Feb 25, 2003: Zero Net Immigration

February 25, 2003

Ms. Lorna Haeber
Executive Producer
Information Programming
CBC Radio One
Vancouver, B.C.

Dear Ms. Haeber:

Not too long ago, I sent you a copy of a column from The Ottawa Citizen in which the writer called for a full Canadian discussion of the immigration issue. As I have pointed out to you repeatedly, most CBC journalists have done their utmost to suppress and distort any information which sheds negative light on immigration.

Below is an offering from offshore. It is a summary of the contents of a recent British book on immigration. It was written by one of the most knowledgeable authorities on British immigration, the environment critic from The London Times, Anthony Browne.

Note that Mr. Browne addresses all of the standard arguments that are advanced by members and propagandizers for the immigration industry in Britain. All of these arguments have little substance and he refutes them all easily—as has been done many times in Canada.

Once again, I will say to you that it is long overdue for the CBC to regain some respect from its listeners by using Canada’s publicly-owned broadcasting system to disseminate information on the immigration issue—not to merely propagandize for Canada’s immigration industry.


Think-tank calls for zero net immigration

Britain should have a policy of zero net immigration, with equal numbers of people arriving and departing, according to a new report from the independent think-tank Civitas. The study is the first comprehensive look at the economic, social, demographic and cultural impact of mass immigration to Britain as it now occurs following the abandonment by the Labour government of the Conservatives’ goal of zero net immigration.

Immigration is at record levels

The UK is experiencing the highest levels of net immigration in its history, quadrupling the rate of population growth and adding 543,000 to the population in the last three years, and 1.02m to the population between 1992 and 2000. Unless immigration declines, it will add more than 2 million people every ten years. The Government Actuary Service estimates that with immigration of 195,000 a year (very close to the present level of legal immigration), the UK population will grow from 59.8 million in 2000 to 68.0 million in 2031.

Do We Need Mass Immigration? argues that immigration at current levels is turning Britain into a country very ill-at-ease with itself. It imports poverty, creates parallel communities and increases social tensions, crime, and public health problems such as TB and HIV.

Anyone concerned about social inequality should be worried about immigration

Current immigration increases inequalities in the UK, because it causes a massive redistribution of wealth from those who compete with immigrants in the labour market (who tend to be poor, and suffer lower wages), to those who employ them (who tend to be rich, and enjoy lower costs and bigger profits). This effect is well documented in the US. In addition, in the UK with its tight property market, those who win are those who already own property, particularly those who rent it out; and those who lose are those who rent their homes, and those trying to get on the property ladder. Again, this is a generally a redistribution of wealth from poor to rich.

Current immigration is totally unlike earlier waves

It is a completely different phenomenon from earlier waves of immigration, such as Huguenots, Jews and Ugandan Asians, all of whom were forced to leave their country of origin, and were limited in number, so that the immigration had a natural conclusion.

False accusations of racism have suppressed legitimate debate

However, the imperative to combat racism has resulted in a concerted campaign to convince the people of Britain that immigration in such record numbers is in their own interest. This has created a number of widely believed immigration myths that are simply untrue:

* Britain does not have a declining population – more babies are born each year than people die, and this is expected to carry on for another twenty years. The Government Actuary Service predicts that, with zero net migration, the population will grow very gently from 59.8m in 2000 to 60.3 in 2020.

* Britain does not have a declining workforce, but the fastest growing workforce in Europe. This is largely because of the increase in the retirement age of women from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020. The Government Actuary Service predicts that, with zero net immigration, the workforce will grow by 1.2m by 2020, from 36.89m in 2000 to 38.127m in 2020.

* Britain is not suffering a demographic time bomb, with an unsupportable burden of pensioners on the working population. Rather, the ratio of economically dependent children and pensioners compared to the working age population is expected to get more benign over the next twenty years. The Government Actuary Service predicts that the number of children and pensioners per thousand people of working age will fall from 620 in 2000 to 583 in 2020.

* Britain is not suffering from generalised labour shortages – according to the Labour Force Survey there are 1.55 million unemployed in the UK, with an extra 2.3m who are out of work but want to work but don’t look for work largely because they don’t think they will be able to get jobs that pay well enough.

* As recognised by every authority and study on the issue (including the Government Actuary Service, the Home Office, the Council of Europe and OECD), immigration is no ‘fix’ for an ageing population, because immigrants grow old too. An ageing society is utterly inevitable, and Britain will have to take policies to adjust to it, irrespective of whether there is immigration or not.

