European Affairs


Immigration (immigrants and their descendants) will now account for 83 percent of future population growth in the United Kingdom. The population projections took account of increased migration resulting from the expansion of the EU but they assumed that total migration flows would rapidly decrease from 255,000 in 2004-5 to just 145,000 in 2007-8.

So far there has been no sign of a decrease in immigration from the new EU countries and the accession of Bulgaria and Romania (and possibly other East and Southern European countries) will add to immigration pressures.

The economic benefit from this inflow is very limited. Government arguments are fallacious. Immigration is not essential to our economic growth. It adds to economic growth but also adds nearly proportionately to our population so that the benefit to the host community is small. (A result found also in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands.) In the UK it amounts to about £25 per head per year.

Immigrants will have little impact on our ability to pay pensions in future: immigrants, too, will age and require pensions. Their financial input to the Exchequer is, despite government claims, approximately neutral.

Immigration is welcome to many employers because it holds down pay levels, especially for the unskilled, and contributes to lower interest rates. It can also be a source of cheap skilled labor with no training costs. But it is the taxpayer who picks up all the costs of the extra infrastructure required. The extra population also adds to the pressure on transport and water supplies, both of which are already facing serious difficulties.

To the extent that immigration holds down wages it makes it more difficult for the government to achieve its stated aim of moving from welfare to work the 1.5 million unemployed and the 2.7 million people on Incapacity Benefit. There are now one million young people in Britain who are neither in work nor in education. Are immigrants doing jobs the British will no longer do? No. In large parts of Britain where there are few, if any, immigrants, British people are doing all these jobs. The fundamental problem is the benefits trap. Wages are held down to a level where for some there is little benefit in working rather than collecting benefits. Wages should be allowed to rise to make lower paid jobs worthwhile and to encourage productivity. Increasing productivity is the only way that a nation can become richer.

There is growing resentment among the native population of whom 70-80 percent wish to see a tougher immigration policy. Only ten percent feel that the government is listening to public opinion on immigration. The ethnic population is also concerned about the direction of events: A majority of them (55 percent) also wish to see tighter immigration control. A majority of the population (69 percent) feel that Britain is losing its own culture. In the last ten years, 600,000 Londoners have left the city to be replaced by 700,000 immigrants. This is changing the whole nature of the city.

The natural tendency of some immigrants to join their own communities, and to choose spouses from their countries of origin, is leading to the formation of parallel communities with little contact, or identification, with mainstream British culture. Indeed, in some cases the younger generation is growing up hostile to British culture. Segregation, not integration, could loom on the horizon.

 

This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number 7, Issue number 3-4 in the Fall/Winter of 2006.