Waves of immigration have always raised questions about positive and negative effects on the native population, and usually provoked opposition (see for example Jones, 1977). But immigrants have brought considerable benefit to the UK , and this essay explores this contention. As I have discovered in exploring the subject, the academic literature on the effects of immigration is already quite vast, although far more work seems to have been done on this in connection with the USA than in connection with the UK . Indeed the recent Home Office study by Glover et al (2001) claims it is striking how little research on migration there has been in the UK . I cannot claim to have completed a thoroughly comprehensive survey of the literature; but it is my hope that my own attempts to evaluate it will give a useful introduction to the subject. And the references given will help readers to explore the literature for themselves. At a more popular level, two useful magazine/newspaper debates on the pros -and cons of immigration into the UK are ( i ) A. Browne and N. Harris “Does Britain need immigration?” Prospect Magazine June 2002. (ii) The contributions of A. Browne and K. Best on immigration in The Times, 7 th August 2002 .
One basic problem in assessing the pros and cons of immigration is the inadequacy of available data, compounded by the problem of the comparability of different data sets.
For example, Gott and Johnston (2002) note that calculation of so called ‘fiscal effects' (defined later in this introduction) is not straight forward: “….there is a paucity of data recording migrant receipt of, participation in and contribution to publicly-provided goods, services and public revenues in the UK…”. Then again, the same authors comment on the variety of legal routes by which migrants may gain entry to the UK - European Economic area nationals entering for more than 12 months, asylum seekers and dependents , family reunion and other dependants, and eleven other categories. They go on to say “Unfortunately none of the major UK labour market or tax-benefit databases identifies migrants' routes of entry. This prevents any analysis of migrants' performance by category, …” . For inadequacy of data in the USA see for example Schultz (1998).
Once the data is assembled, it needs to be analyzed statistically. There are all sorts of pitfalls. For example, Cortes (2001) pointed out that with data from the USA , aggregating immigrants into one general category is dangerous because it fails to take into account the enormous variation that exists within the total set of immigrants. Then in researching immigration issues various mathematical models are developed. They each have strengths and weaknesses and there is a large research literature on the limitations to results using various models.
A word now about some technical terms that will be met with in a study of the literature.
First, fiscal effects . The Oxford dictionary defines this as of or relating to government revenue, especially taxes. (It also notes that ‘ fisc ' in Roman history meant the public treasury of Rome or the emperor's privy purse ).
The Gott and Johnston paper (ibid) divides fiscal effects into two categories, direct and indirect:
Direct effects. These are the contributions that taxes contribute to Government revenue (positive effects), and the drain on Government revenue through the claiming of benefits and the consumption of government–provided goods (negative effects).
Direct Net Annual Fiscal Effect is then measured by the equation NAF = TM – EM
Where TM is total tax and National Insurance revenues received and EM is equivalent to the value of government expenditure in benefits and ‘consumption' of public services.
Indirect effects. Migrants produce these effects through their influence on the pre-tax income of UK-born residents (e.g. by increasing or decreasing the level of production, by affecting the employment rate of UK-born residents, etc.).
Second, terms used in arguments about labour market competition. White and Liang (1998) explain the terms as follows:
The substitution hypothesis says that immigrants offer similar skills to natives. Immigrants then, compete directly with natives, and this direct competition is expected to lower the economic returns of natives.
An alternative hypothesis is the complementarity hypothesis: immigrants do not possess directly competitive skills; rather they bring unique skills or occupy niches that native –born workers avoid. Under this hypothesis, immigrants can actually raise the productivity of other workers. It is generally agreed amongst economists and researchers, that both substitution and complementarity exists in the economies of developed nations
Third, human capital . This term is used to indicate the skills, knowledge and ability that people acquire through formal and informal learning, that are important for economic growth. Sometimes to economic growth are added individual well being and reduction of inequality.
Immigrants can be classified into at least two distinct groups, refugees , that is individuals fleeing persecution in their home country, and economic migrants , who are individuals searching for better jobs and economic security (Cortes 2001).These two categories do of course overlap, but for convenience in this essay, these two groups will be treated in turn, first economic migrants, second refugees. Consideration of the latter will lead quite naturally to the final brief section of this essay which concerns the moral responsibilities that the UK has towards refugees and indeed to people who attempt to come to the UK for economic reasons.
A note about what this essay will not cover.
(1) The effects of illegal immigration will not be specifically assessed. Sufficient to say that illegal immigration is generally opposed by Governments since they have with this category no control over the type of persons entering. Such immigration may be regarded as an attack on immigration control systems and the rule of law ( Lohrmann , 2000). The linkage of illegal immigration with drugs and arms trafficking, gambling and prostitution, and possible infiltration by “terrorists” all suggest that such immigration should be reduced, as has been highlighted by recent “terrorist” and drug dealing events. Furthermore, data on illegal immigration is almost by definition, very scanty. And this makes incorporating illegal immigrants into immigration studies very problematic. Thus Gott and Johnston (ibid) write that the analysis in their report was primarily concerned with legal migrants. They go on to say “it is unlikely that the Labour Force Survey, which depends upon voluntary responses, captures those living and working illegally in the UK ”.
Any fairly massive illegal immigration could threaten the earnings of native born workers. However one report from the USA suggests that illegal immigration does not always have this effect in that country (Bean et al., 1998). But the USA is very different from Europe in terms of the organisation and flexibility of the labour market and the role of the public sector and social security in the economy. Certainly for those European countries with high unemployment, the situation could well be different. Finally the recent Home office study by Glover et al (2001) comments that the rising illegal migration is both unsustainable and undesirable in economic and social terms.
(2) The idea that immigration could be used to maintain the support ratio for the ageing population will not be discussed here, since it is generally agreed by demographers that this is nonsense – see our accompanying essay on immigration policy.
