in the following areas:

  • Public services (particularly migrants' contribution to public service delivery)
  • The impact that migrants from the rest of the UK have on Scotland
  • Measuring the cultural and civic integration of migrants
  • The impacts of migration on the Scottish economy.

Looking ahead, changes to the legislative landscape in Scotland and the devolution of additional powers and responsibilities to Scotland warrant appropriate investment in strengthening the evidence base.


Back to top