Position Papers: Immigration

There’s plenty of issues in politics that leave everyone divided.  It’s part of the appeal of the subject for me, and I find it interesting to hear everyone’s take on some of the big debates in our society.  I’m a rather opinionated person, as you may be able to tell, and I’m definitely partisan when it comes to the sort of discussions that dominate current affairs.  With this post, I’ll kick off a series on some of my own political opinions and try to explain them along with the current political context.

I’ll start with immigration.  It’s a subject that is still talked about almost exclusively negatively in both political discourse, the popular media and by people in general.  In the 21st century, I can’t believe that people are so ignorant and narrow-minded when they claim that immigration is a terrible thing for our country.

The entire idea of immigration is to improve an economy, on one level or another, and that should be something that is welcomed.  Whether it is someone moving abroad to take a high paid job in, say, a finance firm or someone changing countries to work in a field for less than the minimum wage – if they are moving it is with an aim of improving their economic situation and that of their families by sending money back to their home country.  If enough people do this, the world’s financial situation improves a little bit.  If you disregard national competition, which is something that doesn’t and shouldn’t exist economically in this new global age, then immigration is the best action an individual can take if there is a better job and better standard of living for them abroad.

Many of those who oppose immigration also tend to oppose foreign aid.  I believe that immigration is a more effective way of getting money to flow to the people of other countries than simply giving foreign governments lump sums to spend and that the goal of aid is to make other countries better trading partners.  If other countries, and people from other countries, can spend more money on the goods and services that we provide, then we will make more money ourselves.  Although in the short-term their immigrants might cause a flow of capital away from Britain, in the long run it will come back to us.  Immigration is for the long-term benefit of our economy.

These ideas are also presuming that no-one will move to a country where they will make relatively less money without some motivation to improve the economy of their destination.  It simply doesn’t happen.  Volunteering is perhaps the only real way in which people leave their nation for less compensation for their work, but this is almost always going to help the destination country with infrastructure projects, education, new technologies etc.  Immigration, no matter which way you look at it, will always help an economy somewhere.

The worst criticism of immigration I hear is when people complain about the number of asylum seekers that are allowed into the country.  Can we really consider ourselves to be a kind, forward-thinking and overall “good” country if we turn away people who have gone through hell on Earth and are looking for some respite?  We’re not putting them up in the Ritz; we’re giving them the basic human needs of shelter, food, water and safety.  Surely that’s not too much to give out to a few thousand people a year from a nation of over sixty million.  As one of the most economically and socially stable nations on the planet we’re privileged to be able to help those in need and we should never lose sight of the fact that just because people might be from another country they are still people too.

People that move to this country always have to put up with the idea that they are ‘stealing’ someone’s job, as though capitalism works on a basis of giving out jobs fairly to the people that ‘deserve’ it by birth-right.  It’s nonsense in principle, but also in practice.  Another claim that’s thrown in the faces of immigrants is that they are all benefit-scroungers that move here just to sit around on the dole.  That’s not true either.

Immigrants have been proven to have made a net contribution our economy, with a November 2013 study by the University College of London showing immigrants to the UK from inside the EEA (European Economic Area) provide 34% more in taxes to our treasury than they receive in benefits.  Even from outside the EEA, they contribute 2% more than their “fair share”. Immigrants arriving here after 1999 were 45% less likely to claim benefits between then and 2011 than UK natives.  Immigrants are also 3% less likely to live in social housing than our indigenous population.

These facts are backed up with another 2013 study by the Central European University showing that immigrants to the EU are “less likely to live on benefits” than the “native population”.  The UK is 16th out of 18 developed countries in the study when ranked by unemployment benefit spending (UBS) on immigrants, which stands at just 1.13% of GDP.  There’s no factual basis at all for saying that immigrants come here to live off the welfare state.  They come here to work, and that is exactly what you would expect someone leaving their families, heritage and homes behind for a foreign land, and they are good at it.  This is why the average wage of immigrants is actually higher than the UK average.  Don’t listen to the Daily Mail spin in that article when they bemoan the fact that people are seeing our country as a fantastic place to live the lives they want to.  We want Britain to be one of the best places in the world to live.  We’re not worse off because people see our country as a place where they can make their dreams come true.  These immigrants are actually making our lives much better.

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