British Call for Immigration Controls

Following the MI5 exposure of a gigantic home-grown Islamic terrorist plot in early August and the rapidly approaching integration of Romanian and Bulgarian territories into the EU, the British public have begun to demand a tougher policy on immigration. In a poll conducted for the Sunday Times, it was revealed that “half the population has serious doubts that allowing foreigners to settle in Britain is good for the country.” The key findings on the public’s view of immigration were as follows:

1. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement?
‘Immigration is generally good for Britain’
Agree: 43%
Disagree: 45%
Neither: 10%
Don’t know: 2%

2. Should laws on immigration be relaxed, kept same, made tougher, or don’t know?
Relaxed: 6%
Kept same: 17%
Made tougher: 75%
Don’t know: 2%

3. Should the government set a strict limit on the number of immigrants allowed into Britain each year?
Yes: 77%
No: 21%
Don’t know: 2%

Interestingly, immigration is not straightforwardly seen as good for Britain, laws on immigration should be toughened and the government, against all its wishes, faces a public demanding a strict limit on the number of immigrants allowed into Britain each year.

The British people have been deceived on the extent of immigration occurring subsequent to Eastern European integration into the EU. Workers from the Eastern European countries integrating into the EU in 2004 (the A8), applying for work in Britain was expected to number 13,000. In fact, within two years, the number of Eastern European workers entering the country, registering on the government’s worker registration scheme, totalled 447,000 immigrants, with 20,000 still to be approved. The real figure may be as high as 600,000. Home Office Minister, Tony McNulty, told BBC television: “Migrant workers from the accession states are benefiting the UK by filling skills and labour gaps that cannot be met from the UK-born population […] We are yet to take a decision as to what access Bulgarian and Romanian nationals will have to our labour market.”

The Conservative Party shadow immigration minister, Damian Green, reacted to the data by suggesting that it should prevent the Labour government “ducking and diving on the issue of Bulgaria and Romania entering the EU,” adding, more importantly, “it is vital that we learn the lessons of the unprecedented numbers who came into this country after the last expansion of the EU.” The shadow immigration minister was correct to term to the influx “unprecedented” – 447,000 is a deceptive longshot from 13,000 immigrants, even following the poor track record of New Labour deception.

So, given our past experiences, what kind of labour market access will Britain be able to offer workers from the new EU member states? The “open door” policy of 2004 will buckle healthcare, education and housing systems, and banjax the economy. When the newcomers joined the EU in 2004, Britain, Ireland and Sweden immediately opened the doors to newcomers. Portugal, Greece, Finland and Greece only abolished those labour market barriers this year while Germany and Austria continue to insist on barriers until 2011.

The UK trade and industry secretary, Alistair Darling, assured that the system will now be “properly managed.” The government’s own expectations for the 2007 EU Enlargement are that between 60,000 and 140,000 Romanians and Bulgarians may arrive in Britain in the first year period. Some degree of tension may have already been created, after it came to light that the Bulgarian government had granted citizenship to 23,500 immigrants in the past five years, all in anticipation of entry into the EU, and more crucially, many of them waiting for a first-class ticket into Britain. The Bulgarian government attacked this position, despite the obvious increase in the number of citizenship applications into Bulgaria. The UK trade and industry secretary’s assurance that the system will be “properly managed” has also been reflected in the Home Secretary – John Reid’s – call for controls, fearing a complete strain on housing and public services. In my view, the Labour government will place some restraint on immigration but not the necessary measures to satisfy its already disgruntled electorate (the New Labour party are already suffering a nineteen-year low).

What kind of immigration measures are called for, in anticipation of the 2007 EU Enlargement process, incorporating Romanian and Bulgarian workers? The most sincere voice appears to rise from Labour MP for Birkenhead, Frank Field. In July, Field effectively called for “an end to mass immigration”. His point was clear: the current levels of immigration are simply unsustainable. “Why is the Government blindly leading the country to a disaster that will result if this open-door policy continues? The most charitable view is that it has no idea of the erupting scale of the movement of people.” Now that the true number of workers upon 2007 EU accession has confronted the Labour government and the public alike, it may have some problems in ignoring Frank Field’s concerns again. As he has demanded in the past, the government needs nothing short of a “quota system on entrants to the country. […] It should impose a ban on the movement from accession countries until all our European partners agree to open up their labour markets.” On Monday 21st August, Field further commented that the quota system will need to be introduced by the government as part of a serious immigration policy: “The Government has to take back control of our borders by introducing a quota system reflecting the needs of the economy so that an elected and accountable government in this country determines the flow of new workers.”

