139,000 immigrants beat the jobs crunch: But number of Britons in work drops by 654,000
By Steve Doughty
Last updated at 7:26 PM on 5th October 2010
Migrant workers have continued to flow into the country during the recession while Britons lose their jobs, a report shows.
Over the past two years, 139,000 migrants have found jobs in Britain, it adds.
But the number of British workers in employment dropped by 654,000.
Service sector: Foreign worker numbers rose during the recession, but a cut in numbers could harm the UK economy
The analysis questioned the Government's plans for a cap on immigration from outside the European Union.
The report said that recently arrived migrant workers contribute to Britain's economy and pay taxes, while British workers are more likely to drain the Treasury by claiming benefits.
Some Treasury officials are worried about the effect of an immigration cap on tax receipts, it added.
The findings echo official figures two months ago that the number of foreign-born workers had risen by 114,000 in a year, bringing the full number in the economy to 3.85million.
Some 100,000 of the migrants who have arrived in the past two years come from outside the EU, according to yesterday's report by the Financial Times.
These people can be made subject to tighter immigration controls because they do not enjoy the rights to live and work in Britain that apply to EU citizens. The Coalition has promised to cut net migration – the level by which the number of people coming to live in the country exceeds the number leaving to live abroad – to below 100,000.
Immigration rates this low were last seen in the 1990s.
But some ministers, including Business Secretary Vince Cable, appear opposed to the proposed cap on non-EU migrants, believing it would damage the economy.
An unnamed Treasury source told the FT: 'It is very difficult to do these sums. But the Treasury suggests migrant workers definitely have a positive impact on the public purse, so a limit would worsen the nation's finances.'
Many employers have preferred to employ migrants rather than British workers over the past decade because they work harder – and for lower wages.
However, critics of high immigration say the impact of migrants on the economy is small, while the pressure of high immigration on housing, transport, water and energy is highly damaging.
The Migrationwatch think-tank yesterday pointed to a 2008 House of Lords committee report which said migrants had 'small impact on gross domestic product per head, whether positive or negative'.
The Lords report also said that different migrant groups contributed differently to taxes, and that positive contributions of some groups were offset by negative contributions from others.
The report suggested that the cost to the economy of a cap on immigration would be 33billion by 2016.
This does not include the cost of housing and public services for immigrants.
Last year, net migration was 196,000. This level would mean that Britain's population would reach the symbolic 70million a year figure within 20 years.
A population of 70million will mean homes will have to be built at a rate of four million every ten years. This would be mainly in the south and east, which are the regions of the greatest population growth.
Pay up front: Tory MP urges migrants to shell out 5,000 to use public services before they are given visas