Migrants contribute £25bn to UK economy, study finds
Arrivals from EEA countries since 2000 have worked more and received less in benefits than average Briton, academics argue
Tuesday 5 November 2013
Migrants who have come to the UK since the year 2000 have less likely to receive benefits or use social housing than people already living in the country, according to a study that argues the new arrivals have made a net contribution of £25bn to public finances.
People from European Economic Area countries have been the most likely to make a positive contribution, paying about 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits over the 10 years from 2001 to 2011, according to the findings from University College London’s migration research unit. Other immigrants paid about 2% more than they received.
Recent immigrants were 45% less like to receive state benefits or tax credits than people native to the UK and 3% less like to live in social housing, says the report written by Professor Christian Dustmann and Dr Tommaso Frattini.
But going back further to 1995, the study found that non-EEA immigrants arriving between that year and 2011 had claimed more in benefits than they paid in taxes, mainly because they had more children than people already living in Britain.
The academics also found that recent immigrants from the EEA – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – participated more in the labour market. Their study was based predominantly on official reports including the British Labour Force Survey as well as tax data and public expenditure statistics. The EEA immigrants were also more likely to have a university than British people.
Dustmann said : "Our research shows that in contrast with most other European countries, the UK attracts highly educated and skilled immigrants from within the EEA as well as from outside. What’s more, immigrants who arrived since 2000 have made a very sizeable net fiscal contribution and therefore helped to reduce the fiscal burden on UK-born workers.
"Our study also suggests that over the last decade or so the UK has benefited fiscally from immigrants from EEA countries, who have put in considerably more in taxes and contributions than they received in benefits and transfers.
« Given this evidence, claims about ’benefit tourism’ by EEA immigrants seem to be disconnected from reality. »
Meanwhile a discussion paper published online by Professor John Salt and Dr Janet Dobson, also from UCL’s migration research unit, argued the government’s target to cut net migration to the UK to the tens of thousands by 2015 is « neither a useful tool nor a measure of policy effectiveness ». The pair looked at progress towards the target since the coalition government was formed in 2010.
In its most recent figures the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed a net flow of 176,000 migrants into the UK in the year to December 2012, up from 153,000 in the year to September 2012, ending five consecutive quarters of decline.
In the paper the authors say : « We have serious doubts that the net migration target is either a useful tool or a measure of policy effectiveness and we believe that recent experience provides a number of lessons for future migration policy, both in the UK and internationally. »
Net migration to the UK is calculated as the difference between the number of people entering the country and the number leaving. The target applies to all immigrants and emigrants, including British citizens and those from other countries in the European economic area (EEA).
The government has focused its policies almost entirely on non-EEA citizens, the paper says, making big cuts in highly skilled immigrants and foreign students. It adds : « It is not clear what happens next – where further cuts would come from, what policies would be needed to maintain a net inflow below 100,000 or what happens if an improving economy requires more skilled labour. »
The paper argues that damage has already been done by actions to cut work-related, student and family migration, harming the UK’s reputation as a good place to work and study. "Too much of the debate about international migration in the UK is about ’immigrants’ as an undifferentiated group, without getting to grips with who ’they’ are, why they come, the jobs they do, the contribution they make and the length of time they stay.
"And there is almost no reference to the fact that international migration is a two-way street, involving British as well as non-British citizens, which is what net migration is all about.
« The flow of people out of the country is vital to achieving the target and is something over which the government has much less influence. »
A Home Office spokeswoman said : "We are building an immigration system that works in the national interest, with net migration down by a third since its peak in 2010.
"We have tightened immigration routes where abuse was rife while still encouraging the brightest and best to come here to study and work, but more needs to be done.
« This is why the immigration bill will prevent migrants from using public services which they are not entitled to and reduce the factors which draw people to the UK. »
[Source : The Guardian]