What disappointed me was

not your differing views (instead I was looking forward to them) but you refusing to explain let alone defend them. That was what cut short the dialog...

Whoppers #3

@ Vanhauwaert

The disappointment is mutual.  However, while knowing the past is important, one should not be burdened by the past and, instead, look only forward to the future.  The advice of George2 - obviously, a wise man - is a good one.  "Pintje pakkeN".   We will act on it on my next visit to the Netherlands.

I have listed clearly and separately your three economic whoppers.  From my perspective they have to do with:

- the irrelevancy of 'immigrants' for Britain's long-term economic performance;

- the necessity of raising average labor productivity for raising per capita income;

- the major sources of rapid income growth in Poland after communism (or the irrelevancy of the EU in that regard over the past 15 years or so).

You do not have to be convinced of my opinions on these matters.  I would already be happy if you would at least be aware that serious people can have very different views than the prevailing ideologically-induced views that you have espoused on them.

My apologies for having misspelt your name.  I assure you that it was not intentional.  

The poll really should have

The poll really should have asked "do you honetly believe your government has any clue who they are admitting to your country?"  Of course people are unhappy with immigrants because the unions and socialists basically designed the immigration system to exclude any talent so as not to compete with their members. When I immigrated to the Netherlands I had to take a newspaper ad out in Amsterdam to make sure that there were no Dutch people more quaified to run my own company than I was. Only after this plus nearly a year of delay was I issued a work permit to run my own company. When my yearly permit first arrived it was three months away from expiring which I am sure is the norm. Of course I was billed some 20 thousand euros by the tax authorities for payroll tax for entire time I was waiting.

The Economic Myth of Mass Immigration

The oft-repeated justification for mass immigration: the economic benefits. Where’s the proof? According to Professor Rowthorn, Professor of Economics at Cambridge University, the benefits of lage-scale immigration are ‘either close to zero, or negative’. In 2004, along with Professor Coleman of Oxford University, he wrote a paper published in Population and Development Review entitled The Economic Effects of Immigration into the United Kingdom, the conclusion being, ‘the economic consequences of large-scale immigration are mostly minor, negative, or transient, that the interests of more vulnerable sections of the domestic population may well be damaged, and that any economic benefits are unlikely to bear comparison with immigration’s probable substantial and permanent demographic and environmental impact’.

Economic Evidence

Bart Vanhauwaert:

I posted the citation to the article, the choice of paying to access the article is yours. I have read the article and found it to be a well-written, authoritative and comprehensive consideration of the specific case of mass immigration to the UK. The authors are reputable and obviously experts in their field and to reject their findings would need specific evidence to the contrary.

I am not prepared to post the entirety of the article online for obvious reasons, suffice to say I have read it several times. However their most important conclusions are as follows (pp 616–617):

“This article has examined the impact of immigration on citizens of the United Kingdom. The claim that large-scale immigration will be of great economic benefit to them is false. Some will gain, but others will lose. With respect to the existing population of the UK and their descendants, the purely economic consequences of large-scale immigration could be negative or positive, but either way they will be small. Two earlier reviews of the economic effects of immigration to the UK came to carefully argued conclusions that stopped far short of a clear endorsement of its advantages, despite being presented in collections that otherwise served to underpin the new policy (Findlay 1994; Kleinman 2003). Immigrants are the only unequivocal economic beneficiaries of migration. There is no guarantee that anyone else will be, not even the sending countries from which the migrants come.

“The more important effects of sustained large-scale immigration on the UK are demographic, social, and environmental: provoking unexpected renewed growth in population and in housing demand and risking new and intractable social divisions and a corresponding weakening of national identity and cohesion, with the prospect of an eventual eclipse of the population receiving the migrants and of its culture.”

