Quite often and, rather unfortunately, the discussion surrounding immigration to the UK is imbued with outward resentment, nationalist sentiments and to some extent, xenophobic undertones. However the notion expressed by many that immigrants come to the UK to ‘steal jobs’ and ‘scrounge off the state’ hail from a rather misinformed and stereotypical perspective. Having always supported the ‘for’ side of the immigration debate, I was particularly pleased when a report from the Center for Research and Analysis of Migration at UCL was recently released, revealing that “immigrants overall are less likely than natives to receive state benefits or tax credits and are also less likely than natives to occupy social housing”. It is not news that immigration throughout time has elicited hostile reception at some point: countless examples tell this story. However The ‘immigrant as the parasite’ is an image that sadly, even contemporary policy makers have chosen to adopt and exploit. It is perhaps unsurprising then, that the anti-immigration rhetoric spread by UKIP has recently gained ground among the UK voting population partly as a result of these negative assumptions surrounding immigration to Britain. Moreover, these beliefs are shown to be reflected across the continent: in the 2008 European Social Survey figures revealed that 8% of European citizens that participated believed that the rights of immigrants within the receiving country should not be equated with that of native citizens, while almost half of all participants were of the opinion that immigrants received disproportionately more than they contributed to the the economy.
In terms of the UK, hopefully this sentiment can now be overridden. The study, which measured immigrants’ net fiscal contribution to the UK economy found that within a 10 year period ending in 2011, European Economic Area migrants contributed 34% more than they received. Additionally it was revealed that spending habits on average were likely to equal that of native citizens and, relatedly; second-generation immigrants are also likely to contribute to successive generations by paying taxes at a later stage in their lives. Moreover, the fact that almost double the number of non-European Economic Area migrants to the UK obtained a degree than British citizens in 2011 – 38% of the migrant population as compared to 21% of that of the UK – is testament to the fact that the majority of immigrants are not relocating to the UK solely to take advantage of its state benefits.
This report is highly illuminating however, it will be difficult to gauge its subsequent effect on public perception regarding immigration. I am particularly looking forward to how these findings will play out in terms of policy concerning tighter immigration controls. While I understand that logistically, it would be impractical to open up the borders to more people wanting to enter, I do not believe that immigration warrants hostile reception and awkward discussion. From my perspective, I am a firm believer in the fact that immigration has some great benefits – not only economically – but socially also, in the way that it can promote cultural exchange and potentially better opportunities for migrants. My hope is that this statistical evidence will to some extent put to rest the negative connotations surrounding immigration to the UK and enlighten a fair few of Farage’s fan club.