There are pros and cons to allowing any considerable net immigration to the UK . In our view, the pro-immigration point of view has been strongly put by Government, big business, much of the media including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and by various non-governmental organisations, while the disadvantages of net immigration have been down-played, something which is in our view all part of current ‘political correctness'. In this sense, it could be argued that there is no need for a pro-immigration essay at our web site at all; nevertheless we provide it. This essay together with our immigration policy essay should contribute towards allowing readers to make up their own minds in an informed manner. In addition, this essay will serve the useful purpose of introducing readers to some basic ideas in, and facts about, the immigration debate.
Finally, critical comments of our own and others are given at the end of the essay, and references to them in the text are indicated by capital letters – (A), (B) etc. Our most fundamental criticisms of the pro-immigration point of view are given in comment (A).
There is a wide spread perception shared by big business and the government that the UK needs immigrants, first to take certain low paid jobs which the existing population decline to take, second, and more importantly, to overcome skill shortages in the country. Immigrants are then, seen as playing an important part in enabling the Government to achieve sustainable economic development.
Many immigrants have gone into low paid jobs in the construction industries, catering and domestic services. At the same time, skill shortages are frequently being met by immigrants. So in the health sector, about 30 per cent of doctors and well over ten percent of nurses are non-UK born. In education, overseas teachers play an important role in staffing schools, and a growing number of London education authorities are recruiting staff directly from abroad. In higher education, non-British nationals make up over twelve per cent of academic and research staff. The rapid increase in demand for workers in the IT industry means that over 50,000 more people will be need to be recruited by 2009 and there is a lag in the training of natives (Glover et al , 2001).
The UK Government currently has three schemes to encourage the recruitment and entry of highly skilled foreign workers (McLaughlan and Salt, 2002). These are:
1. The Work Permit System. Its purpose is to enable employers to recruit and train people who are not nationals of a European Economic Area country.
2. The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme. The scheme is designed to “allow people of high human capital” to migrate to the UK . The priority is to recruit qualified overseas doctors who wish to work as General Practitioners in the UK .
3. Innovators. The aim of this scheme is to attract to the UK outstanding entrepreneurs from overseas whose business proposals will result in exceptional economic benefits for the UK .
There have long been concerns expressed about the possibility of adverse labour market consequences of immigration. However, De New & Zimmermann (1993) conclude that most economists support the position that free movement of labour is generally beneficial, as is the free movement of capital and goods.
The recent UK Government Home Office study (Glover et al, ibid) expands on the economic theory of migration, and argues that on balance, that theory points to a positive effect of international migration on the economy of host nations:
There is however one key difference between migration and trade – migrants, unlike goods, are “economic and social agents” themselves, with some influence over the decision, making them self-selected. Partly because of this, migration is, the paper argues, “most likely to occur precisely when it is most likely to be welfare –enhancing” both for migrants and (on average) natives ( page 4 para 2.5 and 2.6).
Further, migrants, being self-selecting, are likely to be more resourceful, entrepreneurial and ambitious than the average person (page 31, paragraph 6.11). More generally, theory suggests that migration should have a positive effect on (economic) growth, although a more ambiguous one on growth per capita (page 5 para 2.12).
The authors do however caution that the actual situation is much more complicated than a simple transaction situation between “buyer” and seller” as there are various complicating factors such as labour market conditions in both the source and destination countries, and the laws and policies in both countries (page 3 para 2.2). Further, simple conclusions on migration effects often assume markets are functioning well (page 4 para 2.5). And while the general level of resourcefulness etc. of migrants may be high, overall, migrants are less likely to be employed than natives (page 31 para 6.13).
Each large flow of immigrants into the UK since the Second World War has led to fears being expressed about the possible harmful effects to native peoples. The first major flow came from the West Indies and Africa, followed later by flows from Indian and more recently, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
With the first wave, concerns were expressed that immigrants might be depriving natives of jobs. Yet a study of this flow, strongly suggested that was not the case (Peach, 1967). West Indians were taking jobs in industries and services which had had difficulty in recruiting labour – they were moving into jobs partly created by the upward mobility of British labour. In terms of more and less attractive sectors of industry (conditions of work and pay) the need for labour was most acute in the non-attractive sectors, and the West Indians were being employed in the proportionally highest numbers in least attractive sectors, in common jargon they were doing the jobs the natives would not do.
The study of Jones and Smith (1970) had a much wider remit than the study of Peach. The latter focused just on the possibility of immigrants replacing indigenous workers.
In contrast, Jones and Smith attempted to look at the whole question of the impact of immigration on the economy. They concentrated on the economic effects of “coloured immigration from the New Commonwealth ” into Great Britain ( New Commonwealth , as distinct from Old Commonwealth of Australia , Canada , South Africa and New Zealand ) especially between 1961 and 1966, noting that New Commonwealth immigrants had been the largest component of immigration flows during the 1950s and 1960s. Their study dealt with the impact of new immigrants, so excluded effects related to children born later to the immigrants.
The twin problems of inadequate data sources and comparability of data sources, mentioned in the introduction to this essay was a very serious one. Indeed, anyone wishing to lean more about this problem should read chapter five of Jones and Smith. This chapter is headed “the income and expenditure of new commonwealth immigrants”. Lack of suitable statistics made them just focus in this particular chapter ( in contrast to the rest of the book) on two then recent studies concerning Manchester and Birmingham . Most of the chapter is devoted to income, and here both problems are severe. There is only a very small section on expenditure, for the simple reason that the available data was very inadequate.
In other chapters they were able to reach some useful general conclusions. Their study suggested that new immigrants have a rather higher requirement for industrial capital than the natives, rather lower social capital demands (housing, services), but on balance the total requirements of immigrants and natives is not much different. Further, inflation during the study period caused by aspirations for a higher standard of living was mainly attributable to the native population – immigrants had a minimal effect. In fact, the contribution of the immigrants to the economy did much to allow aspirations of the natives for a higher standard of living to be realised. Note that today, the term ‘social capital' is often used differently, to denote “the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality of a society's social interactions” (World Bank) or “those stocks of social trust, norms and networks that people can draw upon to solve common problems” (Civic Practices Network).
