New Leicester research demonstrates the migrant work ethic exists in the short term
The received wisdom that migrant workers have a stronger ‘work ethic’ than UK-born workers is proven for the first time, in a new study of Central and East European migrants, from our School of Business.
The research, conducted in collaboration with the University of Bath, shows that migrant workers are over three times less likely to be absent from work than native UK workers, a measure which economists equate with work ethic. The enhanced migrant work effort was found to be a temporary phenomenon lasting for approximately two years from their arrival in the UK, after which migrant workers’ absence converged with levels recorded by native UK workers.
A wide body of existing research evidence suggests that employers in the UK will often recruit workers on the basis of their nationality, especially in lower-skilled roles where employers tend to value a ‘good work ethic’ above anything else.
While the perception of the migrant work ethic persists, UK native workers may in some cases be missing out on jobs simply because their nationality is not synonymous with hard work.
The researchers suggest that by putting in extra effort at work, new migrant workers are trying to signal their worth to employers, compensating for limited English language skills and to overcome a lack of understanding from their new employers about the qualifications and skills they have gained in their home country. In fact migrants have on average two years more of education than their UK counterparts.
As migrants spend longer in the UK, their language skills improve, they become more knowledgeable about the UK job market and they take on better paid roles. They no longer have to rely on working extra hard to prove their worth and they quickly assimilate into UK working culture.
The research used large scale data from the Office for National Statistics UK Labour Force Survey (2005 to 2012) to study the absence rates of migrant workers from the eight nations of Central and Eastern Europe (known as the A8) when they joined the EU in 2004.