Whoppers #2

@ Van Hauwaert

I am only interested in promoting clarity, my cyber friend, not in engaging in silly semantic word games with you.  If you care to read carefully, you will have noticed that I have clearly and carefully defined what I mean by economic performance of Britain (the long-term or trend growth rate in PER CAPITA income).  If you could do something similar, instead of making cryptic statements about immigrants "holding up the British economy", then this could be a serious and fruitful conversation.    

You asked about economic whoppers? Well, let me repeat three of them:

-- First, your notion that the relative economic performance of Britain depends on foreign immigrants.

-- Second, your (again cryptic) denial of the importance of raising AVERAGE productivity of labor for raising PER CAPITA income. 

-- Third, your illusion that rapid income growth in Poland was due to EU membership.

And no, I am not going to slowly repeat an explanation of these whoppers.  Because, as I said, I am not interested in word games.  And yes, it is true that I cannot say everything at the same time.  Neither can you.  But I am not going to be so silly as to claim that you don't know the distinction between number of people and number of workers.   You, however, did make such a claim about me.  What more, then, is there to be said?



- Not foreign immigrants, but foreign workers. See : you keep on making the same basic mistakes. And no, that is not a silly wordgame but goes at the heart of my point. Immigration is good if the newly arrived start _working_. That is why it is important to make that distinction.

- I never denied that relation? However, I do hold that per capita income is not the universal yardstick by which everything must be measured.

- That is a misrepresentation of a sideremark I made.

Well, yesterday you were willing to expand your view in not one, not two but three long posts. You even started with "Macroeconomics 101" clearly indicative of the level you wanted to discuss this on. I refute them diligently point by point and all I get is a "I don't want to play wordgames"? What should I take away from this dialogue? That you use words while actually meaning something else?

I must confess being disappointed. From the initial exchange i was hoping for someone who was finally willing to debate economics at length. But it seems not to be...

(In the interest of clarity, my name is Vanhauwaert and not Van Hauwaert. Since moving to the Netherlands where nearly everyone refuses to write my name correctly I am becoming more and more sensitive to this issue)

Changing track

5. So now you move from the economical to the sociological field. Maybe you should have started your initial post with 'sociology 101'.
I agree that large scale immigration can be unsettling. I don't agree that the immigration as witnessed from East European countries is unsettling enough to warrant denying ourselves the advantages it provides (mainly cheaper labour)

You essentially say that domestic employers should pay more to employ locals. But why should they? What advantage has Mr Smith in paying a local 15 pound an hour to clean his car when a girl from Romania is willing to do it for 5 pound? Is that a 5 pound loss for Mr Smith? Surely not, he pocketed 10 pound (if he values a clean car at 15 pound)

6. What a shame. Maybe you are genuine but after a cop out like that you can hardly be surprised that I leave with the impression that you dare not debate that exact point exactly because it will expose you as anti-immigration per se. Or alternatively fall into the trap of zero sum mechanics (more for foreigners is less for us)

Digging deeper #3

@ Van Hauwaert


5) Where on earth do you get the idea that I see the economy as "a zero-sum game"?   We certainly agree on the need for LONG TERM ECONOMIC (and political) HEALTH of a country to ensure that there are proper incentives in place for its people to seek to become (and remain!) economically active.   Is it then so difficult to see that large-scale immigration, particularly of unskilled workers, can often stand in the way of that requirement?   Do you really think that there would be so many unemployed youth in American and European ghettos if employers did NOT have acces to 'cheap' and often illegal foreign workers?   The argument that 'locals' don't want to do those jobs is bogus.  They did them in the past, they will do them again if the 'right' incentives (including remuneration) are in place, both on the demand side and on the supply side on labor markets.

6) Perhaps this would be the place to dig deeper in the distinction between DOMESTIC income (per head) and NATIONAL income (per head), but I will not do so.  I do not want to leave the impression that I am anti-immigration per se,  but I do not accept false (ideologically-induced) economic arguments about it.         

