The Leeds Salon - Robots and Immigrants: Who is Stealing Jobs?

Wednesday 30 November 2022
6:45pm - 8:45pm
Off campus
General public

The Leeds Salon welcomes the authors of a new book examining the narratives around immigration and automation.

Work has become synonymous with existential anxieties concerning status, identity, and self-worth. However, work has never been more precarious, and workers have never been more insecure.

Fixed and zero-hours contracts, sub-standard working conditions, low wages, and continuous corporate restructurings are permanent features of the current social and economic landscape. These features can either be justified as means to overcome low productivity and stagnant economic growth or explained as manifestations of dysfunctional economies.

Arguments over low productivity, inefficient labour force and lack of appropriate skills in the UK labour market have generated strong responses: from enthusiasm about the implementation of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to wider scepticism about massive job losses and lack of a transition period for workers to acquire new skills for a new technology driven economy.

At the same time, post-Brexit, arguments have continued over immigration levels, with some businesses demanding pre-Brexit rates of immigration. These demands focus on the need for cheap and/or low-skilled labour in care, agriculture, haulage, and hospitality for a competitive and growing economy.

The competitiveness of the economy appears to be interdepended with either the constant flow of low-paid immigrant workers or with the replacement of workers with robots and AI. But is automation an irreversible force that would eventually render work obsolete? And is it ethical or even sustainable to employ immigrants for jobs national citizens are not willing to do?

How should policy makers and employees respond to the arguments between automation or immigration?


  • Kostas Maronitis is Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Leeds Trinity University and co-author of Robots and Immigrant: Who is Stealing Jobs? (2022).
  • Denny Pencheva is a lecturer in European Politics and Public Policy at University College London, and co-author of Robots and Immigrants: Who is Stealing Jobs? (2022).
  • Critical Respondent: Gabriella Alberti is Associate Professor in Work & Employment Relations at Leeds University Business School, and primary investigator on the ESRC-funded research project Labour Mobility in Transition, exploring employers and workers responses to changing labour migration post-Brexit and Covid-19, including labour substitution and automation strategies throughout a range of industries.

Venue, tickets and how to book

The event will be held in Theatre 1 at the Carriageworks Theatre, 3 Millennium Square, Leeds LS2 3AD.

Pay £5 cash on the door or pay in advance via the Donate and Pay button on the Leeds Salon website

Book your place by emailing