Thomas-Hope (1994) also looked at the economic impact of immigration, drawing on various surveys and analyses carried out in the 1960s, such as Rose et al (1969). Like Peach, she noted that the early post-war migrants were concentrated in the low status, largely unskilled positions (in the clothing and textile industries, engineering and foundry works, hotels, hospitals and transport services). She further noted that these jobs were not only undesirable (to the indigenous people) because of low wage levels (since in some cases, such as shift work, wages might have been relatively good) but also because of the conditions and hours of work, and their exceptional vulnerability to economic fluctuations
She also noted that by 1981, the unemployment rates for all immigrant groups were higher than that of workers generally. Furthermore, when general unemployment is rising, the number among ethnic minorities increases more rapidly than in the case of the rest of the population. She did not however discuss the question of the impact of the costs of supporting unemployed immigrants. As far as possible effects on the income of indigenous workers are concerned, she concluded that immigrants had not caused a lowering of their income.
With social capital, she concluded that the amount of this capital available to the indigenous residents of the UK had not on balance been materially affected by immigration, although she did not supply supporting data. However, in the case of housing, she speculated that the arrival of immigrants may have been a factor accelerating the improvement in indigenous standards by stimulating the urban-suburban movement of population and stimulating the process which led to the enlarging and improving of the public housing stock
We turn again to the paper by Glover et al. (B )( C).
In terms of a general economic effect of immigration, the authors acknowledge that it is extremely difficult to test empirically the effect of migration on economic growth across countries (page 5 para 2.13). Nevertheless, the authors carried out a regression analysis of annual growth in the period 1991-1995 on gross immigration in the same period, and GDP at the start of the period, for 15 European countries for which adequate data was available. They say that as theory would predict, migration has had positive effects both on growth and on growth per capita. A one per cent increase in the population through migration is associated with an increase in GDP of between 1.25 and 1.5 per cent (page 6).
In the previous section it was argued that economic migrants, being self-selecting, are more likely to be more resourceful, entrepreneurial and ambitious than the average person. And the same paper does indeed conclude that the levels of “entrepreneurship” and self- employment appear to be high among migrants (page 32 para 6.15).
There has been much discussion in the popular media on the idea that immigrants may have a depressing effect on the wages and or employment prospects of native workers (substitution). Glover et al write about previous studies on this subject (page 36 bottom and page 37). They claim that most studies (admittedly mainly in the USA , but also some in Europe ) find little or no effect on the wages or employment prospects of natives. And they point to one recent survey of the literature which concludes “the overwhelming majority of empirical studies agree that there is essentially no statistically significant effect of immigration on labour market outcomes”. Later they state bluntly “the well-established lack of effect of migration on wages” (D).
One matter of concern about the effect of immigration is that it may cause indigenous workers to move out of areas in which they had been living and working –i.e. immigration acting as a ‘push factor'. But Glover et al pages 40 say that “the US literature has tended to find inflows of recent migrants have little effect on the locational decisions of native workers” (E).
They go on to cite evidence for the commonly advanced argument, that immigrants are meeting existing skill shortages (page 38). In health and education, they point to the large number of immigrants who are already staffing posts; they note that one teacher recruitment agency claims that “without overseas teachers, schools in London would be falling apart”. In Information Technology (IT) and related fields there is an increasing demand for specialist skills. Referring to work done by the Institute of Employment Research , Warwick University , they say that projections suggest the IT services industry alone will need to recruit another 540,000 people between 1998 and 2009 (F). In catering and domestic services, “unskilled natives are simply unwilling or unable, through lack of the most basic work-related skills (or a lack of mobility), to take the large number of available jobs”. Overall in the fields mentioned, they claim (page 39): “…there is a net economic benefit to the UK from filling the gaps through migration. The result of migration is to reduce inflationary pressures and increase the efficiency of firms”.
Writing again about the general situation rather than specifically the UK situation, the authors address the apparent paradox that it seems intuitive that immigration must depress wages (at least of those whose skills are comparable/substitutable with those of migrants). They suggest one possible explanation, which they say appears to be empirically supported: migration of workers into a particular sector allows that sector to expand, leaving wages and employment of the existing workforce unchanged.
The paper on fiscal effects by Gott and Johnston (2002) that was referred to in the Introduction to this essay, is just concerned with direct fiscal effects. Note also, this paper considered only the fiscal effects of first generation migrants together with still dependent children born to such migrants in the UK ; so it does not otherwise include residents whose parents or grandparents were migrants to the UK (second and third generation migrants). Being based on the Labour Force Survey, it largely ignores illegal immigration. The authors reach the conclusion that on balance, immigrants are having a positive fiscal effect:
The conclusion (page 11) was that migrants made a net (positive) contribution. They contributed £31.2 billion in taxes, but increased public expenditure through receipt of public goods and services by 28.8 million, resulting in a net fiscal contribution of around £2.5 billion, a net contribution of just under 10% (G) (H) (I) (J).
However, to get a balanced idea of the significance of migrants contributions one must compare it with the contributions of the UK-born population. The authors point out that this was also positive at just under 5%, “reflecting a surplus in the public sector accounts” (K). And the paper adds the comment that the difference between the migrant and UK-born sub-populations is due to a range of factors. In particular, the paper says, the migrant population is relatively young, having a smaller proportion of people over 65 and a larger percentage in the working age groups. They also point out that the migrant sub-population is itself very heterogeneous. It consists largely of, on the one hand, well paid, well-educated people, with high employment rate, and poorly paid, poorly educated people with a poor employment rate, and one would expect the fiscal effects of these two groups to be different. Although a higher percentage of the total immigrant sub-group are unemployed, a higher percentage of working migrants are employed in professional and other highly skilled occupations (therefore earning more and paying higher taxes) than the UK-born employed.
