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With 244,000 more people entering Britain in 2017 than leaving, 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. Benefits such as helping to bridge skills gaps and contributing to taxes.
Many residents in the UK believe the country could benefit economically from parting ways with the EU, fuelling the vote to leave the UK. Immigration was also a large factor in the Brexit manifesto. Prompting many on the fence to vote in favour of leaving the EU. As we move into 2019, it’s interesting to reflect on just how much immigration does benefit the UK. We can also look into the consequences that Brexit may have.
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 . Not to mention vital skills that would have cost the UK £6.8bn in education. Furthermore, The Russel Group of leading universities suggests foreign students contribute £2.5bn a year in fees. This then helps to finance higher education for national students.
At present, EU immigrants make up about 5% of NHS staff in England. Across the UK, EU immigrants make up 10% of doctors, and 4% of nurses.
Leaving the EU could allow the UK to restrict the flow of immigrants from Europe, and this could cause an NHS staffing crisis. The government was warned before Brexit that if lower-earning non-EU workers were to be deported, the shortage of nurses in the UK could worsen. This could mean the NHS would have to spend millions on recruitment.
With two million people of working age leaving the country in the last decade, a Conservative MP called for a “culture change” in a bid to minimise the number of talented workers leaving Britain. However, there are also thousands of people entering the country. Many of whom are either looking for work, 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. 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.”
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.
On average, European immigrants are 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.
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. As a result, job opportunities can rise.
There’s no denying that immigration has been good for Britain. It’s skills, jobs and economic benefits have been brought into the country. As it stands, with Brexit just around the corner, there is a level of uncertainty regarding immigration into the UK. Applications from across the EU to prestigious university Cambridge have dropped a staggering 14% after the announcement of Brexit. This suggests the unwelcoming feelings of hostility that many EU workers and students are feeling from the UK. Though there is no doubt that immigration benefits the UK. It will be interesting to see over the next few months and indeed years, just how the levels of immigration will change.
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