Labour mobility in transition: a multi-actor study of the re-regulation of migrant work in 'low-skilled' sectors (LIMITS)
- Start date: 1 October 2021
- End date: 30 September 2024
- Funder: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
- Principal investigator: Dr Gabriella Alberti
- Co-investigators: Professor Chris Forde, Dr Gary Graham, Dr Ioulia Bessa, Dr Joanne Cutter, Dr Zinovijus Ciupijus, Dr Markéta Doležalová (Leeds University Business School) and Dr Maria Eleonora (Morganti Institute for Transport Studies)
“Social dialogue on migration in the post-Brexit work environment”
Alongside the effects of the Covid pandemic on the UK economy, the ending of freedom of movement of labour as a result of Brexit is radically changing the labour mobility landscape of the country, with critical implications for work and employment in low-skilled sectors.
Research on stakeholder responses to these changes is limited; we know little about how employers are adapting their human resource strategies, the impact of visa rule changes, and the extent to which they are re-designing work or developing new skills among the workforce. Little is known about how employers, workers, unions and other stakeholders engage in dialogue over the changing migration environment.
This three-year research programme, funded by the ESRC and conducted by a team of social scientists at the Business School and the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, is investigating the impact of the post-Brexit regulation migration for work on the UK labour market.
It looks at how employers and workers shape these mobility transitions and how they engage in dialogue with each other and with other stakeholders. It will also consider how COVID-19 has impacted these transitions and dialogue.
Focusing on the impact of the effects of the new Points Based Migration system for low-skilled labour, we will use quantitative and qualitative methods to explore the experiences of employers and workers in four sectors of the UK economy that rely on migrant labour and which have been impacted significantly by Brexit and by the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Warehousing/transport services
- Social care
- Food manufacturing.
The research will contribute in-depth knowledge on changing recruitment practices, (re)training and labour substitution strategies through a national-level survey of employers, twelve qualitative workplace studies of management practices and the experience of migrant and British workers in the transition, as well as expert interviews, with a view to identifying opportunities for new jobs creation towards a socially equitable and environmentally sustainable recovery.
Our wider objective is to map and inform how social dialogue between industry, statutory and civil society actors develop and influence employers’ strategies and workers’ experiences in a post-Brexit, post-Covid UK. Our co-production approach includes the voices of stakeholders in the UK in general and in the Yorkshire and Humber region in particular, by building new evidence through knowledge and practice exchanges between academics and practitioners to stimulate new perspectives on migration for work and critically inform future migration, employment and social policies in post-Brexit UK.
Employer survey launch, July 2022
Publications and outputs
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“Engaging Stakeholders in Co-production”, the Leeds Social Sciences Institute podcast, November 2022
Journal articles and reports:
- “Labour migration policy post‐Brexit: The contested meaning of regulation by old and new actors”, G. Alberti, Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Online Library, 2022.
- "The UK National Health Service's migration infrastructure in times of Brexit and COVID‐19: Disjunctures, continuities and innovations", Z. Ciupijus, International Migration, Wiley Online Library 2022.
- “How is the End of Free Movement Affecting the Low-wage Labour Force in the UK?”, report published by the Migration Observatory and ReWage. Madeleine Sumption, Chris Forde, Gabriella Alberti and Peter Walsh, August 2022
Evidence submitted to the Public Accounts Committee, October 2022
- “The contested politics of migration as a solution to labour shortages”, UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE), January 2023
- “The end of free movement and the low wage labour force in the UK”, The Work Foundation, Lancaster University, November 2022
- “Employers’ responses to the end of free movement: the rhetoric and realities of automation", Digit blog, November 2022
- “From a health crisis to a labour crisis? Omicron, Brexit and labour shortages”, CERIC blog, January 2022
- “UK post-Brexit migration and pandemic effects: how unexpected was the current shortage crisis?”, CERIC blog, September 2021
- “HRM challenges, migrant workers and the regulation of migration post-Brexit/post-COVID: evidence from four sectors”, Forde C; Ciupijus Z; Bessa I; Alberti G; Dolezalova M; Cutter J; Graham G; Morganti E (2023) CIPD Applied Research Conference, Alliance Manchester Business School, 25-26 January 2023
- “Migrant workers in the UK after Brexit: labour shortages in the context of the hostile environment”, M. Doležalová, G. Alberti, Z. Ciupijus, C. Forde, J. Cutter, I. Bessa, (2022), paper presented at the 6th RSA MICaRD Research Network Conference University of Lincoln, 28-30 September 2022
- Sector outputs PowerPoint presentation slides
- “Labour mobility post-Brexit”, ILPC presentation slides, April 2022
- “Moving milieus: The securitization of mobility among migrant doulas in Beijing during COVID-19”, May 2022.
Chaoguo Xing (Beijing, China) and Biao Xiang (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany) discussed the securitization of mobility among migrant doulas in Beijing during COVID-19. Watch the recording.
This project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).