Immigrants to the UK have made social contributions as well as economic ones. And Glover et al (ibid), pages 45-46, write briefly on what they regard as the positive contributions of immigrants to UK social, cultural and academic life.
It is generally recognised that the movement of skilled personnel from developing countries to developed countries, termed the “brain drain”, can have a harmful effect on the donor countries, since the latter invested a lot of money in the training of these persons, money that is in effect lost when the persons emigrate. Further, this emigration deprives the donor countries of just the sort of skilled manpower that they desperately need.
However, such emigration can provide the donor country with an incentive to invest further in human capital, and it has been suggested that the level of human capital formation in a source country can be positively correlated with the probability of emigration. It has further been suggested that this increase in human capital in the donor country can lead the country out of the poverty trap (Vidal, 1998).
Emigrants from developing countries help these countries in various ways. The most talked about way is remittances sent home to relatives. The potential benefit of such remittances is highlighted by the experience of India during the 1980s: remittances were large enough to finance up to 40 per cent of the country's massive balance of trade deficits. Unfortunately this high level of remittance did not continue, in fact it declined substantially ( Khadria , 1999). But the example serves to show the potential impact of remittances on a developing country. And I note that a recent United Nations press release dated 28th October 2002 , states that in the year 2000, remittances from abroad augmented GDP by more than ten per cent in several countries. It is of interest then that the Government of the USA in partnership with the World Council of Credit Unions has recently announced an “innovative new program” to facilitate the flow of remittances to Mexico (USAID, 2002).
Emigrants can however, under certain circumstances assist their country of origin in various other ways, India providing examples :
a) bank deposits – external accounts maintained in the donor country which are financial investments in the donor country economy;
b) purchase of real estate - monetary investments in the donor country economy;
c) holding securities of the donor country;
d) technical collaboration (say in the computer industry) where an emigrant undertakes to sell technical designs, drawings and “know how”;
e) a scheme whereby emigrants could return to the donor country for up to three months as part of a scheme called “transfer of knowledge through expatriate nationals ( Khadria,ibid )
While Khadria concluded that the combined effects of remittances and these other measures has not had any long lasting major effect on the Indian economy, these measures are the sort that policy makers could consider in any attempt to mitigate the adverse effects of brain drain.
It would be a very difficult, perhaps impossible task, to assess quantitatively, the overall economic and social effects of refugee streams into the UK . What however is certain, is that many refugees have made very positive contributions to the economy and social life of the UK .
A recent publication by the UK Refugee Council “Credit to the Nation. Refugee contributions to the UK ” ( Teichmann , 2002) summarises the contributions that immigrants have made to Great Britain . Although very short in statistics, strong in rather vague claims, especially in the later sections, and heavily interlarded with information about persecution abroad and the attitudes of British people and successive Governments to refugees, it does remind us of the contributions made to Britain by many refugees. Here are key specific points made by the paper.
Many Huguenots fled the persecution of King Louis X1V of France and came to Britain . Among them were seven of the 24 founders of the Bank of England (the first Governor, Sir John Houlbon , was a son of one such Huguenot refugee). The Shakespearean actor David Garrick was the grandson of a Huguenot.
The strife and warfare in the 19 th century culminating in the establishment of the republic of Italy , brought refugees to Britain . One such was Giuseppe Mazzini who played a mayor part in the revolution. Karl Marx, the great political philosopher fled to Britain from Germany having been charged with high treason. He later set up the First Communist International. The well known writer Victor Hugo fled from Napoleon the Third in France , first to Brussels , then Jersey , and later to Guernsey and France
Russian Jewish refugees came in the late 19 th century and the early 20 th century.
Many of these refugees became tailors or shoemakers, and helped to develop the market for cheap clothing. Some, having personal experience of appalling employment practices and social conditions, campaigned in Britain for social justice by setting up unions and getting involved in local politics. The Russian born polish refugee Michael Marks arrived in 1892. He worked as a pedlar and then, with the Englishman Tom Spencer opened a shop in 1894, which led to the formation of the Marks and Spencer Stores. Montague Burton, set up clothing factories.
Jewish refugees came again during the 1930s and later, from Germany and Eastern Europe . Well known since are people like the academic Claus Moser, Jules Thorn (who established Thorn Electrical industries), and the famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin , who gave hundreds of concerts for the Red Cross during the Second World War (I add that later he established the prestigious Menuhin School of Music from where several now very well known musicians received their training, and he became one of the most well known and well loved musicians in Britain). Other refugees included the conductor Sir George Solti , the publishers Paul Hamlyn , Andre Deutsch, Walter Neurath and George Weidenfeld , and the philosopher Karl Popper.
Refugees of various other ethnic groups settled in Britain during and after the Second World War. Many Poles came, some early ones playing a distinguished part, as pilots, in the battle of Britain . After the war, polish workers played a big part in the new house building programme. The 1956 Hungarian uprising led to may refugees coming to Britain , at a time when Britain was experiencing a period of economic growth and there were labour shortages. Many of these refugees were industrial workers, but there were also doctors, dentists and other professionals.
The expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972 brought many who were British passport holders to Britain . The Refugee Council notes “The economic success of the Ugandan Asians in Britain has been notable”. Many were shopkeepers and set up successful businesses in Britain . Some refugees from General Pinochet's overthrow of president Allende in Chile also came to Britain . These provided significant cultural benefits to Britain , for example by increasing knowledge of Latin America in British universities.
This gives us a picture of refugees in the past.
On this basis, I conclude it is reasonable to suppose that future refugee streams will in turn, provide many individuals who make significant contributions to the life and economy of the nation. However, Refugee flows seem likely to increase, making it more urgent to ensure their speedy integration into society. And the UK Home Office having developed a framework to support this integration, has recently set in motion a systematic study of research in this field ( Schibel , 2002).
See comment (L).
