Friday, 6 July 2012

Thirteen claims liberals like to make about immigration, and the truths that refute them, from Migration Watch UK.

1. ‘Immigration provides great economic benefit’

For many years the government claimed that immigration added £6 billion a year to GDP. However, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee[1], reporting in April 2008, said that what mattered was GDP per head. They concluded that:

“We have found no evidence for the argument, made by the government, business and many others, that net immigration generates significant economic benefits for the existing UK population”.

In January 2012 the Migration Advisory Committee[2] went further. They said that even GDP per head exaggerated the benefit of immigration because:

“It is the immigrants themselves rather than the extant residents who are the main gainers”.

They suggested that the GDP of residents should be the main focus.

They recognised that the resident population would gain via any “dynamic effects” of skilled immigration on productivity and innovation – these “exist and may be large, but they are elusive to measure”.

2. ‘Immigrants are no problem as they work hard and pay taxes’

Many do work hard but the impact on the budget is very small. According to the House of Lords Economic Committee “the fiscal impact [of immigration] is small compared to GDP and cannot be used to justify large-scale immigration”.

It should also be noted that many immigrants pay very little tax since only those who earn more than £25,700 a year pay net tax. (MAC, 5.6[3])

3. ‘Britain is only the 39th most crowded country in the world’

93% of immigrants go to England so England is what matters in this context. Together with Holland, England is the sixth most crowded country in the world if you exclude islands and city states.

4. ‘The public are not really as opposed to immigration as they seem’

In a major government survey[4] conducted over a two year period 2008-2010, 75% of respondents said that they would like to see immigration reduced, 51% by a lot. A majority of the Asian community also thought that there were too many immigrants in Britain.[5]

5. ‘Population projections are unreliable’

Projections become less reliable as the length of the projection period increases. However, over the last 50 years, the ONS have been accurate to +/- 2½% in their projections over a 25 year period.

6. ‘The government’s immigration target is unachievable because EU and British migration cannot be controlled’

The major source of net migration is from outside the European Union and has averaged about 200,000 a year over the past ten years. These flows are capable of control by the government.

7. ‘Net migration of 150,000 per year would be satisfactory’

On the contrary, immigration on this scale would simply postpone the population reaching 70 million by 4 years to 2031, after which the population would continue to rise sharply.[7]

8. ‘The NHS would collapse without immigrants’

Probably, but no one is suggesting that they should be expelled. In fact, even at the peak of arrivals, medical staff were never more than 5% of immigration. The reason they were needed is that we failed to train our own staff. Other major countries in Europe have only about 5 or 6% of foreign qualified doctors, whereas we have more like 30%.[8]

9. ‘Migrants do not take social housing’

It is often said that migrants do not occupy social housing. While most do live in private rentals, official data shows that in 2010-11, 8.4 percent of social housing in England is occupied by non-UK nationals.[9]

10. ‘Immigrants are needed to pay our pensions’

This is a ludicrous argument which even the Labour government dropped. The reality is that immigrants themselves grow older so that there would have to be a continuing and increasing inflow of immigrants to have any long-term effect. The Turner Commission[10] on pensions put it like this:

“Only high immigration can produce more than a trivial reduction in the projected dependency ratio over the next 50 years”

They calculated that even net migration of 300,000 a year would produce only a temporary effect unless still higher levels of immigration continued in later years.

11. ‘Immigration has no effect on jobs’

The Migration Advisory Committee reported in January 2012 that 100 additional non-EU migrants might be associated with a reduction in employment of 23 native workers over the period 1995-2010. (This faded over 5 years and did not apply to EU workers). There is considerable anecdotal evidence of job displacement in key sectors such as construction, hospitality and retail.

12. ‘Immigration makes no difference to wages’

According to the Migration Advisory Committee the majority of studies estimate that migrants have little impact on average wages but there is an impact on wage distribution in the UK. The majority of studies find that migrants increased wages at the top of the wage distribution but reduced them at the bottom. (para 4.82.9).

13. ‘Curbing immigration would prevent the Nobel winners of the future migrating to the UK’

It is often said that curbing migration means that the next Nobel laureates would be unable to reach British shores. There is no evidence to back this up. The first Nobel prizes were awarded in 1901 with the first Nobel Prize being awarded to a Briton the following year. Since the inception of the Nobel Prize, there have been 97 winners from Britain. Of those 97, 20 were born abroad, of which 7 had British heritage i.e. their parents were British. Of the remaining 13, 5 came to the UK as refugees and the remaining 8 came to the UK to continue with their academic careers with the exception of one who came to study his undergraduate degree in the UK. Therefore, not one Nobel Laureate would have conceivably have been prevented from coming to the UK as a result of the kind of immigration controls now proposed.


1. House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, URL:

2. Migration Advisory Committee, URL:

3. Migration Advisory Committee , URL:


5. BBC, URL:

6. ONS, URL:

7. Migration Watch UK, URL:

8. World Health Organisation, URL:

9. Migration Watch UK, URL:

10. Pensions Commission, URL:

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