Digging deeper #2

@ Van Hauwaert


3) I agree with you that EU membership is certainly in the economic interests of "East European" countries, but you have rather naive (again ideologically-induced) views about the sources of their strong economic growth rates since the 'fall' of communism.   This is not the place to seriously expound on economic growth in Eastern Europe .  Let me simply point out that countries like Poland and other Eastern countries were experiencing rapid economic growth BEFORE their EU membership.  If, in some cases these growth rates have declined somewhat since then, it is not the fault of the EU.  This is a much more complex issue than you seem to realise.

4) You do have a valid point where you say that the emigration of many Poles to the west did not have a serious impact on the Polish economic growth rate (given the INITIAL large available pool of unemployed workers).  It certainly helped raise the PER CAPITA income level of ALL Poles (those in Poland and abroad).  But, that is of course a SHORT TERM point, and it has also nothing to do with the issue at hand which was the economic performance of Britain (which I interpret to mean the long-term  or trend  growth rate of per capita income in Britain).    

Digger a deeper hole

3. Feel free to ignore the word 'partly' in my remark about EU membership of East European countries. (not)

4. The remark about a growing economy in Poland was to explain your proposed paradox. I cite again : Those workers from Eastern Europe moved from faster-growing countries to slower-growing Britain (in income terms). You can not AT THE SAME TIME imply that the loss of workers in one case leads to faster growth and that the gain of workers in the other leads to "its economy holding up so well".

First i'd like to point out that prior to that paragraph I never mentioned the faster growth in the East European countries much less imply something about it. So that's one for putting words in my mouth.

Nevertheless I wanted to explain the apparant paradox you falsely attributed to me. I am glad you agree that my point regarding this issue is valid.

However I find it a bit rich that you accuse me of going on about things that have nothing to do with the issue at hand while it was you who brought it up in the first place.

Digging deeper

@ Van Hauwaert

I appreciate that you are making 'sincere' comments, but please think seriously before making them.  This discussion originated in a very cryptic comment on your part, implying that the economic performance of Britain somehow was based on "immigrants", which is of course (ideologically-induced) nonsense.  Since then, you have made some further 'woppers', which suggest that (macro)economic understanding in Belgium may well be at an all-time low these days.

1) Why do you feel a need to state the obvious, e.g. that "...output...depends on the number of people actually working."?  Did I ever deny that?  What has that got to do with the issue at hand which was the economic performance of Britain?   Surely you know that people in Luxembourg and Ireland are today ON AVERAGE much richer than, say, in Germany.  Yet, the output of Germany is much bigger than the output of Luxembourg or Ireland, MAINLY because there are many more people-cum-workers (locals and immigrants) in Germany than in Luxembourg or Ireland.  We are not talking about TOTAL output or income of a country, but about PER CAPITA output or income in that country.

2) Thank you, I am fully aware that economic output (both total and per capita) depends PARTIALLY on the number of people ACTUALLY working, and I can also make the distinction between "people available" and "people actually working".  But, you do not seem to realise that concepts like "working" and "output" become only economicallly meaningful in the context of market evaluation.  You could put every man, woman, and child, to work on digging holes or canals (like the Khmer Rouge did in Cambodia) and you wouldn't end up with much economically meaningful "work" nor "output".



Economic woppers?

Please point them out. Slowly please. May I also suggest using the reply to message instead of the reply to post option. It preserves the threading and makes it easier for thirth parties (at least myself) to follow the dialog.

1. In your first reply to me you failed to distinguish between number of people in a country versus number of workers. You at the same time used an example where the number of available workers is crucial in defense of a statement about the number of actual workers.

After such a basic errors on your part I felt the need to point out even the obvious.

But let me cite you

In fact, the movement of immigrant workers has little or nothing to do with an economy "holding up well".

Now, if the number of actual workers has an impact on the economic output (glad we agree on the obvious), then movement of migrant workers surely has an economic impact, something which you deny in above cite.

2. I am not sure where you can see me ignoring market evaluation. Please point it out, slowly again. You lost me completly. Let's remind ourselves also we are discussing East European migration towards Great Brittain. Market evaluation and all that is very much in play.

And if you still have time left, maybe try to refute some of my points, like the au pair example.

correlations etc...

@ George2

Once again, you make very 'perceptive' comments. I agree with most of them, but not entirely.