The UK has various legal obligations arising from international treaties and UK law.
Perhaps the most important is the obligation of the UK to accept refugees under the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol convention: the obligation to give refuge in the UK on humanitarian grounds to those with a well-founded fear of persecution.
Many individuals and many organisations consider that quite apart from such obligations, the UK has moral reasons to admit migrants. There are several strands of argument:
1). The average standard of living in the UK and other developed nations is far higher than in developing nations, and many people in the latter live in extreme poverty. We are using, per capita, much more of the world's resources than people in developing countries. As part of the effort to help developing countries, we should allow people from these countries to migrate to our country and share our affluence. As Weiner (1996) put it: “The moral argument for free migration thus grows out of the reality that there are gross economic inequalities between states”.
2). We should have sympathy with, and do all we can to help, people who are being persecuted. One way we can help is to allow persecuted people to come and live in the UK .
3). Our nation has a good record of standing up for human rights, and for admitting refugees. We should not tarnish that image, therefore we should continue to admit refugees.
4). The UK and other European states exploited overseas territories, so contributing to their present parlous state. We therefore have a responsibility to help these countries, which involves amongst other things, allowing their nationals to come to live and work in the UK . Honeyford , 1988 page 33 has an interesting quotation from the French black intellectual, F. Fanon. The latter wrote that Europe had stuffed itself inordinately with the gold and raw materials of the colonial countries. So we should not be helping the underdeveloped countries as a programme of “Sisters of Charity”. Rather this help “should be a ratification of a double realisation by the colonial powers “ that it is their due , and the realisation by the capitalist powers that in fact they must pay ”).
5). During the first half of the last century, the UK Government passed legislation giving freedom of entry to people in what are today's Commonwealth Countries (the Imperial Act, 1914, the British Nationality Act of 1948). Peoples in the countries concerned then were given a clear understanding of their right of entry. Later, policies became more restrictive, and so we went back on our word. We should relax controls on immigration from Commonwealth countries.
6). We in the UK cherish our ‘open society', so the idea of ‘fortress' UK/Europe is anathema to us.
Economic theory, on balance, suggests that continued net immigration will have predominantly beneficial effects on the economy. While few studies have been carried out on the actual effects of immigration on the UK , and data for the study of this topic is rather limited, such research that has been conducted supports the conclusions of economic theory. While the recruitment of skilled manpower from developing countries can have a harmful effect on those countries (the so called “brain drain”) several mechanisms have the potential to mitigate this effect. Moral obligations to people elsewhere in the world provide support for any policy to encourage continued immigration.
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USAID ( 2002 ). USAID announces innovative program to facilitate the flow of remittances to Mexico . USAID Press release (202) 712-4320. http:www.usaid.gov/press/releases/2002/pr020927_1.html
Vidal, J. (1998). The effect of emigration on human capital formation . Journal of Population Economics 11: 589-597.
Weiner, M. ed. (1993). International migration and security. Westview Press, Boulder San Francisco Oxford .
Weiner, M. (1996). Ethics, national sovereignty and the control of immigration. International Migration Review 30, 1: 171- 197.
Weiner, M & Russell, S.S. (2001). Demography and national security. Berghahn Books, New York and Oxford .
White, M.J .& Liang , Z (1998). The effect of immigration on the internal migration of the native-born population, 1981 – 1990. Pop. Res. & Policy Rev: 17: 141 – 166.
(The references are given above)
(A) General criticisms of the pro-immigration position, with special reference to the UK :
1) The pro- immigration position is primarily based on a narrow economic view in which growth in GDP seems to be the measure of progress, thus ignoring environmental externalities (see our companion essay. “How many people can the earth support? Part One”). There seems to be no realisation that England is already a crowded land, and the UK population is still growing. Nearly 60 per cent of this growth during the next two decades is projected to be caused by net immigration. The UK already has a large ecological deficit (see our essay “How many people can the earth support? Part Two”). The more people there are, the greater the consumption of non-renewable resources, the greater the atmospheric pollution and landfill of waste. We hear constant complaints in England about the way that our countryside is being eaten up by new housing and other developments made necessary to a large extent by population growth, and further net immigration will only make matters worse.
2) We think that the pro-immigration position seriously underestimates the dangers of continued net immigration to social cohesion, particularly when major components of this net immigration stream consists of persons of ethnic groups which have very different cultural values to our own.
3) There seems to be no recognition of the concept of optimum population, and more particularly, the idea that increase in population can lead to restrictions of individual freedoms and the dilution of democratic processes. As the population grows, so does the perceived need for regulation, restricting individual freedoms. Democracy depends on representation. Yet at the national and local level, increase in population dilutes this representation (Parsons1971; Bartlett, 2000).
4) Many British people are concerned that continued net immigration is destroying legitimate respect for and love of, the history and traditions of their country, and through ethnic replacement, may be leading to native British peoples losing control over their own country. Taking a global view Weiner (1996) wrote:
“…the consequences of opening the borders of a country in extreme situations can be the erosion of the institutions and values that liberal societies have created for themselves and which make them attractive to outsiders”.
We think these are legitimate concerns.
(B) The paper by Glover et al (2001).
In a paper entitled: “Migration: an economic and social analysis” (my italics), one might expect that a large part of the paper would be devoted to social matters. But in the paper by Glover et al, social aspects receive little attention, indeed some aspects are completely ignored. In a paper of x plus 67 pages, the only section dealing primarily with social matters (“Social outcomes”) occupies a mere 4 pages – some of this just a panegyric on how good immigration has been for the UK . This section only mentions, without detailed elaboration, the possible connection immigration – failure to integrate – social problems.
