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November 02, 2012

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Malcolm Culshaw

There may be arguments not mentioned here, such as the increase in population growth, due to immigrants tending towards larger families, within an already crowded island with a severe housing problem.

Metatone

I'm the child of an immigrant and I've spent time working as an immigrant in other EU countries. I support immigration.

However, I've also worked in primary healthcare in the North of England. And I've seen first hand how badly migration patterns are handled by health and social services and councils/LEAs. Not unconnected to the fact that central government funding is very inflexible and non-cognisant of swift population changes.

And no, none of the averages, nor the typical statistics recorded by local government keeps track of this very well.

So what I am here to say to you about evidence is that there are geographical areas where the quality of people's lives are actually affected by migration patterns. That migration might be Poles and Hungarians arriving, or in the South it might be people from North arriving. Unscrupulous politicians tend to link all of these effects to "immigration" - but if you aren't prepared to go and commission studies at a granular level into consumption of local services then you aren't going to shift any Overton windows banging on about aggregate evidence that doesn't represent life on the ground.

I don't expect this to persuade anyone from an economics background - but it needs to be said anyway.

chris

@ Metatone - I don't deny what you say - there's always variation around (near-zero) averages. But are some localized adverse effectss really sufficient reason to incur the costs of limiting immigration? Wouldn't it be better to address the problem of inflexible supply of public services?

Sam

At the root, the immigration argument always seems to come down to culture. There are people who value freedom, and they find themselves on the same side as people who value cultural diversity. On the other side are those who value the "traditional English culture" and see that being eroded by an influx of people who are unfamiliar with the traditions.

And it's true - have a small number of immigrants, and you can absorb them into your culture. Have a large number, and that culture changes. (And it's true whether the immigrants are brown and wear funny clothes, or whether they're city people moving into rural villages and trying to prevent the sheep from defecating on the roads, or people who buy a house next to an 800-year old church and then complain about the bells or whatever.)

It's hard to put a value on "maintaining such-and-such a culture" so hard to compare it to the benefits of immigration. I suppose one could look at things like how much is spent to promote the Welsh language in Wales as an indicator of how much people value their culture.

Anonymous

I am sorry to disagree with the cosy consensus.

Immigration may benefit business but that is not the same as saying that people from my class benefit from it. The benefits of immigration do not trickle down to workers, to job-seekers, or soon, to the disabled.

Out of class loyalty I am opposed to immigration until we have full employment.

Enzo

What if the policy's losers (e.g. the native working class) are already among the most vulnerable groups?

BenSix

Quite apart from this debate, it must be observed that judging immigration on economic factors alone is like judging a house on its price and number of rooms without looking to see where it's situated; what its condition is and whether it has a functioning lavatory.

Tim Newman

I suppose one could look at things like how much is spent to promote the Welsh language in Wales as an indicator of how much people value their culture.

I'm not sure that's much of an indicator, after all the politicians aren't spending their own money. I think a better indicator of how the Welsh value their culture insofar as the language part of it was how many Welsh-speaking parents passed on the language to their children. When I was growing up in Wales between 1977 and 1996-ish, it wasn't very many.

Alex

Enzo, Anonymous: this paragraph is worth reading.

"It's certainly not because politicians care especially about the welfare of low-skilled workers. For years, their prospects have been blighted by numerous developments, ranging from poor education through to the rise of China and India and power-biased technical change. There's something nastily hypocritical about a political class which has been indifferent (at best) to the well-being of the unskilled suddenly caring when it comes to immigration."

It's just bad faith. Being self-declaredly "tough on immigration" didn't send wages up in the 1980s now did it?

Anonymous

@Alex

I would say the indifference of the business and the political class (one and the same nowadays) has been manifested by their encouragement of immigration (remember Gordon Brown calling that lady from the north a bigot?). Many employers are now openly racists and will on principle recruit from abroad rather than domestically rather than on merit.

Only now that the political class has decided that the number of economically inactive claimants is too high to sustain have they finally woken up to how a significant proportion of new jobs are being taken by immigrants. IDS and co have realised that their back-to-work policies will not work unless immigration is constrained. The fashionable view that employers prefer immigrants because they work harder is plain and simple racism. Incidentally, the view that foreign workers work harder pervades DWP, hence they cling to the myth of the benefit scrounger.

There are now over 9m economically inactive people of working age. Out-of-work benefits are now being phased out and the government now foresees trouble ahead unless alternatives to benefits are on offer, ie jobs. This is why immigration is an issue.

Sean

And there was me (3rd gen Polish exile from socialism) thinking economics growth was about efficiency, productivity and innovation. Not building a city the size of Birmingham every 5 years to cater for a demographic increase in population. To me that may have good economic outcomes but I cant say that for the demographics.

We would certainly need some sort of minimum income system and LVT to find the answer to that.

P

"Out of class loyalty I am opposed to immigration until we have full employment."

Which isn't very loyal to the working class of other countries.

Henry

"So, if immigration has roughly zero effects on average on natives"

Actually has large effects on some/many natives, economically http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16484918

and socially.

Don

Henry

The MAC research to which your link refers was based on Labour Force Survey data, which is a poor indicator of migration impacts because the regions it covers are large. Being large, and covering several sub-regional economies, it is difficult to ascribe negative or positive effects to migration in anything other than an approximate way.

At the time the MAC report was published the NIESR came up with another survey based on data on the issue of National Insurance numbers to newly-arrived migrants. This allowed much smaller areas to be scrutinised and the impact of migrant arrival to be looked in the places where you'd expect this to be most evident - in the immediate locale of their settlement. They summarise their findings thus:

"Our results, which appear robust to different specifications, different levels of geographic aggregation, and to a
number of tests, seem to confirm the lack of any impact of migration on unemployment in aggregate. We find no association between migrant inflows and claimant unemployment. In addition, we test for whether the impact of migration on claimant unemployment varies according to
the state of the economic cycle. We find no evidence of a more adverse during periods of low growth or the recent recession."

Check out http://www.niesr.ac.uk/pdf/090112_163827.pdf
for the full report.

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