The think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has just released a report saying that the state is underestimating the economic benefits of migration to this country:
“The report shows that migrants play a key role in changing the local â€˜skills mixâ€™ by filling skills gaps, and doing jobs that UK workers donâ€™t want to do. IPPR argues that local government and employers need to ensure that the benefits produced by employing migrant workers are accompanied by local strategies to ensure that indigenous workersâ€™ wages and job opportunities arenâ€™t damaged; and to ensure local businesses donâ€™t become overly reliant on migrant workers.
IPPR says that employers benefit from diversity because diverse workforces tend to be more productive and creative, which boosts business performance.”
This new report is at odds with the recent House of Lords report on immigration, which argued that net immigration has little impact on GDP per head in this country. Other bodies have suggested that high levels of net immigration has a negative effect on the economy.
I have yet to read the IPPR report in full, but the press release suggests a sensible analysis (although the line about diversity boosting productivity and creativity doesn’t make any sense, as why would it have any effect?). Let us assume for the moment that immigration boosts this country’s GDP per head. This should gladden the hearts of supporters of the current levels of immigration like me, but it doesn’t.
This is because it is dangerous for supporters of large-scale immigration to reduce immigration to a question of costs and benefits. A group like the BNP may well welcome this report. They may say that such levels of immigration do indeed benefit Britain’s GDP per head, and go even further by saying that we should examine immigrants from each country individually, in order to get an idea of which nationalities make a net contribution to GDP per head and which ones make a net loss.
Suddenly things aren’t looking so good for Somalians, or Kurds, or Pakistanis. Buoyed by increasingly-detailed economic reports into each nationality, the BNP and their supporters begin to push for a freeze on immigration from certain countries, because “they don’t benefit Britain.” There are increased calls to encourage ‘economically-negative’ nationalities to return home, and people from certain nations face abuse in the streets because they are held to be a drain on resources. Do we really want this sort of system?
Economic data on immigrants is useful, mainly to determine in which areas there are high levels of immigration, which ensures that money can be provided quickly to shore up public services that might be oversubscribed. But beware the rigid straitjacket of economic categorization and stereotypes.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Economics