You would have thought that the paper would somewhere address in detail the question of the possible adverse effects of the immigration of minority ethnic and cultural groups on social cohesion, especially as social cohesion is a central concern of the Government –see the Government Home Office web site ( http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/ ). Yet there is no section devoted to social cohesion, and only a few scattered passing references to what may come under this heading (for example, racial tension is mentioned on page 7; page 42 mentions pressure on housing markets, competition for jobs, pressure on schools arising from immigrant lack of adequate command of the English language. In the ‘social outcomes' section, page 48, we read “as noted earlier, local concentrations of migrants can cause tensions around schools and social housing”).
The conflicts which have broken out in several areas of the UK over the increasing number of asylum seekers, did not start after Glover et al had finished their report. Already in 1999 there were serious problems. Inner city violence between ethnic groups, which flared up last year in northern cities had antecedents in the 1980s and earlier. Indeed the paper alludes to this on page 7 when , reporting on post World War Two changes, it says that “while at first migrants were welcomed as a valuable source of labour, racial tension led to successively tighter restrictions on immigration…”. Is such violence and the underlying discontent, not a serious matter? Is it not likely that the rapid growth of some ethnic minority groups, caused by increased net immigration and higher fertility, has fuelled this discontent, and is a matter that should be seriously discussed in a paper which discusses the relationship of migration with social issues?
Multiculturalism is constantly portrayed, by the Government, the BBC and some other media, as something which is good for us. It is either portrayed as the only morally acceptable goal in the continuing evolution of our society, or as a fait accompli (for a discussion of the meaning of multiculturalism and the differences between this and assimilation, separatism, and integration, see Honeyford , 1988). Successive Governments however, have never consulted the British people to find out what they think or wish about this, anymore than they have consulted us about whether we are concerned that ethnic replacement may take place so that the natives become a minority.
Yet there are grounds for doubting both the viability and the desirability of multiculturalism, for thinking that the pursuit of multiculturalism can lead to loss of essential social cohesion and internecine strife ( Honeyford , ibid, Parsons, 1998 ; see also the discussion on multicultural societies in Coleman 1997 ). As Garrett Hardin put it:
“Recurrent violence in the Balkans and in the Near East indicates that the most dependable outcome of ‘multiculturalism' is the violence of civic disorder, a quite unacceptable method of population control” (Foreword to the 1993 edition of Abernethy, 2000).
Some would dispute this conclusion; nevertheless it is a serious hypothesis. And there is a vast literature on the subject area that encompasses multiculturalism, integration and assimilation. Should not this matter be treated in a paper with the title of the one now been discussed?
Other social issues are largely ignored – indeed there is no serious discussion at all about possible negative social effects of immigration. Apart from the short section on social outcomes, there are only very occasional references to any relationship between immigration and any social problems. Drug trafficking by immigrants and visitors to immigrant communities, a serious matter, is not discussed (now drug smuggling by Jamaican Yardie gangs is not something that has just developed since Glover et al did their research, it has been going on for a number of years. And it has been linked to murders in London caused by rivalry between different drug gangs). There is no discussion about any possible connection between immigration and the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis or of AIDS, no discussion of the relationship of immigration to international crime.
This leads us to the important issue of the relationship between immigration and state security. As Weiner, taking a global view, in Weiner 1993 chapter one says: examples abound of migration flows – both of economic migrants and of refugees – that have generated conflicts within and between states. This 1993 book indicates various ways that immigrant flows can, and indeed have, threaten national security, some very apposite to the United Kingdom (see especially the Preface, and chapters 1, 3, 4 and 10).
Now in the Glover et al paper there are occasional passing references to matters which are relevant to state security, such as the impact of immigration on social stability (for example, page i , 17 and 51), and possibly racial tensions (page 7) and in relation to a study on Canada, denying entry to “criminals or security risks”, but there is no actual discussion at all about the matter. In the chapter on possible future policy development, there is a section entitled “where is further work needed to inform any review?” There is quite a long list of items; this includes ways of measuring immigrants contributions to society (but not their negative effects), but there is no mention of investigating the relationship between immigration and state security. Why is this issue not discussed in Glover et al? I can find no reference to the Weiner book (N.B since this Glover et al publication came out, we now have Weiner and Russell, 2001). There are two possibilities. Either the authors did not know about the Weiner book, or, I think more likely, they deliberately chose to ignore it.
Now the paper does not have just one author, Glover; it has eight. In addition, this team held two workshops on the social and economic impacts of migration in the course of the project, met and corresponded with thirty other persons “with interest or expertise in the subject” together with officials from various other Government Departments. It is therefore inconceivable that the authors were not aware of the large amount of literature on the social effects of migration, negative as well as positive, including problems of state security dealt with in Weiner's book and numerous other sources.
To ignore so much of the literature which might materially affect conclusions, is unethical and unscientific. It is also cowardly, because if they had faithfully reported on social aspects they might have brought down on themselves a concerted attack by the politically correct race relations industry which might have damaged their employment prospects. Note also that it states on page 1 that the report was prepared by civil servants. Civil servants are supposed to be impartial. Leaving aside the question of impartiality, I note also another omission in the paper: there is no mention of one previous study of the effects of immigration on the UK , that by Thomas-Hope (1994).
In a study with the title of the Glover paper, one might expect, probably in the Introduction, a brief mention of the objects of current immigration policy and the main features of the current immigration system. Yet each of these topics gets a whole chapter, together amounting to 12 full and two part pages (compared with four pages of analysis of social outcomes). These chapters come immediately before the main chapter that gives the actual analysis for economic and social outcomes. It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that the authors, consciously or unconsciously tried to get results which would please their masters.
This playing down of social problems can be regarded as one aspect of ‘political correctness'. And in at least three other ways, this report seems to give a politically correct gloss:
( i ). 0n page Three it challenges what it says is an image , “….sometimes presented in the press and public debate, of a pent-up ‘flood' of immigrants; if the tap is opened a little bit, more will come in, while if it is closed a little bit, fewer will come in. As the discussion in this report shows, this is not the case”. I wonder if this is not an example of the debating technique: put up an exaggeration of your opponents case then knock it down. There have been occasional claims for a “flood”, but in my opinion, most serious commentators would regard “pent up flood” as rather an exaggeration, and unnecessarily emotive language.
