Migrants contribute £25 billion to UK economy

Supermalt at Brixton Splash - Summer 2013

Migrants contribute £25 billion to UK economy


Migrants from European Economic Area countries have been the most likely to make a positive contribution, paying about 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits over the 10 years from 2001 to 2011, according to the findings from University College London’s migration research unit. Other immigrants paid about 2% more than they received.

Recent immigrants were 45% less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than people native to the UK and 3% less likely to live in social housing, says the report written by Professor Christian Dustmann and Dr Tommaso Frattini.

But going back further to 1995, the study found that non-EEA immigrants arriving between that year and 2011 had claimed more in benefits than they paid in taxes, mainly because they had more children than people already living in Britain.

The research shows that in contrast with most other European countries, the UK attracts highly educated and skilled immigrants from within the EEA as well as from outside. What’s more, immigrants who arrived since 2000 have made a very sizeable net fiscal contribution and therefore helped to reduce the fiscal burden on UK-born workers.

“Our study also suggests that over the last decade or so the UK has benefitted fiscally from immigrants from EEA countries, who have put in considerably more in taxes and contributions than they received in benefits and transfers.

Meanwhile a discussion paper published online by Professor John Salt and Dr Janet Dobson, also from UCL’s migration research unit, argued the government’s target to cut net migration to the UK to the tens of thousands by 2015 is “neither a useful tool nor a measure of policy effectiveness”. The pair looked at progress towards the target since the coalition government was formed in 2010.

In the paper the authors say: “We have serious doubts that the net migration target is either a useful tool or a measure of policy effectiveness and we believe that recent experience provides a number of lessons for future migration policy, both in the UK and internationally.”

Net migration to the UK is calculated as the difference between the number of people entering the country and the number leaving.

The paper argues that damage has already been done by actions to cut work-related, student and family migration, harming the UK’s reputation as a good place to work and study. “Too much of the debate about international migration in the UK is about ‘immigrants’ as an undifferentiated group, without getting to grips with who ‘they’ are, why they come, the jobs they do, the contribution they make and the length of time they stay.

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