Understanding the perception of the “Migrant Work Ethic”

Christopher Dawson, Michail Veliziotis, Benjamin Hopkins

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Over the last decade, the UK has experienced unprecedented increases in migration associated with the 2004 A8 expansion of the European Union. These migrant workers have been praised by managers in the UK, who have frequently stated that they perceive these workers to have a strong ‘work ethic’ when measured on aspects such as absence from work rates. This article examines this perceived migrant ‘work ethic’ by analysing worker absence data from the UK Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the period 2005-2012. Regression analysis reveals that when A8 migrant workers first arrive in the UK, they record substantially lower absence than native workers, but that these migrant absence levels assimilate within 2-4 years. If employers use this information to make hiring decisions, this may have negative implications for native workers, but, importantly, only in the short run.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-830
Number of pages20
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number5
Early online date24 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Absence from work; Work Ethic; Migration; UK


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