The UK requires increased immigration in order to continue to function due to our ageing population. Our industries, welfare system, pensions and economy need more young workers imported from abroad.
Open labour markets benefit entire economic regions. The opposite - the nationalist raising of labour barriers against foreigners - has the same effect as trade tariffs: to distort the market, reduce wage efficiency and harm the economy as a whole. Ironically, attempting to secure "local jobs for local residents" has the effect of shrinking the economy, therefore reducing the long-term number of overall jobs.3
Our ageing population is putting massive strain on pensions and welfare4: this can only be helped by accepting working-age immigrants. In the last 35 years (up to 2007) the over-65s demographic group grew by 31%, the fastest of all age groupings5, whilst the under-16s shrunk from 26% to 19% of the total population5. "Each increase in life expectancy of one year adds about £12 billion to the aggregate pension liabilities of FTSE 100 companies"6. Pensions will continue to become increasingly costly, their benefits to be squeezed. Thankfully, most migrants are working-age (34 years old, on average in 20117) which helps keep the UK ratio of retirees-to-workers lower7. The occasional addition of new states to the EU bloc is met with a healthy influx of young workers, balancing the demographic scales and helping to keep welfare systems and pensions systems afloat.
Cheap labourers work in industries that our population avoid such as construction and food processing8.
Nearly half the new doctors and nurses employed in the National Health Service have qualified abroad11 and we still have shortages of medical staff.
Immigrants use fewer NHS services than Brits because they are younger12 and tend to go home before they age. Through taxes, they contribute (much) more to the NHS than they take. Obesity, smoking and drinking are much costlier to the NHS than immigration.
Freedom Against Arbitrary Barriers: In the modern world, people are free to do as they please as long as they trespass against no laws. There is no reason to arbitrarily inhibit people's travel simply because locals do not like their culture.
And two other points:
The Island History of a Nation of Travellers: As a nation we are poor at learning languages, was founded by immigrants, and have an imperial history wherein we forced many to Britain as slaves13. We are inherently tied to migration. In 2010, 9% of Brits worked abroad14 and there are 1.3 million British expats in Europe15. So there is a horrible, ignorant and hypocritical bent to much of the anti-immigrant rhetoric used by some of our less reasonable compatriots.
Source: Ipsos MORI poll (2016)16.
Much of the UK is misled by sensationalist news articles on immigration17. Half of all Brits think that immigration is bad for the UK18 and even pro-European Brits think there are twice as many EU immigrants than there really are - which is 5% of the population16. The press rarely report positive news on UK - there are at least 30,000 British citizens claiming benefits in the EU, often receiving more generous payments than foreigners do in the UK19.
Labour-market barriers decrease the efficiency of business, leading to increased costs for all and market imbalances. This is for the same reason that trade tariffs disrupt markets in goods and services and make things more expensive. This is because as you limit the pool of possible workers, wages become inflated as employers find it harder to fill slots. To put it the opposite way around: free labour markets (allowing people to go and work wherever they want, like Brits working abroad) are good for the overall economy and aid overall stability. Two eminent trade economists, Kym Anderson of the University of Adelaide and Alan Winters of the University of Sussex, have calculated that if the proportion of foreign workers in rich countries increased to 3%, the world economy would improve by $675 billion a year by 2025, even after subtracting those who might use social-welfare benefits of their new countries20.
Immigration of almost any kind boosts the economy. Immigrants contribute to the economy as workers and as consumers: paying for accommodation, goods and services, the same as all people. "A 2007 report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers concluded that a surge in migration has helped to lift Britain's growth rate above its long-term trend. ... [In] America, sustained economic growth partly reflects an ever-growing workforce"3.When Poland, Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, some countries opened their borders immediately (whilst others imposed restrictions): The UK, Ireland and Sweden voluntarily embraced the new wave of migrants, and we demonstrably gained the greatest economic benefit as a result1. Even Migrationwatch, an anti-immigration lobby in the UK, concedes that immigrants have contributed "a few extra pence a week"3 to the average Briton. The real figure is somewhat higher and makes up a significant portion of the entire economy.
Most migrants are in official employment and pay taxes. 85% of the UK's migrants from the EU are in work (2014)2. There are over 700,000 employment benefits claimants in the UK (2015), but despite outcry in the press, the vast majority are British. For example, only 10,730 come from Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia combined19. Compared to this, there are at least 30,000 British citizens claiming benefits in the EU, often receiving more generous payments than foreigners do in the UK19.
