Immigration is a hot-button issue in many parts of the world, and the United Kingdom is no exception. The government does not employ immigration caps and must allow free migration from other European Union countries due to the U.K.'s membership in the E.U. As less prosperous countries began joining the European Union in 2003, this uncontrolled migration became a national concern. However, immigration has actually provided many economic and social benefits for the people of the United Kingdom.
According to the Office for National Statistics, as of March 2010 there were 475, 000 unfilled jobs in the United Kingdom. Immigration offers one solution to filling these positions. For example, in the National Health Service (NHS), nearly 40 per cent of doctors are foreign-trained and are able to practice medicine in Britain under the Highly Skilled Migrant visa program. A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2007, found that the majority of immigrant doctors filled consultant positions that the NHS had described as "hard to fill" to meet the current demand. This occurred, the study concluded, in part because British medical school graduates are more likely to take up certain specialities, leaving other positions unfilled. Similar trends are also being seen in nursing, dentistry and other health professions.
The 2007 Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration report issued by the U.K. government found that immigrants that year contributed six billion pounds to the United Kingdom's economy. This output was measured in accordance with the Treasury's economic impact framework by assessing age, employment rate, wage and worker productivity.
Further, the report found that immigrants positively impacted wages through increased productivity. The Home Office report concluded that immigrants complement, rather than replace, native U.K. workers. Furthermore, a report created for the House of Lords Committee found that, between 1997 and 2007, immigration had a positive effect on the United Kingdom's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by increasing hiring options for employers.
According to official records, U.K. immigrants contributed 31.2 billion pounds in taxes alone in 2002 . In addition, research conducted by the Home Office has shown that the United Kingdom's immigrant population contributes more to public services than they use. This is referred to as a net fiscal contribution. According to Home Office reports, in 2002 immigrants made a net fiscal contribution of 10 per cent. U.K. natives also paid more in taxes than they used in public services--however, at a significantly lower taxes-to-services ratio of five per cent.
One theory on why this occurs is that most immigrants are of working age, representing both those who have come to the United Kingdom for the sole purpose of working and those who have qualified for visas in other areas--such as marriage--but are nonetheless a core group of moderately healthy, work-aged people. These young workers also help to ease the burden that the ageing British population places on government through pensions and health services.
- Home Office: The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration (PDF)
- Reuters: Foreign doctors play key role in UK health system
- Office for National Statistics: Employment, March 2010
- "Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate"; The migrant population in the UK: fiscal effects; Ceri Gott and Karl Johnston; 2002.
- British Medical Journal: Country of training and ethnic origin of UK doctors: database and survey studies