European commissioner is right: we can not let populism win ahead of facts on immigration

Vivane Reding, vice-president of the European commission, stated in a web chat last night that in the UK there is a perception of an "invasion of foreigners" coming to the UK to "steal jobs".

Vivane Reding, vice-president of the European commission, stated in a web chat last night that in the UK there is a perception of an “invasion of foreigners” coming to the UK to “steal jobs”.

“this supposed invasion of foreigners coming to the UK and stealing the jobs and stealing the social security and the health money……The fact and figures, and we all know this, show it is simply not true….I am mostly frustrated about the political leaders because what is leadership if you just try with populistic movements and populistic speech to gain votes?”

Indeed, if you were to take an overview of the UK’s press today then it would appear that all of our economic woes are due to ‘benefit scroungers’ and immigrants.

Ms Reading is right to point out that we have fallen into scapegoating immigrants, whipped up by populists such as Nigel Farage and the tabloids.

A quick look at some of the myths behind immigration illustrates as much:

‘They are taking our jobs’

This is a cry that has rung through the ages, be it the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s. The historical data is undebatable that immigration helps creates jobs; the idea that employment is a zero-sum game of continual limited jobs either for immigrants or UK born workers is simply wrong.

An example of this is that in 2012 over 66 per cent of European immigration came from core EU community countries like Germany and France, providing skilled staff that are more “likely to be in higher managerial or professional occupations and they also earn 7.6 per cent (£2,035) on average more than UK workers”

In other words, the high skilled workers we need to be competitive in the world market.

To lose these young, motivated workers would be an economic disaster. As The Centre of Business Research states:

 “Tighter immigration controls will result in a loss of 2 per cent from GDP by 2050, £60billion in real terms. And without migrants from the EU helping to off-set the UK’s ageing population, government borrowing would be 0.5% higher.”

We can also see the longitudinal effects of this immigration. Again, the evidence is positive: a 30-year study found that although migrants often experienced downward mobility to begin with:

“Caribbean, Black African, Indian and Chinese young people were more likely to have found professional or managerial jobs than their white, non-migrant counterparts….Upward mobility among children from minority ethnic groups was due to their educational achievements. This suggested that migrant parents often encouraged and motivated their children to gain good qualifications”.

‘They are all on benefits’

This is counterfactual to the above evidence on jobs and not supported by data from Ian Duncan Smith’s own Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which says:

“16.6 per cent of working age UK nationals were claiming a DWP working age benefit compared to 6.6 per cent of working age non-UK nationals.”

Let’s put this another way and look at ourselves through the eyes of the immigrant. If we in the UK behaved as non-UK nationals do, the DWP working payments in benefits would be cut by over half – by over £30 billion. Over the long-term migrants are also helping to pay for our ageing population and pensions (by far the largest DWP cost).

‘Education and Health Care is at breaking point’

There is no denying that communities which have had an increase in immigration are under stress, but to blame this on the immigrants is to miss the point. Those who have come to Britain are working and paying taxes, therefore it is the government’s job to provide the extra funding to the individual schools and hospitals in that area.

This failure of government policy was highlighted by the funding (£1.5 billion) being diverted to Academy Schools “where extra places weren’t needed“.

‘Our communities are breaking down’

There is a sense of moral panic about this and this was illustrated when a Migration Observation study asked if people thought the UK had a “very big problem” with immigration. It than asked whether their own community had a “very big problem” with immigration.

Over five times as many people (38 per cent to 7 per cent) thought the UK generally had a problem but not their own community. This shows the effect the media has on those in areas that have very little immigration but who see it as a national problem.

Never has the language of our politicians been so one sided.

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19 Responses to “European commissioner is right: we can not let populism win ahead of facts on immigration”

  1. Dave Roberts

    There is immigration and immigration. In the excellent ” The Diversity Illusion” Ed West takes apart the arguments presented here. Excluding things like education, health and other services free at the point of delivery Poles have a take up rate of less than one per cent of benefits. With Somalis it’s more than seventy per cent.