Skills and education. Migrants tend to be working-age, meaning that the UK doesn't have to pay their education costs, but benefits from their existing skills and they are often better educated that the UK average - "while one-fifth of the home-grown population have degrees, one-third of migrants do"21.
From 2001 to 2011, Poland, India and Pakistan were the highest countries of origin for UK immigrants22. Despite popular opinion that leaving the EU gives the UK more control over immigration, two of these countries are outside the EU so control has always sat squarely with UK Immigration Control: leaving the EU will make little difference, especially given the poor quality of the immigration control service that the UK has.
During the debate on the UK's membership of the EU, "remain" lobbyists pointed out that leaving the EU will not help us with immigration; other European countries that are not EU members and whom have the same level of development as the UK all have much higher immigration rates.
In the last 35 years (up to 2007) the over-65s demographic group grew by 31%, the fastest of all age groupings5, whilst the under-16s shrunk from 26% to 19% of the total population5. It is easy to see that this results in a massive increase in the old-age population, combined with a shrinking working-age population.
This type of demographic shift makes some sociologists and many economists edgy. The old-age dependency ratio is the number of old-age compared to working-age people. At present, it is approaching 1 in 4 and it has never been this high before, putting tremendous strain on pensions and welfare systems. It is difficult to adequately care for the old without enough workers. According to Eurostat:
The solution is to increase the number of working-age immigrants.
All developing countries are facing similar futures. It may be that the entire European continent and countries such as Japan will en masse enter into a new era of human history, with ageing (and then declining) populations, which will necessitate a whole new type of economy.
For more on this and on world population, see: "The Population of the Earth" by Vexen Crabtree (2019).
Due to the ageing populations of many Western countries4, the immigration of young adult workers will become essential if pensions schemes are going to last in to the future. My text The Population of the Earth (2019) discusses this issue:
In many Western countries and countries such as Japan, a post-industrial slow in the population growth has occurred. Populations are ageing. This means that over coming decades, the numbers of old people will continue to rise whilst the numbers of the young continue to decline. It is the first time in Human history that the age distribution of nations has threatened to become long-term top-heavy. What this means is a change in the entire way that society is structured. The young will have an excess of elders, rather than the old having an excess of youth. [...] Many companies and governments are feeling the increasing pressure of having larger numbers of pensioners. More and more people are drawing pensions, and fewer and fewer will be paying into pension schemes. Economists have long predicted that in modern countries, all pension schemes will collapse. It is not possible for one worker to pay for the pensions of three, or hardly even two, retired elders. Governments such as Britain's have implemented a gradual increase of the age of retirement to try and curb the collapse of pension schemes and to try to dam the exodus of workers from employment to retirement.”
“Firms big and small are threatened by a fundamental demographic shift that most have yet to adjust to. Britain's pensioners are proving a hardier bunch than expected. On August 1st the actuaries' trade body adopted a new set of mortality tables drawing on data collected between 1999 and 2002. It forecasts yet another increase in life expectancy. In 1999 actuaries assumed that a British man retiring at 60 would on average live to the ripe old age of 84. They then raised their estimate in 2002 to 87. Now they figure he will live about six months longer. What is good news for ageing folk is bad news for those who support them. Each increase in life expectancy of one year adds about £12 billion to the aggregate pension liabilities of FTSE 100 companies, says Peter Thompkins of Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, an accounting firm. [...]
Firms as a group are underestimating life expectancy. [...] Updating that estimate could well add more than £25 billion to the FTSE 100 deficit [...]. So it is not surprising that many companies are trying to reduce the risks of providing pensions by closing their final-salary schemes to new members (which three-quarters of FTSE 100 firms have already done) and, increasingly, to existing members.”
The Economist (2006)6
The UK depends, now, on immigrants to supply a workforce in multiple industries. "Over the past five years, nearly half the new doctors and nurses employed by Britain's National Health Service qualified abroad"11. This trend will continue and without increasing amounts of immigrants entire industries in the UK would collapse permanently. For now, new entrants into the European Union such as Poland offer healthy workforces to 'old' Europe. Europe's open borders allow the post-explosion countries to easily import workers. But, as the whole of Europe gradually enters the post-population-explosion era, more and more workers will have to come from Asia, South America and Africa. As yet, the increases are quite small and most immigrants come from within Europe, but in the future, Europe as a whole will be a hungry gobbler of young adults seeking work, from all over the developing world.
The UK was the first "big European country ... to welcome workers from the EU's eight new members"8, and so far we have benefited greatly from them. The Highlands that surround Inverness in Scotland have witnessed renewed hope for local economies as a result of the badly needed influx of workers, as decade after decade large numbers of working-age young Scots have left the highlands, leaving a demographic hole in the population.
