Previous waves of migration into Scotland
Migrants make up 9.2% of Scotland’s workforce as of 2020 and for the last decade has been the key driver of population growth for Scotland (Scottish Government, 2022b). Migration is particularly important in some sectors and occupations. Around 19% of the workforce in tourism and hospitality and 18% in information and communication were non-UK-nationals in 2020. Similarly, over 10% of employees were born outside the UK in wholesale and retail, admin and support services and public administration and defence, and just under 10% in professional and science activities, mining and quarrying and education. Migrant labour is especially important for specific occupations. Over 40% of the workforce between 2014 and 2017 in elementary processing plant occupations were born outside of the UK, and the same is true for 35% of cleaning and housekeeping managers (Scottish Government, 2019). Furthermore, many sectors rely on seasonal migrant labour, particularly in agriculture, distribution and hospitality (Scottish Government, 2020).
Recent analysis from Centre for European Reform analysis finds that overall, there are around 330,000 fewer workers in the UK than if the UK had not left the EU (Springford and Portes, 2023). This corresponds to around 1% of the labour force and is driven by lower EU migration which is only partially compensated by higher non-EU migration. The shortfall in workers is concentrated in sectors such as transportation and storage (with a shortfall of 131,100 migrants), wholesale and retail (shortfall of 120,000) and accommodation and food (shortfall of 98,000).
The CER research highlights specific sectors where previous migration flows played an important role in the economy and helped address labour market shortages.
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