An optimum level for immigration


August 29, 2006

The Home Secretary has recently suggested that an optimum level for immigration might be established. A Migrationwatch research paper (Read) suggests some criteria.

Immigration is of long term benefit to the economy only if it raises the overall level of productivity; otherwise, it simply adds to the pressure on infrastructure and public services. Migrationwatch therefore calls for long term economic migration to be confined to the very highly skilled. Less skilled workers can make a valuable contribution by filling gaps while British workers are trained but they should not be allowed to settle permanently.

Migrationwatch research, based on data from the Government's own Labour Force Survey, shows that a worker must earn £27,000 a year to make a positive lifetime contribution, whether measured by the tax paid or by the addition to GDP. This, in fact, is the average salary for full time employment. Only about 20% of migrants reach this salary level.

"The Government and its supporters repeatedly trot out favourable looking statistics which seek to give the impression that immigration in general has a very positive effect on the UK economy", said Sir Andrew Green, Chairman Migrationwatch. "The reality is that immigrants are extremely varied. A minority are highly skilled and highly paid but a large majority will end up as a cost to the taxpayer if they settle here permanently. The same applies to the British population since higher earners pay most of the tax bill. The crucial difference is that we can, and should, choose which work related migrants are to be allowed to settle in the UK".

Migrationwatch therefore propose that, apart from those granted asylum and those coming to Britain for family formation and reunion, only the highly skilled who are filling a vacancy which cannot be filled by EEA citizens and with a salary of more than the average of £27,000 a year, should be allowed to settle in the UK. Other skilled migrants from outside the EU, who earn a salary lower than this threshold should only be allowed into the UK on a temporary basis to provide a short term solution to labour market gaps while a British worker is trained. The present chaos over finding jobs for British trained nurses illustrates the problems of using long term immigration to meet short term staffing problems.

As for unskilled migrants, the Government now acknowledges that there is no reason to bring them to Britain, given the large number of East European workers now available to fill these positions.

"To most people the measures we are suggesting are simple common sense. This research demonstrates once more that there is no economic case for massive immigration into the UK. The Home Secretary is right to say that we need to balance economic gain against social costs. The social costs of the present massive levels of immigration, including their impact on infrastructure and public services, far outweigh any possible benefit," said Sir Andrew.

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