“[The Poles] have flocked to the Highlands since May 2004 to do the low-paid jobs Scots have turned their noses up at for years, in tourism, construction and food processing. At Strathaird Salmon alone, more than one-third of the 400-strong workforce is Polish. [...] In a sparsely populated region that has been haemorrhaging young Scots since the 19th century, the eastern Europeans are welcome.”
The Economist (2006)8
The UK has a growing problem with prejudice against immigrants and foreigners23,24,25. A smattering of horrible racist gangs such as Combat 18 and National Front dispersed into a series of more media-savvy outfits, giving leadership, expertise and followers to Britain First, UKIP and the English Defence League (EDL)26. They run on a popular25 platform of anti-immigration and anti-EU rhetoric. These groups, spurred on by misinformation and distortions in online social bubbles of hate, became so popular as to shift the Conservative Party, the UK's main party, to the extreme right of mainstream politics. Nationalism, prejudice and racism has become overt over the past 10-15 years27, and mainstream defence of human rights and democracy is under attack along with ill-defined "lefties".
Some very popular papers report on immigration in entirely skewed and negative terms28,29. The formula is that everything bad can be tied to immigration, foreigners and fraudulent asylum seekers.24. The UK does not have high levels of immigration25 but it is impossible to reach a sensible view of the truth by relying on the hot-blooded, xenophobic and misleading diatribes of some popular newspapers such as The Daily Mail24, The Express, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph and The Sun.24,30. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights singled out The Sun as a source of hate due to its dehumanisation and demonisation of migrants31. These newspapers are also the most popular. How can the populace ever vote in elections wisely, when their understanding of migration is tainted with this type of horrible bias? The emotional response (even if followed up with more careful news reports seen elsewhere) is hard to replace with balanced tolerance. There is nothing to stop the papers endlessly peddling this type of trash: it sells because it panders to fear and ignorance, and in being sold, they encourage those traits in readers.
Full page on this topic: Misinformation and Fake News on Immigration in the UK.
“It is in schools, public housing and doctors' surgeries that natives come face to face with migrants [and where] hostility to migrants seems strongest. Local councils in Britain complain that clinics and schools are overloaded and central government is slow to dish out help, and local police in areas with many immigrants blame foreigners for a rise in crime. [...] Crowding, although likely to cause resentment, results from the unexpected arrival of those migrants, with bureaucracies taking time to allocate resources to the right places. In itself, it does not prove that migrants are a drag on public services as a whole. Indeed, migrants often make a large contribution to the public purse.”
Adam Roberts (2008)3
The main problem is that the impact of migration is uneven. It is only natural that people with common interests choose to associate with one another and even to move to areas where they know their kinsfolk already live. But this creates infamous areas of cities which are much hated by natives, and slows down integration into wider society. Migrants often find that certain aspects of their lives become important to them, such as their religion. Adam Roberts warns us that those that "develop for the first time, perhaps as second-generation immigrants - a strong religious sense that cuts across any national loyalty may be the hardest of all to assimilate in broadly secular Western societies". These two factors have made the integration of Muslims a particular problem. As of yet, there are no particularly wise or liberal ways that seem likely to solve these types of problems.
Several new measures have been introduced as the UK government is now trying to bring people together under agreement to a common set of British values. "The shift in opinion away from open borders has been matched by a move away from Britain's traditionally hands-off approach to identity. [... Even advocates of multiculturalism] concede the need for newcomers to learn to speak English and, to a degree, for values and institutions to bind together a diverse population. Much of this is happening: language tests, exams on life in Britain, citizenship ceremonies and a nascent idea of civic service for young people may, slowly, build a richer idea of citizenship. "Britain is engaged in a mild form of nation-building," says Mr Goodhart"14.
A new points system: "Britain's new points system, which sets educational and other restrictions on non-EU immigrants, may have started to make a dent in the numbers [... and ] more importantly, the slower economy and weaker pound of recent years have cut inflows and encouraged some migrants in Britain to move on. The lion's share of immigration is from the EU and cannot be restricted"14.
Age limit of 21: In 2008 Dec, the lower age limit at which you can import a spouse, and the lower age limit for an imported spouse, has been raised from 18 to 21. This was a move to stop forced marriages. "A moving force behind the new regulation is the Keighley MP Ann Cryer. She said: "Increasing the age at which people can invite or be invited to join a spouse will provide an opportunity for individuals to develop maturity and life skills which may allow them to resist the pressure of being forced into marriage. It will also provide an opportunity for young people to complete education and training."33