Little to show from tide of migrants
By Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migrationwatch UK
Last Updated: 2:40am GMT 04/01/2007
It is amazing what the Government's spin doctors have been getting away with. For years they have trumpeted the economic benefits of immigration but we now find that they are, in fact, very small.
The Government recently put a figure on it for the first time. Ministers told Parliament that immigrants add “at least 4 billion to production”. What they did not say is that they also add almost exactly the equivalent percentage to our population, so the extra wealth per head is barely positive. We calculate it is worth 4p per week per head.
Another claim that immigrants contribute 10-15 per cent of trend growth gives a slightly better result of 12p a week. Both are trivial.
We shouldn't be entirely surprised. Major studies in America, Canada and Australia found similarly small benefit typically a tenth of one per cent of GDP.
In Holland, the conclusion of a government-sponsored study was that “the overall net gain in income of residents is likely to be small and may even be negative.”
Of course, some migration in both directions is a natural and beneficial part of an open economy. And, whatever the overall effect, some people will gain. Employers are happy because wages are held down, profits improved and interest rates are somewhat lower. But it's not so good for the low-paid, nor for the 1.25 million young people not in employment or education.
But the key issue is scale. We need to balance any economic benefit against the social cost of immigration, which is now running at very nearly a migrant a minute. Even allowing for those who depart this amounts to an extra 500 people a day.
They will add the equivalent of the population of Birmingham every five years and three quarters will come to London and the South East.
This inflow is causing severe strain in schools and hospitals which cannot realistically be expanded at such short notice. The same applies to housing where prices are disappearing out of the reach of first-time buyers, partly under the pressure of landlords buying to let.
So, the question is this: Do we want to become even more crowded for the sake of a small economic gain?
The public is reaching its own view and there is deep disquiet about the impact of changes in our society which are taking place without our ever having been consulted.
In his New Year message from Miami the Prime Minister wrote: “As we know all too well, crime and anti-social behaviour top the public's concerns.”
Wrong. Immigration has been the top issue for months and yet he didn't even mention it. He continues not to do so at the Government's peril.