    The other factor is that Poles, as with other Eastern European groups, can easily go home, a couple of hours on a cheap flight or ten or so on an even cheaper bus and they are back where they came from and many do commute working for months here and then going home. With other groups there is only a one way traffic.

    Many groups didn’t fit well into the countries they came from. Roma were routinely discriminated against in the former Communist countries and it is they who make up a large part of the Eastern European diaspora. A look at the groups arriving on the shores of Italy and Spain show that they are very often traumatised people totally lacking the basics skills to fit into modern European society never mind marketable skills that are needed in an increasingly complex Europe.

    A Chinese person with an MBA, an Iranian brain surgeon or a couple of Bulgarian women that I know who have started a cleaning business are not typical of the millions that the writer of this article, whoever he is, seem to think would benefit this country. Most are or will be a burden on the state.

  2. joames

    If by ‘populism’ you mean, ‘the majority of people with common sense seeing the simple truth for what it is’…

    Then , I’m afraid you are wrong

  3. JC

    Depends on whose facts and whose populism. If you want to be entirely partisan and refuse to debate, then it’s always my facts and your populism.

  4. Ranjit Sidhu

    Thanks Joames, my point completely: The evidence must be listened to, even in this current mass hysteria. Thanks for the comment

  5. Ranjit Sidhu

    Dear Dave, My concern is you are getting your information from Ed West book. I would recommend reading the independent articles mentioned up, in particular the DWP report and the The Centre of Business Research – I cannot take seriously any book that says little innovation apart from food has come from immigration and that all London Schools have suffered because of it. Thanks for your comment. Ranjit

  6. Ranjit Sidhu

    Indeed JC, therefore the reason for the article- to place the forward the data and analysis that shows the positive case for immigration. Thanks for your comment

  7. EricBC

    Immigrants bring skills, work ethics, diverse cultures and lots of other great things. THEY DO NOT BRING HOUSES. London is overcrowded. There is a need for several hundred thousand houses. So, Ranjit get to Google map, mark on it the 500 square miles around London where you want the houses put – keeping in mind flood plain, green belt, food security and rising sea levels.

    Then move around the country shading in another 1000 square miles for regional housing shortages. Just play with it on Google Ranjit – a few minutes. Let the reality of the task facing us sink in. Don’t hide from it behind it righteous rhetoric. Now tell us where do you want the houses to be built?

  8. Sparky

    Ranjit Sidhu. Ask yourself how much of an impartial observer he’s likely to be in the debate.

  9. Ranjit Sidhu

    Hi Eric, This is an article on immigration so by bringing up housing i presume your supposition is that the housing shortage is only the result of immigration?

    Well my reply to that is the following:
    a. There are greater pressures on London than immigration: for example how since the 1980s and demotion of regional areas through both Labour and Conservative governments has lead to jobs, in particular in the financial sector, being centralised around London, therefore more people around London.
    b. Housing development: as I am sure you are aware is a hot topic with brown field site and empty properties a major concern
    c. The point of the article is that we must do a cost/benefit analysis of immigration – considering the pluses point out by The Centre of Business Research and the (non) benefit activities of the immigrant worker compared to the Uk resident.
    d. In some way I do agree when I make the point on education and health care can easily be inferred on housing: That infrastructure is creaking is not an issue of the immigrant but government and therefore should be treated as such.

    And finally I must disagree with your figures you seem to assume (the best I can get) that immigration needs another 1,000,000 houses, which means you assume around 3 to 4 million more immigrants, that is more than the net migration in the 35 years? So I disagree with that proposition.

    Thank you for your comments


  10. LB

    Amazing isn’t it.

    Popularism is wrong. In others words, who gives a shit about democracy, we’re going to dictate what’s going to happen.

  11. Ranjit Sidhu

    Thank you Sparky.

    By that comment you have convinced of the premise of this article: That it is not driven by facts, but by emotions.

    p.s Remind me not to ask you about electricity – obviously biased.

  12. LB


    Post some numbers that can be checked.

    There are two approaches.

