Migration Has Brought ‘Zero’ Economic Benefit

Philip Johnston and Robert Winnett, London Telegraph, March 29, 2008

Ten years of record immigration to Britain has produced virtually no economic benefits for the country, a parliamentary inquiry has found.

A House of Lords committee, which is due to report next Tuesday, will call into question Government claims that foreign workers add £6 billion each year to the wealth of the nation.

It is expected to say this must be balanced against the increase in population and their use of local services such as health and education, resulting in little benefit per head of the population.

“Our overall conclusion is that the economic benefits of net immigration to the resident population are small and close to zero in the long run,” the report will say.

The findings of the Lords economics committee threaten to demolish the key argument made by ministers to justify the highest levels of immigration in the country’s history.

The inquiry by the committee, which includes two former chancellors and several former Cabinet ministers, is the first to try to balance the costs and benefits of large-scale immigration.

The population is increasing by more than 190,000 every year, largely as a result of immigration.

Foreign workers now make up 12.5 per cent of the labour force, compared with 7.4 per cent a decade ago. Critics say Labour lost control of the borders, issued too many work permits and should not have opened up the labour market to eastern Europe.

However, ministers say that without large-scale immigration there would have been slower economic growth.

A Whitehall paper produced for the committee said average output growth over the past five years was 2.7 per cent a year and migration contributed an estimated 15 to 20 per cent of this. The Government said this indicated a contribution of £6 billion—or £700,000 a day- from foreign workers.

However, the committee’s final report is expected to say the Government should have focused on the impact of immigration on GDP per head, not the economy as a whole.

David Coleman, a professor of demography at Oxford University, said in his evidence to the committee that the Government had excluded costs from crime, security, the race relations process, health “tourism” and imported ailments such as TB.

Richard Pearson, a visiting professor at the University of Sussex’s Centre for Migration Research, said: “While migrants have clearly helped alleviate often long-standing skill shortages, they have also filled many low-skilled jobs, often at very low wages.

“These migrants are likely to be displacing, and reducing the incentive on employers to recruit and train low-skilled, indigenous workers.”

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