This article appeared in the Daily Mail, a newspaper normally strongly in favour of curbing immigration:
David Cameron said recently: ‘We are taking on the enemies of enterprise. The bureaucrats in government departments who concoct those ridiculous rules and regulations that make life impossible.’ And last month we had a ‘Budget for Growth’.
So it is more than a bit odd that ministers and bureaucrats at the Home office are busy concocting a new set of rules and regulations that the government itself admits will reduce growth, make us poorer, and cost us all money.
If the government’s limits on skilled migration from outside the European Union are ‘successful’ then they will, according to the government’s own assessment, cost the economy perhaps £2-4billion by the end of the Parliament.
And the deficit would rise by at least half a billion – so taxes will have to go up or spending will have to be cut.
Perhaps even more bizarre are the government’s proposals to slash the number of student visas. Again, let’s look at its own analysis.
This suggests the new rules will keep out at least 60,000 perfectly genuine students – keeping many UK Universities profitable, resulting in a reduction of, conservatively, £1-2billion in UK exports.
So the PM’s big idea for export-led growth is to take a thriving, dynamic and high-value British export industry – and then stop it from selling its product to foreigners.
It’s hardly surprising that the cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee concluded, in a highly critical report, that the proposals ‘could be detrimental to a thriving, successful industry’.
Immigration benefits the British economy. Skilled immigration is particularly beneficial, but lots of evidence suggest that immigration overall – including that from the new members of the European Union – is good for the economy.
Not only does it help growth in the short run, but evidence from the US suggests it boosts productivity and innovation over the medium to long run – exactly what the economy needs.
What about the impact on unemployment? There is not a single serious economic study that suggests immigration has had any significant impact on the employment of British workers. Immigration may have had some effect on wages, but not very much.
A report last year from MigrationWatch found that unemployment is higher in those areas of England that have experienced the highest levels of immigration. True. But those areas had higher levels of unemployment to start with – so it wasn’t the immigrants who caused it.
Even more to the point, during the period MigrationWatch looked at, the areas with more immigration actually did better in terms of unemployment.
Nor are immigrants a drain on the state. Some immigrants claim benefits, use the Health Service, have children at school, commit crimes and so on.
But they pay taxes too. And on average, they pay more in tax and use less in services than natives.
This is hardly surprising since many, if not most, immigrants come here to work or study.
So overall they reduce the tax burden on the rest of us. Fewer migrants will mean higher taxes or cuts in services.
I know these views aren’t very popular and that many will disagree. But this issue isn’t new.
Previous immigrant inflows haven’t been that popular either – for example Jewish refugees in the 1930s, and the East African Asians in the 1970s.
Both were the subject of considerable scaremongering in the press. of course both groups prospered in the UK, both doing well for themselves and benefiting the economy and society as a whole.
We don’t know now precisely what will happen to the diverse groups of immigrants who’ve arrived here recently – Poles and Pakistanis, Somalis and South Africans, Indians and Iraqis.
Within each group, some individuals will succeed – economically or otherwise – and others won’t. But overall they will make Britain better off. Source: Daily Mail
Jonathan Portes is director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research
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