However, there can be do doubt that there are strong immigration pressures on the UK and the rest of Western Europe . The report itself notes that “over the last few years net migration to the UK has increased significantly” (page 10). Also “…net migration to the UK (and to Europe ) appears likely to continue at a historically high level in the short to medium term” and “… the long-term secular trend is likely to be increasing for at least the medium term. Moreover, we know that higher migration flows are likely to be persistent…” and “…migration pressures seem likely to grow…” ( page 12). Reasons are given for the latter statement, including (page 13), in relation to refugees generated by conflict: “while geopolitics is more difficult even that economics to forecast, there are strong reasons to believe that the frequency of such conflicts is likely to increase”. Perhaps then a “pent-up flood” is not an exaggeration. And I do not think the discussion in this paper demonstrates that there is no such flood. NB Since this paragraph was written, the United Nations has issued Press Release POP/844 ( 28/10/2002 ) entitled “Number of world's migrants reaches 175 million mark ”. The release states that with around 175 million people currently residing in a country other than where they were born, the number of migrants in the world has more than doubled since 1975. Sixty per cent of the world's migrants currently live in the more developed regions.
(ii). In the chapter on Key Trends and the opening paragraph it states that Britain is a country of immigration and emigration. It goes on to say that Britain has always been relatively open, and “….the British population is now, as it always has been, the result of successive influxes of migrants and the racial and cultural intermixture of those migrants with those who were already there”. This gives a false impression. It gives far too much weight to immigration and implies a far greater racial and cultural admixture than has been the case until very recently. It is an example of “the history of immigration rewritten”. This is the title of a letter written by David Coleman, Reader in Demography at Oxford University , to The Times 30 th June 2001 . In this article he points out that from the 11 th century up to the Second World War, immigration has been a minor factor in the development of our population; surname and genetic data support this conclusion and occasional episodes of immigration, by Huguenots etc. do not disturb it. Coleman & Salt (1992) give details, and draw attention to the relative ethnic homogeneity of pre-twentieth-century Britain .
(iii). On page 39 the authors note that migration to the UK is unlikely to be completely independent of internal migration within the UK – “there is some evidence to suggest that the causal linkage runs both ways”. What follows are two examples illustrating the two ways. The first illustrates international migration impinging on (limiting) internal migration. The second example is given as an illustration of internal migration influencing where international migrants settle:
“At the same time, the process of counter-urbanisation is likely to have increased the number of migrants living in inner cities, as they have occupied (social) housing that had been released as natives moved out”. Note this sentence comes immediately before the sentence “Similarly the US literature has tended to find that inflows of recent migrants have little effect on the locational decisions of native workers”. So here is not just a factual description of what has happened in counter-urbanisation, but a hypothesis of mechanism. Natives have just moved out, leaving a space. Subsequently immigrants move in. There is no mention of an alternative hypothesis, namely natives have moved out because they do not wish, for various possible reasons, to live in areas where immigrants are already moving in (see for example Halfacree , 1994 page 180; for the USA see Frey and Liaw , 1998). Such a hypothesis would support the idea that immigration streams are creating or exacerbating ethnic tensions.
As far then as the social effects side of the paper is concerned, this paper is a disgrace.
Now the Home Office has a responsibility to ensure that any research it carries out is as objective and balanced as possible, for which purpose it should be reviewed by some totally independent body. As it is, the Home Office secures itself against any possible criticism, because at the bottom of the title page of the report is the statement:
“The views expressed in this report are those of the authors, not necessarily those of the Home Office (nor do they reflect Government policy).
Most people reading or glancing at the summary of this paper, will not notice this Home Office disclaimer, or will not realise its significance. So the Home Office can support a position yet be quite safe from criticism because it has said that the views expressed do not necessarily coincide with Home Office views. This criticism applies equally to the paper by Gott and Johnston (2002) which carries the same disclaimer.
(C) A general criticism of the conclusions of the Glover et al paper, was made in the web site of Migration Watch UK that was set up by Sir Andrew Green, former UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia , and which has David Coleman, as its Honorary Consultant ( www.migrationwatchuk.org/ ).
It is noted that the paper defines a migrant by using country of birth in the Labour Force Survey. Migrants so defined include a large number of students, and holders of work permits (many of whom are only resident for a few years). It was concluded:
“The data (of the paper) is remarkably thin. The inclusion of large numbers of students, holders of work permits and French entrepreneurs makes the results reported in this Home Office paper of dubious value”.
(D) The Economist magazine of the UK ( June 29 th 2002 ) gives its appraisal of the economic impact of immigration, noting, like Glover et al that most of the evidence comes from the USA . The Economist concludes that the UK population as a whole may benefit from immigration but only slightly. The annual rise in per capita GDP from projected higher immigration will probably be around an eighth of a percentage point. The main reason is that Britain has already got a very open trading economy, and imports are worth nearly 30% of GDP. “This tempers the potential impact of immigration since imports, in effect, embody the work of foreigners who stay put”. However, while the population as a whole benefits slightly from immigration, those who are competing directly for jobs with immigrants do not. Overall, immigration in America has reduced wages of groups competing with immigrants – predominantly low paid people – by 1-2%. The people most affected by new immigrants were immigrants who had arrived earlier. However, this cost to employees is a benefit for employers.
Abernethy (2000) in her introduction to the transatlantic edition of her book, quotes from a 1997 report of the US National Research Council, that in the nation as a whole “…44% of the decline in the relative wage of high school dropouts between 1980 and 1994 can be attributed to the large influx of less-skilled immigrants who entered the United States during that period”. Abernethy (1996) provides other evidence of the adverse labour market effects of immigration into the USA .
