The anti-immigration voices have lost the economic argument

The economics of immigration are unambiguous: the anti-immigration voices have lost the argument and should move on.

The economics of immigration are unambiguous: the anti-immigration voices have lost the argument and should move on

Not everything is about money and there are a number of persuasive arguments as to why people are concerned about the scale of immigration to the UK.

Social cohesion, a sense of community and fears about a weakening of British national identity shouldn’t be breezily dismissed simply as ‘xenophobia’ or racism (although that’s sometimes what they might be).

That said, those arguing against migration, especially migration from elsewhere in the European Union, tend overwhelmingly to focus on fiscal arguments – so they will say that migrants are a ‘drain on the benefits system’ or are a ‘net loss’ to the economy.

The arguments around the supposed ‘magnetic pull’ of benefits have been debunked already; and today yet another study shows that migrants have overwhelmingly paid more into the chancellor’s coffers than they have taken out.

A new report, put out by University College London’s Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, finds that immigrants from the 10 countries which joined the EU in 2004 contributed £4.96bn more in taxes up to 2011 than they took out through the use of benefits and public services. The study factors in immigrants’ proportionate share of public service costs.

A windfall, in other words.

This compares extremely favourably with British nationals, who over the same period were a drain on the British economy to the tune of £617bn.

The net gain from immigration from the rest of the EU (excluding the 10 new countries) was £15bn – again that includes the costs associated with public service use.

Migrants from outside the EU contributed £5bn on the same basis.

Professor Christian Dustmann, co-author of the study, said: “A key concern in the public debate on migration is whether immigrants contribute their fair share to the tax and welfare systems.

“Our new analysis draws a positive picture of the overall fiscal contribution made by recent immigrant cohorts, particularly of immigrants arriving from the EU.”

He added: “European immigrants, particularly, both from the new accession countries and the rest of the European Union, make the most substantial contributions.

“This is mainly down to their higher average labour market participation compared with natives and their lower receipt of welfare benefits.”

One would hope that this would put an end to the baseless smearing of migrants by right-wing organisations such as Migration Watch. Don’t bet on it, though – Migration Watch are already trying to spin the figures to support their anti-immigrant narrative, despite the above-quoted words of the report’s authors.

This isn’t the first study showing that migrants benefit the British economy, either. According to another study from University College London which came out last year, migrants who have come to the UK since the year 2000 have made a ‘substantial’ contribution to public finances.

As I said at the start of this piece, I do think there are legitimate concerns about the pace of change in Britain today and how that relates to building strong and cohesive communities. However the economics of immigration are unambiguous: the anti-immigration voices have lost that argument and should move on.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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64 Responses to “The anti-immigration voices have lost the economic argument”

  1. Stephen

    I applaud the report, and despise the hysteria conjured up by UKIP and the right wing press, but why isn’t the effect of migration of skilled workers from the donor countries ever considered? If these organisations and their clients had the slightest sense of decency surely this would be the main thrust of their counterargument? It displays their selfish nature, but perhaps the liberal press are guilty too?

  2. WirralBill

    Oh dear, where to begin?

    You are so keen to proclaim the rightness of your “religious faith” in immigration that you uncritically accept a report written by a group set-up with taxpayers’ money specifically to provide “academic support” for immigration – propagandists, in other words.

    Quite apart from the small amounts that we are talking about over the time period, it doesn’t prove that immigration is in the best interests of ordinary people. Far from it. The net benefit is tiny, and with inequalities in wealth widening, almost all these benefits went to the rich few, not the ordinary masses.

    Then there’s the methodology:

    “A new report, put out by University College London’s Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, found that immigrants from the 10 countries which joined the EU in 2004 contributed £4.96bn more in taxes up to 2011 than they took out through the use of benefits and public services. The study factors in immigrants’ proportionate share of public service costs.”

    Anyone who has ever written a business plan will know how easy it is to under-estimate costs and over-estimate potential income. That, indeed, is what all other studies into the supposed benefits of mass, open-door immigration have done. Does it, for example, cover the cost of student loans, which EU nationals can claim, on which not a penny will be paid back? Does it cover the cost of translators in the NHS, the legal system and so on? Does it cover the extra cost of policing Eastern European beggars, scam artists and ATM thieves? Does it cover the extra costs that we all have to pay for housing, thanks to open-door immigration?

    No. This report is just more propaganda – and if you care to Google there are already more than enough pro-immigration propaganda groups out there already.

    Incidentally, have you actually stopped to think where this “net benefit” actually comes from? It’s all those finance professionals working in the city of London, paying 45-50% taxes on their incomes – it ain’t the single mother at the coffee shop claiming tax credits, housing benefit and child benefit.

    And as for this:

    “This compares extremely favourably with British nationals, who over the same period were a drain on the British economy to the tune of £617bn.”

    What a disgusting way to describe your fellow citizens.

    And you and your fellow migration fans would appear to be so blinded by your religious dogma that you don’t even consider the extra costs of unemployment benefits payable to British citizens who struggle to get jobs as a result of competition, especially at entry level, and not to mention that any scheme to help the UK’s unemployed is automatically open to anyone across Europe to apply to join.

    And finally, imagine the benefits to the UK of a selective, points-based approach to immigration, one in which we take those immigrants who will clearly make a positive contribution to the country – without jamming down wages and hiking up house prices.

    So, no, the economic arguments are far from settled – especially for ordinary people who have to pay the high price of the left’s obsessive, uncritical support for mass open-door immigration.

  3. WirralBill

    The “benefits” are based entirely on the taxes paid by bankers from across Europe, working in the City. For ordinary people, there are no benefits.

  4. TN

    Left wing bloggers using capitalist arguments to justify immigration is one of the most disingenuous displays ever. Surely the left’s motivation for supporting immigration is their belief (which isn’t necessarily true, but a belief nonetheless) in working class solidarity irrespective of nationality/colour or because they think it’s culturally enriching.

    Support it if you like, but leftie bloggers need to stop using the economic argument, they sound like hypocrites.

  5. WirralBill

    Incidentally, the author of the report is a long-standing pro-immigration shill who has been taking taxpayers’ money for more than a decade to cheer-lead on immigration into the UK. Just look at his CV: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctpb21/doc/cvdustmann.pdf

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