* Immigration does boost GDP, but there is no evidence that it raises the level of the one measure that matters, GDP per capita, and unskilled immigration that leads to immigrant communities with high unemployment rates and low incomes may actually lower it.

* Immigrants overall do pay more in tax than they receive in benefits and consume in public services, but only because immigrants from North America, Japan and the EU pay so much more than their fair share. Immigrants from the Third World – who make up the entire net immigration to the UK – are on average less well educated, suffer higher unemployment, claim more of most forms of benefits, and make more demands on public services such as schools and hospitals, and almost certainly do not pay their way on average.

There are no figures for the UK, but official studies in the US show that the average adult Mexican immigrant will consume throughout their life time $55,200 more in services than they contribute in taxes. The studies show that each immigrant without high school education consumes $89,000 more in benefits and services than they pay in taxes. Households in California, where most Mexican immigrants arrive, have to pay on average $1,178 more in taxes each year to subsidise them.

* Immigration is culturally enriching, although there are decreasing economies of scale to this in that doubling the amount of immigration doesn’t double the amount of cultural enrichment. There is also little evidence that British people actually want to be culturally enriched by immigration from around the globe, any more than the people of Nigeria, India, Saudi Arabia or China do.

Anthony Browne, author of the report and himself a journalist, knows the fear of false accusations of racism that many of his colleagues feel. But, he writes:

“My career as a journalist gives me too much respect for freedom of speech to let fear of the inevitable accusations of racism make me silent. History shows that silence only serves the devil. Modern liberal democracies were built on debate.” (p.xvii)

The poor are often the losers

The scale of type of immigration currently being experienced in the UK can also be damaging to the interests of many groups of people in the UK, although there are winners and losers:

Those who benefit from immigration are those who employ immigrants – such as companies who like plentiful cheap labour, and people who like cheap cleaners; those who lose from immigration are those who compete with immigrants, most notably unskilled workers and those from British ethnic minorities.

The US government estimates that about half the decline in wages of unskilled workers in US is because of competition from unskilled immigrants.

* The immigration-led rapid growth in population sharply increases the demand for new houses and, if it carries on at current rates, will increase demand for homes by 2 million by 2021, pushing up the pressure to build on green belt land, pushing up house prices, and adding to congestion, overcrowding in the South East, and pollution.

* Large scale immigration without integration causes social fragmentation. This is increasingly seen in northern towns such as Bradford, where official studies suggest that segregation and alienation between communities is getting worse. Immigration at a slower rate gives more time for integration.

* Immigration is not a substitute for a development policy. It deprives many poor countries of their most educated and entrepreneurial, often devastating health and education systems essential to development, and depriving developing countries of tax-paying and politically stabilising middle-classes.

One third of educated Ghanaians and Sierra Leoneons, and 75% of educated Jamaicans, live abroad. This is mitigated by remittances, but dependence on remittances encourages developing countries to become remittance economies based on exporting their educated rather and does nothing to stimulate their economies in ways that make people want to live there rather than leave.

A balanced and sustainable policy

A rational immigration policy must explicitly identify its aim, the ways to achieve that aim, and then it must be enforced. It must be rational enough to withstand open debate, and to attract widespread public support. The immigration policy should balance the humanitarian (asylum and family reunion), and some limited economic ends such as filling specific skills shortages.

Since Britain is one of the world’s most crowded countries, with a naturally growing population, the optimal level of net migration is zero or mildly negative. Zero net migration does not mean ‘fortress Britain’ – it means equal numbers coming and going.

Immigration, in allowing people to move to where they can maximise their welfare and get maximum return on their skills, is a definite force for good in the world, so long as it doesn’t lead to unbalanced, unsustainable and destabilising population flows.

Therefore, the UK government should aim at policies that allow as free movement of people as is compatible with having balanced and sustainable migration, as has been achieved within the EU. Britain should initiate negotiations on having an open border policy with other high income countries such as Japan, where migration flows are likely to be limited, balanced and beneficial.

For more information contact:

Robert Whelan 020 7401 5470


DO WE NEED MASS IMMIGRATION? THE ECONOMIC, DEMOGRAPHIC, ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL ARGUMENTS AGAINST LARGE-SCALE NET IMMIGRATION TO BRITAIN, by Anthony Browne is available from Civitas, The Mezzanine, Elizabeth House, 39 York Road, London SE1 7NQ, tel 020 7401 5470, www.civitas.org.uk, ISBN 1-903 386 23 3, price 6.95 inc pp.


civitasClick here for purchasing information

civil society For more information e-mail CIVITAS on:
books@civitas.org.uk or call on (020) 7401 5470.