Migrant Workers Boost Economy, Says TUC Report

Angela Balakrishnan, Manchester Guardian, June 19, 2007

Migrant workers are boosting growth in the economy and have not depressed wages or pushed up unemployment among Britons, the TUC says today.

Despite claims from organisations such as Migration Watch UK that immigrants place extra pressure on housing and public services, the TUC says these workers often pay more in taxes than the value of public services they receive.

The report, entitled The Economics of Migration, says that without workers from abroad many sectors in the economy would collapse.

[AR News Editor’s Note: See AR News of June 19, “Councils Ordered To Carry Out Charm Offensive For Migrants And Travellers.”]

Wages and jobs have not been depressed and although there is some limited evidence that low-skilled workers are struggling to find work, the majority have not lost out thanks to a buoyant economy, the report adds.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Migrant workers are making a substantial contribution to Britain’s economy, and some sectors would collapse if they were removed overnight. They haven’t caused mass unemployment or held wages down as some would have us believe.”

Treasury figures show that inward migration adds about 10% to economic growth each year. The Bank of England has also welcomed the effect migrant labour has had on pay settlements by stopping them from picking up more sharply in response to recent higher inflation.

In spite of the benefits migrant labour brings, Mr Barber said not enough was being done to protect these workers from unscrupulous employers taking advantage of employees’ lack of knowledge of their rights and poor English.

“The solution is to crack down on the minority of bad employers by properly enforcing employment rights such as the minimum wage and closing loopholes such as the poor protection enjoyed by agency workers,” said Mr Barber.

“The emergence of a large group of employers habitually breaking the law could undermine the minimum wage’s effectiveness for all workers. The Low Pay Commission and the government must make special efforts to make sure the value of the minimum wage does not fall relative to pay.”

The report also adds that the abundance of migrant labour should not stop the government from helping unemployed and disadvantaged British citizens from getting into work.

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