Thursday, March 10, 2005

Report Challenges UK Immigration Rhetoric

On the heels of academic studies in the US which reveal the heavy economic cost of high immigration to the US economy, British immigration experts have questioned the rosy account of immigration's benefits to the UK continually offered by Tony Blair and his government.

A report from the Migrationwatch think-tank says Tony Blair and other ministers are routinely citing statistics that are disingenuous at best and often wrong. These include the suggestion that immigration contributes 0.5 per cent to the nation's overall GDP and that immigrants contribute £2.5 billion more to the economy than they cost.

Such figures have often been quoted by Mr Blair and Cabinet colleagues in support of record immigration levels.

But the Migrationwatch report says they are misleading because while immigrants do add to the size of the economy they also add to the population.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the think-tank, said: "What the Government conveniently fails to mention is that they therefore generate considerable costs in terms of infrastructure - schools, hospitals, housing, transport etc."

When these costs are added back, says the report, the true economic "benefit" to the host population is likely to be at best the addition of 0.1 per cent of GDP, or about 14p a week per head each year. The likely true benefit is probably no better than neutral - as all major studies overseas have also concluded.

As in the US, the influx of immigrants desperate for work drives down wages as competition shifts from employers competing for workers to workers competing for jobs.

The report says that while the current levels of immigration are attractive to employers because they provide an unlimited source of cheap labour, they are extremely expensive for the taxpayer and harmful for the less skilled indigenous workforce whose wages are held down and who are more likely to end up unemployed.

Furthermore, to the extent that immigration holds down wages, it makes it more difficult to attract into the labour force the one million on incapacity benefit who would like to work.

Recall that Tony Blair's is a Labor government, supposedly dedicated to raising the standard of living for the British working class.

Migrationwatch does not oppose all immigration, but insists that the benefits of immigration have been drastically overstated and that the large numbers of immigrants permitted into Britain negate any gain that might be realized by a more sensible policy.

The report says that while limited skilled migration in both directions is a natural and beneficial feature of open economies, the issue is one of scale. It claims that immigration at current levels - around 150,000 net arrivals a year - brings with it "considerable costs in terms of additional strains on housing, public services and social cohesion." It also accuses Ministers of relying on "dodgy" statistics. A Home Office calculation that migrants in the UK contributed in taxes £2.5 billion more than they consumed in benefits and public services was made in a year in which the government accounts were in surplus so everyone paid in more than they took out.

Of course, Migrationwatch's report details only the economic cost of immigration, it does not examine the dillution of British culture or British national cohesion that results from permitting hundreds of thousands from culturally dissonant countries to settle in Britain.


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