You are probably right that, on the whole, immigrants to the US will have a 'better' effect on per capita income than immigrants to the EU, because of the rules you mentioned.   It doesn't follow, however, that the net effect in the US is a positive one, at least in the short term.  There is a lot of evidence that a major part of poverty and crime (in some parts of the USA the dominant part) can be attributed to illegal immigration of largely unskilled 'latin americans'.  I am fairly certain (not totally) that this gets reflected in the "per capita income statistics".  Because the national income accounts are in large measure based on estimates based on sample surveys in which 'residency' simply refers to physical presence (without any 'legal' connotations).   

I, for one, am much in favor of establishing a 'national' identity card in the USA, and for strict border enforcement, despite contrary opinions held by some 'libertarian' friends. The contra argument that 'government is dangerous' does not carry as much weight in the US than in, for instance, Belgium. The Belgian parliament's violations of individual constitutional rights (as freedom of opinion/expression) are clearly indicative of that.


@Peter Fleming use of 'ASIAN'

In this line, "I don't see the immediate link between the foiled plot planned by Asian-Britons and immigration from new EU member states,"
the term 'Asian' is not appropriate I think. Better is the correct reference to their pakki origin. Better use the term: "islamists originally of South Asia"

It was the the same group that caused Dutch flight delay by over-reaction. In fact, whether London police's over-reaction causing Brazilian's death or the Forest Gate incident or Gujarat public's over-reaction to genocidal murders of about 60 pilgrims in a train car by savage islamists or Jewish over-reaction to Hizbullah's abduction, the pattern is all over-reaction to the jihadi savagery all over the world.

Authorities protecting the civil society are on edge now, all across the globe.  People like to live with people who are like them.  There is nothing wrong with that in spite of the almost visceral distaste that has been drilled into Western Caucasians over the past few decades, and in spite of the ridiculous accusation of "racism" that is thrown about whenever anyone comes within 50 yards of mentioning the fact.  Why is it so wrong for Westerners to feel that way but such a non-issue when China, Japan and a host of other states and tribes are proudly "racist"? 

Correlations and causality

@ George2

There are countless factors lying behind differences in per capita income among US states, or any states for that matter.  It certainly would not be surprising that "foreigners" INITIALLY will tend to go to states that are growing RELATIVELY fast because of recent large-scale investments, or because of 'growth pole effects', etc....  And, I would expect the same to happen w.r.t. INTERNAL MIGRANTS.  In other words, if one were to look at the movements of "American" workers within the USA, one would find that they would also tend to go more to states with RELATIVELY rising per capita income levels than to other states.

But my main point was that immigration of "foreigners" is largely irrelevant for the long term health of an 'advanced' economy, i.e. that immigration can only be beneficial if the newcomers raise the AVERAGE level of productivity in the economy.   The importation of unskilled workers is certainly not going to raise PER CAPITA income levels, and is over time likely going to lower it.

It is important to see this concept of "productivity" not only in a static or immediate sense, but also in a more dynamic and long term sense.  To take an extreme case.  It is conceivable that large-scale migrations of newcomers with higher work skills (than the locals) could raise average productivity in the economy in the short term.  But, if they have long term negative effects on the political system, particularly in terms of the maintenance of ('democratic') judicial certainty and equality, then it is equally conceivable that the governmental regulatory framework will deteriorate, with deleterious effects on overall productivity (of everyone) in the economy. 

More fundamental mistakes

Your comment about economic growth only being good if it raises the average level of productivity is just nonsense because it is based on the (flawed) assumption that the economy is a zero sum game.

Let's take the most basic economy we can imagine : one household of a rich, double-income, couple both earning 1 million euro a year. Now she gets pregnant and the basic choice is one of them working from home and thus earning let's say only half of before or hiring an au pair and paying her 50 000 euro. In the first scenario average income per capita is 750 000 euro in the second it is only 666 666 euro with 1 950 000 euro staying within the original household. Despite the lower income per capita it makes a lot more sense.

The same exact thing is true for a larger economy. If it is easier to attract foreign workers than to convert your own unemployed then by all means an economy should do that.

