It will soon be apparent if we are to be overwhelmed with immigrants flooding in from Bulgaria and Romania following the lifting of labour market restrictions by the UK and eight other EU countries on 1st January or whether there’s been a bit of, well, scaremongering.
The rhetoric suggests an influx of Bulgarians and Romanians who, apparently like other EU migrants, will take lower paid jobs, force wages down and take advantage of the UK’s benefits system. However, is this just, well, scaremongering?
The UK has always benefited from immigration. The 1950s and 60s saw the arrival of West Indians who met the then labour shortage and there are plenty of well-known and profitable companies which were started by migrants – the British institution of Marks and Spencer perhaps being the most iconic although EasyJet is another more recent example.
Today’s fear factor is largely based on our experience of 2004 which saw thousands more immigrants from Eastern and Central European countries like Poland and Latvia enter the UK than anticipated. But does the evidence suggest we should be fearful?
According to a 2013 report from the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration at University College London, from 1995 to 2011:-
* EU immigrants contributed a staggering £8.8bn more than they received in benefits, 34% more than immigrants took out
* Our EU cousins compare favourably to native Britons who cost the nation a staggering £604.5bn, yet we only managed to pay in 89% of our full cost
* Once differences such as gender, age and educational attainment are taken into consideration, recent immigrants are still 21% less likely than native Britons to be receiving benefits
Furthermore, the National Institute for Economic and Social Research report, also published in 2013, found industries with a higher proportion of migrant workers were more productive – for each 1.0% rise in immigrant share of employment there was a corresponding rise in labour productivity of between 0.06 and 0.07%.
The reports back-up Jamie Oliver’s controversial comments. In an interview with Good Housekeeping magazine earlier in 2013 he referred to Britain’s youngsters as ‘wet’ who ‘whinge’ about the EU 48-hour week. His restaurants, which include Fifteen, created to give youngsters opportunities they may not have otherwise had, he claimed, would close if he had to rely on British staff.
Meanwhile, government proposals to restrict EU immigration could cost the economy £60 billion. Research by Harvey Nash recruiters and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, shows EU migrants were more likely to work in more senior jobs and were estimated to earn an average 7.6% or £2,035 more than their British counterparts.
The research also showed migrants are 63.3% more likely to be in work compared to UK-born citizens at 56.2% and were more economically active at 69.8% than those born in the UK at 65%.
If the calculations prove correct, that’s an estimated loss of 2% from the GDP by 2050 equating to £60bn. Statistics from the Office for National Statistics predicts the UK would need another seven million migrants over the next 50 years if debt is to be kept in check and given the UK’s ageing population.
All the evidence points to a vibrant migrant workforce who are creating jobs and stimulating the economy, a complete contradiction to the belief that EU migrants are taking British jobs, forcing down wages and cashing in on benefits. A belief supported by Migration Watch UK, which describes itself as ‘an independent, voluntary, non political body’ ‘concerned about the present scale of immigration into the UK’.
To be fair, Migration Watch UK cites European Commission research which shows UK benefits are much more accessible to migrants than in other EU countries and that 37% of all EU job seekers have never worked in the UK, twice that of France and German. Migration Watch quotes the cost to be an estimated £400 million, picked up by the UK taxpayer, and excludes health costs and child benefits.
Of course, UK benefits are also just as readily accessible by its own citizens with plenty of claimants who have not or hardly contributed to the system, so perhaps it’s not immigration which needs the radical overhaul but the ease at which benefits are available to all – UK and EU citizens.
So why the apparent scaremongering? Could it be a direct result of a pending election and the growing popularity of Nigel Farage and the UK Independence Party (UKIP)?