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Britain can benefit from immigration | Immigration Matters

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The Evening Standard’s Hamish McRae for writes.

If our economy is doing so badly, why do so many people come here for jobs?

The UK is one of the few European economies that has a rising population and increasing workforce, which over time may well mean that Britain becomes the most populous European nation, passing Germany on the way down in around 2050.

This, to be clear, is a longer-term issue — it is not related to the latest downward lurch in UK and European economic confidence that became more evident last week. But longer-term issues almost by definition are more important than short-term ones, and the latest migration figures from the ONS paint a fascinating picture.

Some big numbers. About 600,000 immigrants come to Britain for the long term every year and some 350,000 leave. So we have a net inward migration of 250,000 a year. Those figures have been pretty much the same for the past decade, though they have nudged up a little, for between 2001 and 2004 the annual net migration was under 200,000. If you look at the nationality of migrants, there is a net outflow of British of around 50,000 a year, and a net inflow of 300,000 non-nationals. Out of that, between 50,000 and 100,000 are EU citizens.

This whole issue has of course become deeply political, with the Government under attack. But if you dig into the numbers, you see just how difficult it is for any government to alter things. There are such strong economic forces driving inward migration that if you start to try to curb it you risk damaging the economy.

That issue has been highlighted as much by the employment numbers as by the migration ones. At the moment, total employment in the economy is flat. But the level of employment of non-nationals is rising by about 250,000 a year and employment of nationals is falling by a similar amount. We don’t really know the reason for that decline, though there have been plenty of knee-jerk explanations, usually regarding the lack of work ethic among Britons. That seems to me to be an unhelpful line, partly because it leads to asking “why?”, and partly because the phenomenon is not evident only in Britain. Last week I was chatting to a businessman in Germany who explained to me that his greatest problem was that younger people did not have a sufficient work ethic.

At any rate, the fact remains that foreigners have continued to come here for jobs right through the recession. There has, however, been one big change. The number of people coming to Britain to study has shot up from 100,000 to 250,000 a year.

You can view this in two ways. On the one hand, it is a sign of success in a fast-growing industry in which the UK has a competitive advantage: higher education. On the other, it has become a favoured path for immigration because people who study here then want to stay on and get a job. There has also been some fraud — bogus colleges — which is now being tackled.

And us? Fewer Britons are emigrating, with numbers down a third over the past five years while the number coming back has barely budged. Maybe in the next year more Britons will return from Europe. A lot apparently say that they want to come back from Spain but can’t because they can’t sell their homes. But at the moment people are not flooding back.

What does all this say about our economy?

Three thoughts.

The first is that the UK job market is still a magnet. People come here for jobs and have gone on doing so despite the recession. There was the surge of people coming from Eastern Europe after EU enlargement, but right through the slump there have been more people coming in from Europe than were going back. True, the continued attraction of the UK job market may be a function of diminishing opportunities elsewhere, particularly in southern Europe, but for whatever reason, the UK is still attracting foreign talent.

The second is that our higher education industry is a tremendously important exporter. That needs a bit of thought. Strategically, it must be a benefit to have such a large share of the global student market and it brings in revenue.

But surely we should not see this simply as a cash cow to support universities that are under financial pressure. And if students want to stay and deploy their added human capital as part of our labour force, what then? Surely that is good too.

The third is that we are not going to change this quickly, even if we wanted to. So we have to figure out how to deal with it better. Part of that will be to tackle the abuses more effectively and that is very difficult for all sorts of reasons, good and bad. But part also is to focus on the benefits in an honest and apolitical way, and see how we might boost those benefits still further. Source: Evening Standard, London.

Last week Labour MP Frank Field has called for Free movement of labour across Europe to be restricted.

The restriction, he said, could stay in place while recession in the UK lasts.

But the coalition government dismissed the idea, saying people looking for jobs abroad could be “badly impacted” if it was applied across the EU.

Although unlikely to be taken seriously, Mr Field’s ideas will alarm some European citizens who are yet to receive the benefits of full free movement of labour within the EU.

Even though they been members of the European Union since 2007, when it comes to employment Bulgarian and Romanian citizens do not have the same rights as other Europeans, for instance from Poland, Slovakia or other A8 Accession countries. See: Free Movement of EU nationals explained.

UK work restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, were extended until the end of 2013 by the British government last November. Other European countries have similar barriers to their newest EU ‘partners’.

Bulgarians and Romanians coming to the UK on Yellow Card registration permits can work and study full time on vocational courses such as NVQ or QCF courses in Health and Social Care

EU Commissioner Lazslo Andor has called for a relaxation on work UK restrictions for Eastern Europeans.

Countries such as Australia, Canada and the USA realise the value of skilled migration and international students.

In March, Canada added more than 82,000 jobs with the gains coming from its two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec.

The retail sector is the single largest employer in Canada, accounting for almost two million workers. Health care, nursing, social assistance and manufacturing are the next biggest employers.

Britain benefits enormously from the millions of UK tourists who visit the country every year and add billions to the economy. London is currently full of tourists and that’s before the Olympics have even started.

See also:

Nurse Jobs Canada

MP wants EU free movement restricted to reduce UK unemployment

Yellow Card applications for Bulgarians and Romanians can take up to six months to process

UK faces fine from EU over immigration and free movement restrictions on Eastern Europeans

Romanian EU migrants head for London jobs ahead of Olympics

London Olympic motto unveiled as 100-day countdown begins

How Romanians and Bulgarians working illegally without Yellow Card or papers can legalise their status in the UK

EU Commissioner calls for end to UK work restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians

7 tips for completing a Yellow Card BR1 application to work and study in the UK

Employment restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians extended until end of 2013 

Is Heathrow Border Force ready for Olympics?

Yellow or Blue Card Refused – Appeal or Reapply?

If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: or visit 

Majestic College offer special packages for EU students. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians. 

For more information call Joanna on 0208 207 1020 or email

Overseas students and workers can qualify for a tax refund 

You could qualify for a tax refund if you are an overseas student, work permit holder, Tier 1, Yellow or Blue Card holder – in fact any visa type – even if you are no longer legal or even in the UK!

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