This principle also explains why even economies with a large body of unemployed attract a lot of economic immigrants which seems quite the paradox. As any Belgian will tell you : it is much cheaper to hire an illegal Polish plumber than to try to find a legal unemployed Belgian to do the same job.

Regarding the possible destabilizing effect of immigration on business environment, yes it should not be overlooked. But in this particular case it seems that East European immigrants are not the ones causing problems...

re: correlations and causality


I agree with your arguments. My point is that I think that in the US immigrants also have a positive effect on the per capita income (besides them being attracted to higher income areas). This is due to two US rules: 1. immigrants have to be prove they can provide for themselves and they are not allowed to fall back on 'social security'; 2. the only way for illegal immigrants to support themselves is by working (and crime of course). These two rules form a selection process for motivated people. People who are not that motivated will chose for Europe.

On average, foreign students at US universities are more motivated than their American colleagues. I believe the same is true for the foreign 'knowledge' workers and lower skilled workers (read Mexicans). Because of the selection process, they are more motivated: if you don't work, you are guaranteed to end up in poverty.

Of the foreign born 'knowledge' workers that I know, most are republican minded, highly in favour of protecting the traditional American model and values.

I believe that the European (non-)selection process results in a lower productivity. It will be interesting to see how the influx of Eastern European people will influence this 'equilibrium'. The illegal Eastern Europeans have proven to have a very high work ethic (also in crime).

Macroeconomics 101

@ Vanhauwaert

There is no direct relationship between the number of people ("workers") in a country and its economic performance.  Indeed, there are LARGE rich countries and large poor countries, and there are SMALL rich countries and poor countries.   Those workers from Eastern Europe moved from faster-growing countries to slower-growing Britain (in income terms).  You can not AT THE SAME TIME imply that the loss of workers in one case leads to faster growth and that the gain of workers in the other leads to "its economy holding up so well".  In fact, the movement of immigrant workers has little or nothing to do with an economy "holding up well".  If the health of an economy depended on the number of available workers then Congo/Zaire and Bangladesh would be doing very well.  In fact, they are not.   

The LONG TERM (per capita income) growth TREND of ANY economy depends on good 'structural' economic policies, i.e. the volume and type of (private and public sector) investments and the quality of the jucidial and regulatory framework provided by government within which (product and labor) markets can operate. 

In the SHORT TERM it is mainly the quality of fiscal and monetary policy that will determine how close short term income and employment fluctuations will stay around the long term growth trend of the economy. 

Those East European workers in Britain may in the short term have helped to relieve 'cyclical shortages' and in that sense (temporarily) helped to "hold up the economy".  But they will only help to raise the  long term income growth trend in Britain if their labor PRODUCTIVITY is on average higher than the existing British AVERAGE labor productivity.  There is no a priori reason to think that that was the case. 

On the contrary

The economic output of an economy depends on the number of people actually working. Sure it is just one of the factors, but it is nevertheless a very important one besides the numerous other elements you give.

You seem unable to distinguish 'available workers' from 'people actually working'. The ability of an economy to transform the former into the latter indeed depends on sound economical policies, healthy entrepreneurship and what not. But it is the latter that directly relates to economic output, not the former.

This explains why East European countries have performed well these last years. By converting available workers into people actually working, output has increased (and yes, output per capita also increased due to a better business environment partly because , dare I say it on this blog, EU membership).

At the same time these countries also lost available workers due to emmigration. But since there was such a huge pool of skilled unemployed labour available this has (not yet!) significantly dented the ability of domestic companies to recruit (and thus have an impact on growth)

@ marcfrans

Looking at the 50 US states + DC (panel data) there is a positive relationship between % foreigners and per capita income. Using different statistical methods, there is evidence that annual per capita income goes up by 610-670 USD with each percentage point increase in % foreigners living in a particular state. A question I could not answer was the direction of the causality.

600 000 _workers_?

What are you complaining about. It may very well be that the emigration from East European countries towards the UK was the single most important reason that it's economy held up so well recent years...

Two evils...

As much as I agree that Great Britain is for Britons - the English, Welsh, and Scotch - the number of non-Europeans in the country is alarming. Which do the British people want - non-European immigrants or fellow Europeans?