Friday 24 July 2015

Do immigrants contribute?

A year or so after the London bombings a document was leaked which had all the appearance of a confidential Home Office study on whether immigrants felt a primary attachment to the United Kingdom and how much they contributed to the economy and to society. I say “appearance” because as far as I know it was never confirmed to be an official document, but was put together in the Whitehall style, with plentiful use of government statistics and restrained interpretations of the findings. I imagined that some civil servant felt that this should be known to the public, and anonymously made public some of the findings, if only selected pages.

Naturally, the focus of interest at that time was British Muslims, since it was from that particular demographic that the bombers had been drawn, but the findings had general relevance as regards immigrant contributions, and the final conclusion could be summarised in one word: variable. Some immigrants contributed more than others. Looking at the figures for employment by religion, Muslims contributed least of all, presumably because few women worked outside the house. The highest contributors were atheists. As regards Muslims, the report conceded that this covered a wide spectrum from wealthy Gulf Arabs to poor Pakistanis, but the end result in terms of unemployment and benefits was low economic contribution overall.

Now to a study published a few days ago. Migration Watch is a campaigning group who act as a thorn in the side of governments on the issue of immigration. They specialise in detailed studies of official immigration figures, and often prove closer to the mark than official estimates. Mainstream UK political opinion is that immigrants contribute “immensely”, and now Migration Watch (opposed to mass migration) has conducted an analysis of the UK Labour Force Survey data 2014, the most complete data set on employment to test that proposition. Their conclusions? The contribution of immigrants is variable. Some contribute more than the natives, some less. It is almost as if humans showed individual and group differences. Could any of these variations in economic contribution be due to intelligence and diligence?

The report says the UK Labour Force Study “is currently the most complete data source for examining the impacts of migration on the UK labour market. This paper noted that much previous research was based on periods prior to the economic recession starting in 2008. While the most recently published academic paper in this area[1] is based on data up to and including the 2011/12 fiscal year, its reporting of most recent key economic characteristics (and hence calculated outcomes) are based on averages over a period stretching back to 2001, and these are not necessarily any guide to what is happening now. The Migration Observatory at Oxford University publishes a helpful and regularly updated series of briefings about migrants in the UK [2], and this report complements these with a more detailed  analysis of some key aspects.”

For guidance:

Prior to 2004 Europe EU15 comprised the following 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

In 2004 Europe took in the following "A10" countries: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

In 2007 Bulgaria and Romania joined.

Adult migrants in the UK are predominantly in age bands between 25-44 and thus should be compared with the local working population of that age. Immigrants look more beneficial if they arrive as working adults (the usual way the benefits of immigration are presented), and but less beneficial as they age and require pensions and health care or leave the labour market to have children who require education and benefits (less often presented in studies of immigration). A host nation potentially benefits by getting immigrants only in the adult earning phase. Taken in the round and across the lifespan, immigrants only benefit the local population if they are better than the local average in ability and character, and make greater contributions than locals.

Looking at the number of adults (16+) in the UK by country of birth, Africa, the Indian sub-continent, Western Europe and Eastern Europe each account for over a million, and Rest of World for a further two million. By historical standards, recent immigration has been massive. It is a permanent change in the genetics of the UK, such that by current estimates the indigenous population will be a minority by 2066.

Ed West in “The Diversity Illusion” writes:

“The latest projections suggest that white Britons will become a minority sometime around 2066, in a population of 80 million, which means that within little over a century Britain will have gone from an almost entirely homogenous society to one where the native ethnic group is a minority. That is, historically, an astonishing transformation. No people in history have become a minority of the citizenry in their own country except through conquest, yet the English, always known for their reticence, may actually achieve this through embarrassment.”



It is not clear whether the relatively small number of South Africans include those of European and Indian origins, but there may be data on that somewhere.



Pakistanis & Bangladeshis and Africans tend to persist in unemployment.



Of course, immigrants to the UK may not be representative of their country of origin. The elite of one country (the smart fraction) may leave because they can obtain even better wages and conditions for their scarce skills, while the least able of another country may leave because more generous benefits more than make up for their inability to get jobs. However, looking at the average for each country of origin is a fair approximation, and a good starting point for analysis. Just looking by eye at the groups shows a rough concordance with national intelligence scores at the lower end of the spectrum, but far from a perfect match. Selective migration is probably the cause, but far more detail would be required to be sure about it.

Finally, the irony cannot be lost on any UK citizen that the group who contribute least in employment and wages and take most in benefits are also those most likely to harbour militants planning acts of violence so as to savagely bite the hand that continues to feed them.


  1. I tend to distrust pro-immigration arguments - which are, in effect, arguments for our present system of mass, unselective immigration - because the arguer will never disaggregate the immigrants: he will treat them as one homogeneous mass of interchangeable humans. Since that must be false, and is almost certainly dishonest, I tend to give him no time. And, as you say, he will pretend that immigrants bring no social burden, such as the need to school their children.

    If the case for immigration is so feeble that its proponents rely on falsehood, that's probably all I need to know. Nor is it much of an argument to point at me and ask "If you disapprove of immigration so much why do you have so many immigrant friends?" because the that's too dim to bother with.

  2. Does someone want to write up an country of origin x immigrant outcomes study with me based on these data? Send me an email!

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