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Friday, May 19, 2017

UK needs more immigrants because of Brexit

For many people the European referendum was about immigration. They were convinced by the racist propaganda of UKIP and others that if we left the EU we will have more control over our own borders, despite the fact that half of all immigration comes from outside the EU and that the UK Government had failed to use all the tools at its disposal to control EU immigration.

The reality has always been very different though. Whole sectors of our economy depend on migrants. The higher education sector needs overseas students to be financially sustainable amongst other factors and of course, any free trade deal with Europe or any other country will require freedom of movement attached to it.

That is why the Tory's manifesto commitment to reduce net immigration to tens of thousands is both unachieveable and dishonest.

Just how dishonest that manifesto is has been exposed by a report by the thinktank, Global Future today. As the Guardian says, they argue that the British economy needs a net inward migration flow of 200,000 people a year, double the Conservative target, if it is to avoid the “catastrophic economic consequences” linked to Brexit. They attribute this to the UK’s low productivity, ageing population and shortage of labour in key areas, such as the NHS.

The net migration target recommended by Global Future is broadly in line with actual levels from 2000 onwards:

The figure, covering both EU and non-EU migration, is based on macroeconomic analysis and a bottom-up, sector-by-sector examination of existing labour shortages.

The report argues the labour market crisis is likely to become acute in the short term unless ministers give an early signal in the Brexit talks on the UK’s plans for EU residents and immigration.

The report says that even with a later retirement age, Britain faces a demographic time bomb, and needs migration of 130,000 a year to maintain the working population at its current level.

“The dependency ratio – the number of people of working age (16-64) versus those over 65 – is worsening. Between 1950 and 2015 this fell from 5.5 to 3.5. Only the recent increase in net migration has prevented it from falling even more precipitously,” it says.

“Between 2000-2050, the number of people over 65 will double, whilst the number of over-85s will quadruple. The working population would need to double in order to maintain the ratio at its current level.”

The report points out that the government’s own forecasting body, the Office of Budget Responsibility, has suggested migration is critical to reducing the fiscal impact of an ageing population. The OBR had suggested “spending on pensions, healthcare and social care means that in the absence of migration, debt as a percentage of GDP would increase from 75% in 2012 to 175% by 2057”.

The report also predicts the demand for skilled labour across social care, construction and nursing alone will require an extra 47,000 migrant workers a year, higher than the current migration of skilled, predominantly EU workers across all sectors.

In unskilled industries, such as hospitality, the industry will remain heavily dependent on migration, with the report predicting a continuing requirement for an extra 60,000 migrants a year.

Global Future points out that 22,000 of the permanent workforce in agriculture come from the EU, supplemented by 60,000 seasonal workers. In food processing, 120,000 of the 400,000-strong workforce are from the EU.

Overall, it suggests, UK industry will need at least 100,000 work-related migrants a year with the remainder likely to be students and people coming to the UK for family reasons.

It is time all the political parties took a more realistic stance on this issue instead of pandering to the UKIP agenda.
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