EU Immigration and Immigrant Unemployment



By Barry Edwards

EU Immigration and Immigrant Unemployment in the UK

David Cameron has managed to upset most of the EU leaders by behaving in a particularly undiplomatic manner over the payment of the increased contribution to the EU budget and immigration changes that contravene the basic right of freedom of movement by all citizens. As each day goes by, more EU leaders announce their faith in this freedom of movement and express their unwillingness to even consider changing this fundamental right. A new study has made David Cameron’s outbursts about immigration look especially ill-informed.

The University College of London (UCL) has released a study this week about the fiscal effects of immigration to the UK. The conclusion is that the UK is a net beneficiary of tax earned from immigrants against benefits and government costs such as education for their children, health and other public services. The information contained in the study is comprehensive and 51 pages long but it is worth reading the conclusion on pages 36-38. For the purpose of the discussion on this matter and unemployment amongst immigrants, I have included another report from the Centre for European Reform (CER) entitled, ’Is immigration a reason for Britain to leave the EU’ which was issued a year ago. If you click on the links below, you can read both documents;

From the CER report the following facts have been taken; ‘’the number of people in England and Wales who were born elsewhere in Europe stands at around 2.7 million. Of these, 1.6 million come from the old EU-15, and the European Economic Area countries – Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland – whose citizens are all free to work in the UK. The remaining 1.1 million come from the A8 countries (see next paragraph).

Since 2004, however, the free movement of European labour has become a highly controversial issue. The UK, expecting the resulting influx to be relatively modest, was one of just three EU countries not to impose transitional restrictions on migrants from the member-states that joined in that year (the so-called A8). In the event, migration from the A8 was much larger than the UK had expected: there are currently around 1.1 million people from these countries in the UK, some 660,000 of whom are in work’’.

From the UCL study in the conclusion, the following is a very relevant piece of information; ‘’Our investigation of recent immigration to the UK reveals that, even though one-third of UK immigration is through movement within the EEA and cannot be regulated, the UK is still – and possibly even more so than in previous years– able to attract highly educated and skilled immigrants. This surprisingly positive trend, which continued even throughout the last recession, distinguishes the UK sharply from other European and non-European countries. This ability to attract highly skilled immigrants – even from within the EEA, where no restrictions can be imposed – is a strong and important feature of the UK economy’’.

Below are some real facts about unemployment amongst immigrants from the CER report;

Proportion of EEA immigrants who arrived after 2010 who are claiming or could claim benefits in % figures;

Unemployed- 7.8

Claiming unemployment benefit- 1.9

Claiming unemployment benefit and in the UK for less than 6 months- 0.4

Claiming unemployment benefit and in the UK for less than a year- 0.8

Claiming unemployment benefit and have never worked in the UK –0.2

Could claim unemployment benefit-6.0

Claiming child benefit and in the UK for less than a year- 2.1

Claiming tax credits and in the UK for less than a year- 1.0

If you take the CER figure of A8 immigrants of 1.1 million shown above and take the percentage claiming unemployment benefit, 1.9% you arrive at a figure of 20,900. I am fairly certain most people believe this figure to be much higher and furthermore, 6% could claim unemployment benefit but do not, that is another 60,000 or so more people. It is not surprising that these very small numbers are not made public since it would make many of the statements and protestations unsound statistically.

The purpose of presenting these reports and statistics is to show that immigration is far from being the problem for membership of the EU for the UK but in reality a real advantage. Industry and professional services would find it difficult to provide the quality of service without access to the range of skills available within the EU. Many farmers with whom I have personally discussed this matter would not be able to supply the market without the immigrant labour they employ for the period of harvest for vegetables and fruit. The industrious sector of the economy is fully aware that immigration is vital for the UK economy but somehow has little voice in the argument to support the case.

This maybe because there is no threat to the status quo and making the effort to justify the cause would seem rather pointless unless it is perceived that the situation could change against immigration and restrict access to this pool of talent. Any real attempt to cut off this supply would meet resistance from large corporates and undermine any political proposal for major changes to current regulation. Another problem is that while immigration is linked to racism in some reports any comment from established enterprises could cause serious public relations damage to their businesses; for that reason many are likely to stay silent when this discussion is taking place in the open public media.

Consequently, for the time being the argument is confined to challenging UKIP and so far David Cameron is failing miserably to convince anyone of his sincerity and ultimate conviction to seek the changes he says he would like and will struggle to persuade the leaders of the EU countries to endorse his cause.

That’s all for this week, more observations next week.