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Economics UKIP Immigration Billboard.

Published on December 31st, 2014 | by Roland Mortimer
Image © UKIP Immigration Billboard


Immigrants benefit Britain; let’s not turn our back on them

The rise of UKIP has been brought about by many factors, including distrust in the political establishment, a sluggish economy and hostility towards Europe. However, arguably the most important issue has been Britain’s growing antipathy towards immigration.

During the last decade the general public have become increasingly concerned about the level of immigration into this country, with people particularly worried about the impact it may have on wages, housing and social cohesion. Politicans have responded in turn by introducing a cap on net migration so that the influx is reduced to the “tens of thousands”.

This negative rhetoric is damaging Britain, not only because of the economic impact that reducing net migraton will have, but also the message it sends to talented and hard-working people wanting to come to the UK for work or study.

Immigration makes Britain a more prosperous country. It increases our national income (GDP) and average incomes (GDP per capita), and also makes our society more culturally diverse.

People who come here to live and work bring new skills and fill gaps in the labour market where there are shortages. They develop Britain’s intellectual capital and increase productivity in the economy. There is actually very little evidence to suggest migrant workers take British jobs. Research shows that immigrants are not close substitutes for native workers and thus are more likely to create jobs than replace existing ones.

A report by the Centre of Entrepreneurs and DueDil shows immigrants are responsible for a huge number of employment opportunities in Britain. According to the report, 1 in 7 firms were set up by a migrant to the country and, contrary to their reputation, the UK is home to 10,931 Romanian entrepreneurs responsible for 10,693 companies.

The effect immigration has on wages is also nebulous. It does create more competition in specific areas of the economy, with the very high-skilled and very low-skilled sectors being the most over-represented by migrants. Natives who are less educated may lose out but the overall impact is negligible, especially when compared to other factors such as technological innovation.

In short, blaming immigration for our woes is misguided and completely counter-productive. Immigration may have a negative impact on certain areas of the population but, overall, it is a positive phenomenon which strengthens us economically, advances us sociologically and enriches us culturally.

The mainstream political parties should not succumb to UKIP’s populist, short-term thinking, but instead should focus on developing a positive agenda on immigration. Britain has always benefited from being an open economy, by encouraging investment and trade in goods and services. It would be disasterous to shut the door on the rest of the world now.

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