    First to use averages. Does the average migrant pay their way?

    First you have to decide if you’re going to take a racist view. Are migrants better than Brits? My view, no difference.

    So the average government spend is 11.5K a year (722 bn / 63 million), On top for adults of working age you need another 5K to cover the cost of their state pension. 1/30th for each year working, for a pension that currently costs 146K to supply.

    Oh dear, median wage is 26K, and that’s not enough to cover the costs. Remember the bit about being racist? Are migrants better than brits or not?

    Not that the DWP, teh CBR, or the CREAM report will ever give numbers of costings that can be checked. The CREAM report assumes that Brits pay all the fixed costs and migrants get them for free for example.

    Or you can go the individual route. No doubts there are quite a few migrants who more than pay their way, see the average numbers above.

    However, lets take one example on the other end. Barrista in Starbucks on min wage.

    A min wage job. That’s 6.31 an hour.

    So we need to know what taxes are paid.

    Tax due £572.90
    National Insurance £546.78

    Heck, lets even throw in employer’s NI

    Employers NI £635.97

    They are taking home


    Now, on that wage, you aren’t paying much VAT, because almost all of your wages are going on Food and Housing.

    So what do we need to break even.

    There is no way that the starbucks barista is paying there way.

    Perhaps then they generate lots of profits for starbucks and starbucks pays lots of tax in the UK to make up the short fall.

    Nope they don’t either.

    So there are plenty of examples of migrants who don’t pay their way.

    On average they don’t pay their way either.

    The solution is to keep and welcome more who do. Stop those who don’t from entering and remove those already here that don’t.

    Very simple solution that’s non racist, based purely on the financials.

    Since those migrants who are paying their way will not be on welfare, they won’t be consuming resources the poor need. They won’t cost other people money. They won’t be in social housing. They won’t compete against NEETS who should be getting jobs at Starbucks. etc.

    Meanwhile we’ve the completely dictatorial approach by the left, which is we don’t give two hoots about the electorate, we don’t need democracy, we’re going to dictate to the population and the can suffer the consequences.

  13. LB

    PS. You’re about the only poster of an article who has engaged in discussion. For that you need to be congratulated.

    A real pity then that you want to dictate to people and not give them a democratic choice and instead just go against the majority.

  14. Sparky

    If you want the real facts about immigration, you should watch the Nick Robinson documentary on BBC ‘The Truth About Immigration’ which finally allows real people to speak about their experience of the 500% increase in immigration levels under Labour.

    Incidentally, there’s nothing emotional about my previous post. It makes the very logical point that since either yourself or more likely your parents were probably immigrants to the UK, it is fair to say that your family has considerably benefited from a move from a poor country like India to a wealthy one like the UK. That’s not emotional, it’s a statement of probable fact. And in light of that, I’m inviting people to consider whether your statements on immigration are likely to be entirely impartial. I think not. It is highly likely that you would wish others from your parents’ country of origin to have the same opportunity to better themselves that your family has had. Curtailing immigration is inconsistent with that.

  15. amber thomas

    Hi. Four points I’d like to make.
    Firstly, the starbucks barrista scenario shows the effect of low wages on the feasibility of many workers providing net benefit to the economy. A living wage would mean employers business models have to support economic growth and not just corporate capital.
    Secondly, we have a looming generational crisis of care for the elderly. I’d like to see more central planning to train and reward the a workforce of carers from the uk and beyond. How else will a working population handle such a large proportion of non working elderly? Immigration can help.
    Thirdly, I am third gen immigrant but there’s no way commenters could know that from my name. We all have “bias” regarding immigration because we all have a stake in the approach taken to immigration.
    Fourth and last: we only get significant upwards social mobility in times of economic growth. Where waves of immigrants have prospered it is because the economy is growing. They did not “steal” growth, they fuelled it, and we all benefit. We are not in a period of growth but we need some big thinking to get us jumpstarted, that’s what we should be worrying about.

  16. JC

    Still sounds to me like your facts and populism by.those who disagree. There are many analyses, including some that show recent immigration has only increased GDP by just a little less than the immigrants are expected to earn.

