According to a new study, immigrants may actually promote the native workers to better job positions. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

I‘ve heard it too many times.

“Immigrants come here and steal our jobs.”

There always seems to be someone uttering this statement in discussions, or pounding it on the keyboard in forums – wherever the topic touches immigration.


Now, two researchers have proven otherwise.

In a new study, ‘Immigrants’ Effect on Native Workers: New Analysis on Longitudinal Data’ by Mette Foged and Giovanni Peri, Foged, a researcher from the University of Copenhagen, and Peri, her counterpart from the University of California, examine the labour market outcomes of low-skilled natives in response to massive inflows of immigrants to Denmark during the period 1991-2008.

The Danish immigration policy provides an ideal setting for the study because in between 1986 and 1998, refugees were distributed across municipalities independently of the economic characteristics and preferences of the refugees. They were spread across the country based only on information on their nationality and family size. This outruled any kind of favouritism towards certain locations or jobs.

Clusters of refugees from specific countries in specific municipalities were generated based on their time of arrival and availability of housing. These clusters were completely uncorrelated to the labour market conditions of the municipalities and to the economic characteristics of the immigrants.

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The immigrants, due to their lower education and the lack of skills in Danish, were occupied mostly in manual labour.

In their analysis, Foged and Peri tested how non-college educated native workers responded to an increase of the refugee-country immigrants.

“We find that, especially for native workers who moved across establishments, refugee-country immigrants spurred significant occupational mobility and increased specialisation into complex jobs, using more intensively analytical and communication skills and less intensively manual skills,” the study says.

In addition, “this upgrade to less manual intensive and more complex jobs was accompanied by a significant wage increase.”

So, not only did the native Danish workers receive a promotion, but also an increase in their salary!

“Overall, our study finds that a labour market that encourages occupational mobility and allows low-skilled immigrants can generate an effective mechanism to produce upward wage and skill mobility of less educated natives, especially the young and low tenure ones,” the study concludes.