Migration control took centre stage in the Queen’s opening parliamentary speech yesterday, as you can read on our blog here. It proposed a requirement for private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants, curbs on migrant access to the NHS, limits on driving licenses, easier deportation of foreign criminals and fines for companies exploiting migrant labour.
The proposals dovetail with the Coalition’s commitment to reduce net migration to “tens of thousands” by 2015.
Yet is strengthening the economy, which according to the Queen’s speech is the government’s top priority, in conflict with the proposed immigration measures?
Economists have been quick to attack the proposed immigration curbs.
Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social research said that the anti-immigration rhetoric was “simply not credible” when coupled with the government’s attempts to boost the economy.
“Overall, immigrants make a significant net contribution to the public finances,” Portes said. “Without immigration, taxes would have to be higher or we’d have to cut public services.
“Immigration matters to growth: not just filling short term labour market gaps, but contributing to growth and increased productivity over the longer term.”
Last year, according to the Centre for Economic Performance, 14.5 per cent of the UK’s working age population had been born abroad, up from 8 per cent in 1995. Over 5.9 million working-age adults are born abroad.
While immigrants are over-represented in low-skilled occupations, they are also over-represented in high-skilled jobs. On average migrants are also less likely than the rest of the UK population to be in social housing.
We previously spoke to two Old Street businesses who said that strict visa controls “stunt” economic growth.
The Office for Budget Responsibility, in its annual fiscal sustainability report, 2012, found that high immigration is good for the economy in the medium term as net immigrants are more likely to be of working age than older age of the population in general.
Migration Watch UK have, however, said that the impact of immigration on the UK’s GDP is “negligible”.
Reacting to the speech, John Cridland, director-general of the Consortium of British Industry said: “We must strike the right balance between controlling immigration but still attract the skilled workers and students the economy needs, who will otherwise go to our competitors.”
This article was originally published on London Migrant Hub.