Migrationwatch need to go back to school and learn how to count

Unfortunately, and not for the first time, Migrationwatch’s report on the cost of educating 'migrants' is not a useful basis for discussion.

A child walking to school

This article is jointly authored by ippr’s Sarah Mulley and Glenn Gottfried

A widely reported Migrationwatch report published yesterday attempts to make the case that the UK’s education budget is being stretched beyond capacity due to recent and projected migration. This is an important issue, and one that needs to be discussed based on the facts. Unfortunately, and not for the first time, Migrationwatch’s report is not a useful basis for this discussion.

The study has a number of flaws, but it’s worth focusing on one in particular. in claiming that recent migration has imposed, and will impose, ‘additional’ costs on the taxpayer through increased demand for education, Migrationwatch ignores the fact that migrants make a significant contribution to the public purse – a significant number of taxpayers are migrants.

The vast majority of the migrant parents of the children who Migrationwatch are concerned about work and pay taxes, just as most British parents do. In their press release, Migrationwatch acknowledged that:

“… many immigrants contributed through paying tax… but this was offset by the fact that the employment rate among some immigrant communities was considerably lower than the UK average. Only about 40 per cent of immigrants come for the purpose of work.”

This is disingenious. While it’s true that some migrant communities do have lower employment rates than the UK average, the most recent ONS statistics show that non-UK born people have an employment rate of 66.5 per cent – not substantially lower than the UK-born rate of 70.9 per  cent.

Key groups of migrants who have arrived since 1998 (which is the focus of the Migrationwatch report) have significantly higher employment rates – migrants born in new EU member states, for example, have an employment rate of 82.9 per cent. In fact, the evidence suggests that migrants, overall, contribute more in taxes than they consume in public benefits or services.

There are also a number of more technical problems with the Migrationwatch analysis, and it’s worth mentioning two of these in brief. First, they stretch the definition of what constitutes a ‘migrant child’. They assume that a child born in the UK to a UK-born father and a non-UK-born mother is half British and half migrant, and thus that half the costs of educating that child is attributable to migration (they seem to disregard children born to UK-born mothers and non-UK born fathers). But most people would surely see a child born in the UK to a UK-born parent as British, not as a migrant.

Second, in claiming that migration will create demand for additional school places, Migrationwatch doesn’t take account of the fact that the number of births to UK-born mothers is generally falling – a significant number of the children born to migrant mothers might be expected to simply fill school places that would otherwise be empty.

It is certainly true that the planning of future education provision needs to take account of demographic change, both nationally and locally, and in particular the system for allocating funding to local areas for services including education needs to be more flexible so that communities with rapidly increasing populations are not short-changed. But Migrationwatch do not progress the debate by suggesting that migration puts a burden on the public purse or the ‘UK taxpayer’ – if anything, the reverse is true, and to claim otherwise obscures the real issues.

See also:

• Full Fact: MigrationWatch need to show their working

• Philippe Legrain: Dunce’s cap for Andrew Green

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  • http://www.keithruffles.com Keith Ruffles

    The problem with any MigrationWatch ‘study’ is that they always have predetermined conclusions – immigrants are bad and must be barred from the country and/or sent home – and will then bend facts to fit as a result. It’d almost be funny if it weren’t for the fact that the right-wing press will find almost any excuse to use their soundbites.

  • http://www.marxist.com Red Ed

    Perhaps we should substitute the phrase “Real families who have come to participate in our society” for the word immigrants.

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  • John Lees

    There is a simplistic argument used by those in favour of immigration. It is immigrants pay tax and make the economy bigger. Yes that is true. If the economy is £100 shared by 100 people if you add 10 people and then have an economy of £105 the economy is bigger. What it does not say is that the average wage has gone down – in this case by £5. Yes immigrants migt pay some tax but you have to take the package as a whole. Migrationwatch points out that the benefits of immigration are largly to the immigrants and not to the host population.

    Lastly, if we use young foreigners to make up for our ageing population and poor pension provision all we are doing is creating a further need for immigrants as immigrants age. It is a pyramid scheme that would grow our population indefinitly. We should sort out our own problems and not rely on immigrants as a stickingplaster.

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  • http://wjshgenius@talktalk.net william

    paying child benefit to the non resident children of EU citizens working in the UK is hardly an advertisement for the present system. immigration is the achilles heel of the left b ecause the majority of labour supporters are dead against it.

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  • AJ

    Just to check – if the unemployment rate overall in the UK rises by 4.4 percentage points from its current level over the next couple of years, will you consider that ‘not substantial’?

    I love the idea that we need immigrants ‘to simply fill school places that would otherwise be empty’. I wasn’t aware that there was a fixed number of school places that needed to be filled in one way or another. Does that apply to the NHS too (we need to complete a fixed number of operations per year, otherwise doctors will have to fill their time doing the crossword)?

    If LFF wants to write a genuinely interesting left wing article on immigration, why don’t you write the one that is constantly alluded to in these articles when you say ‘this is an important issue….’ but then follow with half-baked analysis informed by an unstated ideological bias. It’s fascinating you choose never to discuss these ‘important issues’ – or even ever state what they are (now why is that?)

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