    Putting up paper tigers as opposing arguments does not make a debate.

  17. LB

    kely to be in higher managerial or professional occupations and they also earn 7.6 per cent (£2,035) on average more than UK workers”


    28,000 pounds a year. So you’re confirming that they don’t pay their way. 11.5K a year in tax, plus another 5K a year in tax to cover their fair share of the pensions.

    Nah, doesn’t add up. Even your definition of highly skilled workers do not pay enough tax to cover the cost of them being in the UK.

    That’s the lies. Politicians are desperately lying about the benefits of migration and they have been rumbled.

    People know that barristas in Starbucks aren’t even covering their NHS costs, let alone a 5K payment towards the pension costs.

  18. Lance

    We have the same issues here in the US but are more advanced than the EU is resolving them. Let’s face it, this immigration thing is a 20th century issue that has slopped over into the 21st century. The time has come to finally resolve it in an intelligent fashion, as three-fourths of Americans favor and Obama confronts head-on. A new award-winning worldwide book/ebook that helps explain the role, struggles, and contributions of immigrants and minorities is “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” It paints a revealing picture of America for anyone who will benefit from a better understanding. Endorsed by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it also informs those who want to learn more about the last remaining superpower and how we compare to other nations on many issues.

    As the book points out,
    immigrants and minorities are a major force in America. Immigrants and the
    children they bear account for 60 percent of our nation’s population growth and
    own 11 percent of US businesses and are 60 percent more likely to start a new
    business than native-born Americans. They represent 17 percent of all new
    business owners (in some states more than 30 percent). Foreign-born business
    owners generate nearly one-quarter of all business income in California and
    nearly one-fifth in New York, Florida, and New Jersey. In fact, forty percent
    of Fortune 500 companies were started by an immigrant or a child of an
    immigrant, creating 10 million jobs and seven out of ten top brands in our

    More importantly, they come
    to improve their lives and create a foundation of success for their children to
    build upon, as did the author’s grandparents when they landed at Ellis Island
    in 1899 after losing 2 children to disease on a cramped cattle car-like sailing
    from Europe to the Land of Opportunity. Many bring skills and a willingness to
    work hard to make their dreams a reality, something our founders did four
    hundred years ago. In describing America, chapter after chapter chronicles “foreigners”
    who became successful in the US and contributed to our society. However, most
    struggle in their efforts and need guidance in Anytown, USA. Perhaps intelligent
    immigration reform, White House/Congress and business/labor cooperation, concerned
    citizens and books like this can extend a helping hand, the same unwavering
    hand, lest we forget, that has been the anchor and lighthouse of American
    values for four hundred years.

    Here’s a closing quote from thebook’s Intro: “With all of our cultural differences though, you’ll be surprised to learn how much…we as human beings have in common on this little third rock from the sun. After all, the song played at our Disneyland parks around the
    world is ‘It’s A Small World After All.’ Peace.”

  19. EricBC

    Housing needs will rise at increasing pace in South East, NOT as a consequence of further immigration but as consequence of
    1. Present overcrowding and drift to the capital.
    2. High fertility among immigrant families arriving 1970-2010
    3. 3rd generation changeovers away from intensive extended family living to nuclear households.

    Second generation immigrants from extended family cultures tend to conform and stay at home in what many (but not all)third generation consider to be overcrowded and uncomfortable conditions. A high percentage of third generation make the break to independent living.(The stuff of novels).

    Consequence is, in any area of high density immigration of premodern families, as third generation reaches adulthood, demand for separate dwellings increases VERY rapidly.

    Brownfield sites do NOT mean less land required overall. Folk also need places of work, schools, hospitals, parks etc.

    And from time beyond memory, those looking for places to live do not care much for the rights or preferences of those occupying the land around them. So, over next two decades the South-East is heading for suburban sprawl of another 1000 square miles at around 4000 per square mile as overall demand for new dwellings averages around 50,000 per annum and planning under coming Governments enact rapid housebuilding programmes.

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