Data linkage project to increase understanding of the employment experiences of migrant workers

The HMRC Migrant Workers Scan contains information on all overseas nationals who have registered for and been allocated a National Insurance Number. This data will be de-identified and linked to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) dataset. ASHE is an annual survey based on a 1% sample of employee jobs, drawn from the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) register, and conducted by the ONS. It contains information on employees’ earnings, paid hours, pension contributions, occupation, industry as well as a limited number of personal characteristics: gender, age, and residential location.

The new linked dataset will be made available for accredited researchers to apply to use in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Secure Research Service. It will allow researchers to identify migrants within the ASHE dataset and analyse their experiences of employment, including by their personal characteristics. As migrants can be tracked over time, it will support a dynamic analysis of migrants’ progress through employment. Key questions the dataset will help answer include:

  • What role do migrants play in the labour market?
  • What is the impact of migrants on the labour market?
  • How do migrant workers earnings progress through their career?
  • What role do migrants play in supporting particular sectors, such as public services?
  • How do migrants’ employment experiences based on gender, age and residence compare to non-migrants?

Brian Bell is Professor of Economics at Kings College London and Chair of the Migration Advisory Committee. This body provides advice to the Home Secretary on immigration policy in the UK. He said, “Being able to match the Migrant Worker Scan Data to ASHE will allow researchers to access a powerful new data source for migration analysis. The ability to follow the same large numbers of migrants in the labour market every year and see how they progress is a key missing part of our understanding of migration and will be invaluable for both researchers and policymakers.

Mike Brewer Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Economist for the Resolution Foundation said, “The Resolution Foundation are pleased to support the linkage of the Migrant Workers Scan Data to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, as this will allow analysis of employment dynamics and earnings of migrants and their progression over time. The dynamic analysis will afford valuable insight into migrant working trajectories and provide evidence to support migrants and other groups to fulfil their potential in the labour market.”

This new funding (£240,488), will see Wage and Employment Dynamics remain part of the ADR England portfolio. As well as UWE, the project team includes researchers from UCL, Bayes Business School, University of London, and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. As part of their first grant agreement, the team has already successfully linked the ASHE dataset to the 2011 Census. The initiative is also currently working on linking ASHE to two other HMRC datasets – the self-assessment data and Pay-As-You- Earn real time information.

This is one of several successful grant recipients to receive funding from ADR UK’s research-ready data and access call. Projects have been assessed and selected in close partnership with the ONS. Six academic led projects have already been announced and more information on the remaining funded projects will become available soon.


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