Economic Nonsense: 41. Immigration is bad for the economy

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Many argue that immigration harms the economy.  Some suppose that immigrants are attracted by welfare, and come to live off benefits at the taxpayers' expense.  Others assert the contradictory claim that "they come here to take our jobs."  Schrödinger's immigrant, like his cat, seems to manage two states simultaneously.  Some point to the pressure on services and resources, with immigrant children filling classrooms and their sick taking up hospital beds and lengthening waiting times to see doctors.

The reality is that most immigrants are young and ambitious, coming to better their lives.  They are overwhelmingly fit and looking for work.  Many of the jobs they take up are ones whose low pay and long hours do not appeal to the native population.  Most do not draw benefits or take up hospital space.  In some sectors they help fill skill shortages, and many UK businesses clamour for more educated and talented foreigners to be allowed in.

The work they do adds to our GDP and boosts growth.  The taxes they pay boost our public finances.  Most immigrants have shown some drive in being prepared to move to a new country to improve their lot.  Some have scraped up cash to finance their trip.  Some have taken risks on their journey.  They constitute a huge net plus to the economy, not a minus.  

It is true that in some areas, particularly if they concentrate, they can put pressure on local facilities.  A minority seeks to retain a culture that sits ill alongside the tolerance and liberalism that Britain has developed over its history.  These are indeed problems, but they are ones that can be addressed and dealt with, and some are temporary rather than long-term. 

Immigrants do one more positive thing for the economy.  Most countries in Europe face declining and ageing populations, and will encounter difficulties if there are not enough young people in work and paying taxes to support the elderly with appropriate services.  The UK population is not declining, and it is immigration that is making the difference.  Far from constituting a problem, it is in this case a solution.