Immigration and the UK Economy

Professor Jonathan Wadsworth, senior research fellow at the Centre for Economic Performance, LSE—Immigration and the UK Economy, published today:

  • Much of the recent falls in net immigration are driven either by a rise in emigration or a fall in the number of Britons returning to the UK—things over which the government has very little control.
  • Immigrants do not take most new jobs. The immigrant share in new jobs is—and always has been—broadly the same as the share of immigrants in the working age population.
  • Areas of the UK with large increases in total or EU immigration have not experienced greater falls in either jobs or pay of UK-born workers. The big falls in wages observed after 2008 are more closely associated with the fallout from the global financial crisis than immigration.
  • There is little effect of immigration on inequality and the relative pay and job prospects of less skilled UK workers. Changes in wages and joblessness for less educated UK-born workers show little association with changes in immigration.
  • Immigrants pay more in taxes than they take out in welfare and use of public services. UK-born individuals, on average, take out more in welfare and benefits than they pay in taxes. So immigrants help to reduce the budget deficit. There is little evidence that immigrants have negative effects on crime, education, health or social housing.

On productivity and GDP growth:

Migration acts much like trade in capital, as people tend to move to countries where they can be more productive and earn higher incomes. This increases welfare through greater efficiency in labour allocation across the world. Immigrants also fill the gaps in the skill composition of the national workforce. This fosters specialisation, increases productivity and raises the wages of national workers with complementary skills.

Recent work by Boubtane et al (2015, Table 3) finds that a 50% decrease in the net immigration rate would reduce UK productivity growth by 0.32% per annum. Since EU immigration is half of the current UK total … cutting EU immigrants to 80,000 per year is likely to shave 0.16% off productivity growth. So about a decade after Brexit, UK GDP per capita will be about 1.6% lower than it would have otherwise been.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *