How Does Immigration Benefit The UK?

Michael Thorpe
28th September 2015

With 641,000 people entering Britain in 2014, up from 526,000 the year before, concerns have been raised regarding the country’s ability to cater for so many migrants. Immigrants have been blamed for everything from shortages in social housing to the cost of the NHS.

However, research suggests that immigrants can bring numerous benefits to the country when they enter the UK such as helping to bridge skills gaps and contributing to taxes.

Economic benefits

According to research by UCL, European immigrants who arrived in the UK since 2000 contributed more than £20bn to the economy between 2001 and 2011. Not only that, they also rewarded the country with valuable human capital and vital skills that would have cost the UK £6.8bn in education.

Supporting the NHS

Earlier this year, nursing leaders warned the government that if lower-earning non-EU workers were to be deported, the shortage of nurses in the UK could worsen and the NHS would have to spend millions on recruitment.

Dr Peter Carter from The Royal College of Nursing said: “The NHS has spent millions hiring nurses from overseas in order to provide safe staffing levels. These rules will mean that money has just been thrown down the drain.”

He also warned that up to 29,755 nurses could be affected by Theresa May’s plans to deport non-EU workers earning less than £35,000 after six years in the UK.

Bridging skills gaps

With two million people of working age leaving the country in the last decade, two years ago a Conservative MP called for a “culture change” in a bid to minimise the number of talented workers leaving Britain. However, with thousands of people entering the country, many of whom are either looking for work, an education, or an opportunity to use skills already acquired, this increase in migrants could have significant benefits for the UK workforce.

Furthermore, as the UK is currently battling a skills shortage, particularly in STEM careers, immigrants can help to bring skills into the country, aid the economy, and make the country more competitive.

Theresa May has argued that immigrants should only be allowed entry to the UK if they have been offered a job already. However, CBI Director-General John Cridland disagrees. He said: “The evidence shows that the vast majority of people coming from the EU to the UK come to work and benefit our economy.”

He added: “We’d be concerned if EU workers had to be hired for a job before coming to the UK though, as this would cause issues for firms without the capacity to advertise and recruit across the whole of Europe.”

Lower reliance on benefits

Many of those opposed to immigration believe migrants enter the UK solely to make use of its benefits system. However, immigrants arriving in the UK after 2000 were 43% less likely than UK-born workers to receive state benefits and were 7% less likely to live in social housing.


European immigrants are on average better educated than natives. According to findings published in The Economic Journal last year, European immigrants who arrived since 2000 are more likely to have a university degree than natives. In 2011, 25% of immigrants from A10 countries and 65% of those from EU-15 countries had a university degree while in comparison just 24% of natives were the same.

Increase in aggregate demand and real GDP

An influx of people entering the UK can lead to an increase in aggregate demand and total spending within the economy. Not only do immigrants increase the supply of labour, they can also boost the need for labour and as a result job opportunities can rise.