Thursday, October 06, 2016
Why immigration is important to the UK economy
The above video sharply underlines the problem with the blatant Tory appeal to UKIP voters over immigration. There are a whole host of reasons why both right-wing parties are wrong on immigration but let's just look at it on their terms for a minute.
At the Tory Conference Home Secretary, Amber Rudd suggested that foreigners are “taking jobs British people could do.” Her colleague, the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, said some immigrants “come to the country and consume the wealth of the country without ever having created anything.” Whilst, Theresa May herself said in her closing speech that some Britons have been pushed out of work due to low-skilled immigration.
The Independent has the facts.They point out that foreign-born workers are unquestionably a significant part of the UK’s 31.6 million strong workforce. There are 5.4 million non-UK born workers in the UK according to the latest official statistics. That represents 17 per cent of the total.
However, EU migrants are more likely to be in work than natives, with the participation rate for the group at just below 80 per cent, refuting the idea that most immigrants do not "contribute".
The high and rising labour force participation rate for the UK native population undermines the idea that immigrants are "taking" jobs from Britons.
Aggregate figures conceal the fact that immigrant workers are much more important for certain sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, food processing, IT and construction.
A reduction in immigration could have damaging economic side-effects. Nearly 12 per cent of the UK's 2.1 million construction workers are from abroad. And construction organisations have warned that they will struggle to complete projects without being able to draw on skilled migrant labour from Europe.
Data for the English National Health Service shows that in 2015 of the 1.22 million total staff around 235,000 were non-British, around 19 per cent. For nurses the share of non-British staff was 21 per cent. For doctors the non-British share was 30 per cent. The IPPR think tank has warned that the NHS would "collapse" without its European Union workers.
Each year around 500,000 people from 200 countries study come to the UK to study in the UK, according to Education UK. On top of this 600,000 come to do an English language course. The ExEdUK pressure group estimates that total UK education exports total more than £20bn, making it the UK's fifth largest services export sector. It also estimates that overseas students directly contribute around £11.8bn to the UK economy.
Finally, the tax benefit of the presence of immigrants is seen as outweighing the financial cost they impose through greater pressure on local infrastructure and public services.
Other research by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggests immigrants boost our national productivity by filling gaps in the labour market that would otherwise not be filled, which ultimately means faster GDP growth and higher incomes per head for us all.
The one thing that is clear is that if the Tories pursue their dubious moral and popularist crusade to to its logical conclusion then they will wreck the British economy and cripple our public services.