Journal of Productivity Analysis

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 333–343 | Cite as

The economic impact of migration: productivity analysis for Spain and the UK

  • Mari Kangasniemi
  • Matilde Mas
  • Catherine Robinson
  • Lorenzo Serrano


Over the past 20 years labour has become increasingly mobile and whilst employment and earnings effects in host countries have been extensively analysed, the implications for firm and industry performance have received far less attention. This paper explores the direct economic consequences of immigration on host nations’ productivity performance at a sectoral level in two very different European countries, Spain and the UK. Whilst the UK has traditionally seen substantial immigration, for Spain the phenomenon is much more recent. Our findings from a growth accounting analysis show that migration has made a negative contribution to labour productivity growth in Spain and a negative but negligible contribution in the UK. This difference is driven by a positive impact from migrant labour quality in the UK. This finding broadly holds across all sectors, but we note considerable variation in magnitudes. Labour productivity growth has a neutral contribution from migrant labour in construction and personal services in the UK, whilst in every case in Spain the effect is negative, most strongly in agriculture. Using an econometric approach to production function estimation we observe a positive long term effect on total factor productivity from migrant workers in the UK and a negative effect in Spain. Our findings suggest that either the UK is better at assimilating migrants or is more selective in terms of who is permitted to migrate.


Migration Productivity Growth accounting Production function 

JEL Classification

J61 O40 O57 



This research has been funded by the European Commission, Research Directorate General as part of the 6th Framework Programme, Priority 8, “Policy Support and Anticipating Scientific and Technological Needs”. We are grateful to the EUKLEMS consortium for helpful comments on our initial findings, presented at the EUKLEMS Conference, Brussels, 15th–17th March, 2007, the 2008 World Congress on National Accounts and Economic Performance Measures for Nations, Arlington, 12–17 May, 2008 and EUKLEMS final congress, Groningen 19–20 June 2008. M. Mas and L. Serrano acknowledge the support of the Spanish Minister of Science and Innovation grant ECO2011-23248. We would also like to thank Peter Loveridge and Juan Carlos Robledo for their research assistance. Our thanks go also to two anonymous referees and Stephen Drinkwater for their comments on earlier drafts. Any errors that remain are the responsibility of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mari Kangasniemi
    • 1
  • Matilde Mas
    • 3
  • Catherine Robinson
    • 2
  • Lorenzo Serrano
    • 3
  1. 1.Labour Institute for Economic ResearchHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.WISERD, Department of EconomicsSwansea UniversitySwanseaUK
  3. 3.Ivie and University of ValenciaValenciaSpain

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