The Daily Mail is more worried about the numbers of foreign-born UK residents than the demographic timebomb facing citizens, taxpayers and young people.
“Number of people living in Britain who were born abroad doubles to 6.9 million in 30 years” is the most important story emerging from the Office of National Statistic’s (ONS) annual population review, according to today’s Daily Mail, the UK’s biggest-selling mid-market title.
The newspaper decided to gloss over the oncoming demographic crisis due to hit taxpayers, the welfare state and employees revealed in the report. The proportion of the Britons who are of working age on current definitions is due to fall from a current 65 per cent to 59 per cent over the next 25 years.
While there were 3.4 people aged 16-64 years-old for every pensioner in 2008, this is due to plummet by more than one-third to 2.2 by 2033. Even with the coalition’s proposed plan to increase the retirement age to 66 by 2016, this figure still drops to 2.8.
The result will either be huge increases in the tax burdens or swinging cuts to the welfare state. As to who will face those cuts, it is much more likely to be the young than the old. As the proportion of over-65s increase from 16 per cent of the population today to 23 per cent in 2033, expect the grey vote to exercise its democratic muscle: the free bus pass for pensioners may be sacrosanct, but future generations of students and young people should prepare themselves for further political betrayal.
Of course, what matters to the Daily Mail is that the proportion of foreign-born British residents has increased from 6 per cent in 1981 to 11 per cent in 2009 – an average annual increase of less than 0.2 per cent. It is also a figure which puts us on par with many of our European neighbours such as Germany (12 per cent), France (10 per cent) and Sweden (12 per cent).
Large influxes of migration into concentrated areas can cause serious problems in ensuring that public services are delivered, and that there is enough well-paid work and decent housing. And rapid cultural change can leave individuals feeling isolated.
But to take an average small annual increase of overseas-born UK residents as the main story from the ONS’s Demographic Review, rather than the hammer blow about to hit taxpayers and citizens, reflects an immigrant-obsessed worldview that has led the Mail to serious editorial mistakes in the past.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.