Approximately 600,000 people immigrated to the United Kingdom in 2008. While the country for most of its history was a net exporter of individuals--that is, more people emigrated from the U.K. than immigrated to it--in the mid-1980s, this trend reversed, and the country has since seen a consistent rise in its number of immigrants. The advantages of immigration for the U.K.--like that for other countries--are characterised by fiscal, social and cultural benefits.
Taxes and State Benefits
According to the BBC, most immigrants to the UK are of working age. As a result, they pay taxes but are relatively infrequent beneficiaries of public benefits. The British government estimates that the disparity amounts to more than £1.9 billion USD. Immigrants boost the size of the workforce, and as a result help fund pensions for seniors in the country--a great help because demographic projections suggest that the ratio of workers to pensioners will decline starting in the middle of the 21st century.
Employment in Undesirable Positions
Like those in other countries, immigration advocates in the U.K. often posit that immigrants help the country by assuming undesirable employment positions that natives are unwilling to take on. Among those making this argument in Britain is the Confederation of British Industry, which conducted a survey showing that most business owners rated skills shortages as the biggest obstacle to growth in 2007. The CBI argues that admitting migrant workers from a variety of regions helps solve this problem.
While those opposed to immigration often argue that migrant workers bring down wages for British workers, prominent advocates--including the Governor of the Bank of England--argue that this phenomenon helps keep down inflation. Forced to increase salaries for their workers, business owners might be forced to raise prices, resulting in an inflation spike.
Some benefits of immigration are less tangible. The British government released a report that argued immigration benefits in the country by exposing citizens to new perspectives: "U.K. workers and businesses learn from the exchange of ideas and experiences with immigrant workers." Because immigrants come from a wide variety of regions, they provide a wealth of diverse wisdom that might not otherwise be obvious to British workers.
- Office for National Statistics: Emigration Reaches Record High in 2008
- Migration Policy Institute: United Kingdom - A Reluctant Country of Immigration
- BBC: Who Gains From Immigration?
- The Independent: Migrants are Essential for Business Growth, Says CBI
- Workpermit: Immigrants to U.K. Lower Inflation, Says Bank Boss