7 charts that show how ‘internal migration’ could help boost the UK’s sluggish wage growth

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peretzp/Flickr

LONDON – The proportion of people moving UK regions for work has declined since 2000, which could be contributing to poor wage growth and productivity, as fewer people find jobs best suited to their skills.

That’s according to a new report by the Resolution Foundation, which shows that the number of people who moved region for work last year (around 140,000) was about the same as it was at the turn of the millennium, despite population growth.

Mobility started to pick up again once the economy improved since the 2008 financial crisis.

But overall internal migration remains low – despite the decline in home ownership, the growth in technology and the slowdown in young people getting married and having children, all of which seem to support greater mobility.


The share of working-age people moving region for work has fallen by about 25% since 2001, and only about 140,000 people moved for work last year. This is despite the fact that traditionally more mobile groups, like renters, graduates and migrants, have all grown in size.

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Resolution Foundation

The most significant decline has been among younger graduates: graduates under 35 were 5.7 times more likely to move than non graduates in the late 1990s, but are now just three times as likely.

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Resolution Foundation

The UK has also become more reliant on migrants to provide what mobility there is — although migrants too are now moving less. With further falls in net migration likely in the near future, says the report, the government should think about the impact this will have on the UK labour market’s ability to send labour where it is most needed.

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Resolution Foundation

The decline in mobility has come alongside fairly stable employment rates across regions. For this reason, says the report, the fall in internal migration may reflect the fact that it is easier to find jobs nearer to home. But differences in productivity between UK regions have increased, suggesting the decline in mobility may be contributing to poor productivity growth, and that workers are not finding jobs that best fit their talents.

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Resolution Foundation

The decline may also be contributing to weak wage growth: typically, the report found, workers would be £2,000 better off moving region and changing job than staying with the same employer. Moving jobs but staying in the same region would typically make workers £320 better off.

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Resolution Foundation

The wage benefits of moving both job and region are most likely to be felt among workers under 30.

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Resolution Foundation

The challenge, says the report, is increasingly about matching people to jobs best suited to their talents. The link between job matching and mobility is particularly clear when assessing how many graduates are in non-graduate jobs — a phenomenon which has increased over the last 15 years.

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Resolution Foundation