Now the initial furore about Romanian and Bulgarian people being allowed to work in the UK has subsided, what does a more detailed look at immigration statistics tell us about the benefits, or otherwise, of welcoming overseas citizens? The picture is mixed.
Immigrants to the UK since 2000 have made a “substantial” contribution to public finances, a recently published report claimed. Those from the European Economic Area (EEA – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) had made a particularly positive contribution in the decade up to 2011, the authors noted, contributing 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits and services. “Given this evidence, claims about ‘benefit tourism’ by EEA immigrants seem to be disconnected from reality,” one of the study’s authors Christian Dustmann, professor of economics at University College London, said. The story is slightly different for immigrants who came to the UK from outside the EEA in that period. They also put more into the public purse than they took out, but by a smaller margin of 2%.
However, studying the numbers in the UCL report more closely, another finding emerges. And that is, that if you look at the figures for the whole of the period under study, 1995-2011, immigration has been a drain on the public purse. To the tune of about £95bn.