(E) They cite Card (1996) as the evidence. Now Card in this paper does say that his own work reported in the paper comes to this conclusion, (indeed what Glover et al write is almost a quotation of what Card says of his own work on page 5- “A key finding is that inflows of recent immigrants have virtually no effect on the locational decisions of native workers”). But at the beginning of the paper (page 1), in referring to previous studies, he states “despite the presumption in many policy circles that higher immigration will necessarily harm native workers, an accumulated body of research finds only modest evidence of this effect” (in a later paper Card and DiNardo (2000) claim to have found further evidence for their position). Is “little effect ” the same as “only modest evidence of this effect”? “Little” and “modest” are vague words, but modest certainly implies “some”. Furthermore a later study by Frey and Liaw (1998) reach a conclusion about previous work in the field which seems to directly contradict Card's conclusion, as far as it applies to less-skilled workers. For they conclude that studies using multivariate techniques (techniques that study the interaction of several variables) “show general but not uniformly consistent support for an immigration effect on the internal out-migration of less skilled residents”.
White & Liang (1998) also look into this matter in relation to migration between states in the USA . They use the terms “Anglos ”( non- hispanic whites) and Blacks” to denote population segments. Contrasting substitution and complementarity effects, they point out that theoretically, where substitution (complementarity) dominates, native workers are expected to be more (less) likely to leave regions with high concentrations of immigrants. Also where substitution (complementarity) dominates, native workers are expected to be less (more) likely to migrate to regions with high concentrations of immigrants.
The authors say that their results do not support the view of a simple substitution between immigrants and natives (my italics). However, they consider they have found evidence for both substitution and complementarity. Thus for substitution, for example they report for workers in the extractive industries (predominantly farming) and machine operatives, that Anglo workers in these industries were significantly more likely to depart states receiving many recent immigrants. “These represent two labor force niches thought to be most likely to experience substitution”. More generally, they conclude, low-skilled workers are generally more likely to leave and less likely to choose states with many recent immigrants, holding all else constant (note the similarity with the conclusion of Frey and Liaw ). On the other hand, within the Anglo sample, the authors found that the more educated people are significantly more likely to choose states with a high immigrant ratio, lending support to the complementarity hypothesis.
(F) Subsequent events should lead us to treat this assessment with caution. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Monday 11 th November 2002 , a report compiled by careers advisory and university admissions services, found that graduate unemployment has risen for the first time for ten years. The computer industry downturn is blamed for most of the 0.8% rise. Information technology graduate employment tumbled 7.3% in 2001.
(G) According to Coleman (2001), this net benefit explicitly excluded various costs which are known to be higher than average for immigrants: the additional costs of education, of crime and prisons, the fiscal drain of remittances and the sums (well over £1 billion) spent on asylum claimants.
(H) Migration Watch UK (2002) comment that the sum of £2.5 billion is a quite trivial amount compared to what they say is overall Government expenditure - about £400 billion per year.
(I) I note that although the paper gives some relevant results in the form of histograms and mentions a few specific statistics, the authors do not give detailed data or details of the calculations involved, so there is no way that an outside observer can verify these conclusions. Furthermore a footnote to the net fiscal contribution of £2.5 billion states: “This is subject to a wide margin of error given that more accurate data is unavailable”. Earlier they say about calculating the net annual fiscal impact:
“Such a calculation is not straightforward – there is a paucity of data recording migrant receipt of, participation in and contribution to publicly-provided goods, services and public revenues in the UK – and it has therefore been necessary to estimate these values using a number of key assumptions” (page 11). On page 12 the authors claim that although the results they present give only a rudimentary estimate of the magnitude of the effect (net annual fiscal impact), “this result is obtained consistently using various assumptions. In other words, the results demonstrate that the current generation of migrants in the UK made a net annual fiscal contribution in 1999/2000, although the figure itself needs to be treated with caution”.
Assumptions, paucity of data, wide margin of error. The analysis given in the paper and the qualifying statements do not I think, inspire total confidence in the results claimed.
The paper appears to provide evidence that immigration is beneficial to the UK , and it therefore provides support for the Government's position, which is pro-immigration. Now there is nothing wrong about the Home Office supporting the Government's position. Indeed it has a duty to do so, unless it judges that Government to be traitorous. This however, does not absolve the Home Office from ensuring that any research it carries out is as objective as possible, for which purpose, as I said previously about the Glover et al paper, it should be reviewed by some totally independent body. There are academic journals to which this paper could have been submitted and then it would have been subject to peer-review.
(J) For the USA , Schultz, 1998 concludes:
“Estimates of what immigrants consume in the way of public services appear to roughly balance their tax payments”. He does however, point to an interesting feature of the US system – taxes immigrants pay flow directly to the Federal Government while the benefits the immigrants consume are often funded at the local and state government levels “creating hardships that the federal system should explicitly address”. Now in the introduction to the transatlantic edition of her book, Abernethy (2000) notes evidence on the financial burden of within-country immigration to established residents. She says: “After subtracting taxes that immigrants pay, house-holds headed by a native-born man or woman are left with a significant bill for the education, law enforcement and justice, healthcare, infrastructure and other systems and services used by foreign-born and their children”.
(K) The authors summary of net-fiscal contributions in the “Executive Summary” will please the Government and the pro-immigration lobby. Bear in mind here that many people will not get much further than reading the summary of the paper and then perhaps dipping in here and there. This summary reports on the net fiscal contribution of migrants – they contributed £31.2 billion in taxes and consumed £28.8 billion in benefits and state services, a net fiscal contribution of about £2.5. What they do not however go on to say, as the body of the paper does, that the UK-born population also made a net fiscal contribution (just under 5% compared with the immigrants just under 10%).
(L) See Section J “ethical issues” subsection (v) Distinguishing personal from national responses in our companion essay “What policy should the UK Government adopt towards immigration?”
Essay put up on the site 11th November 2002 ; minor revisions 5 th and 8 th December 2002
© Copyright J.F. Barker, 2002
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