Coffee House

Right to reply: The impact of immigration on the labour market

1 September 2011

Yesterday, we introduced our new “Right to reply” series, where outside writers take on some of the ideas and arguments raised on Coffee House. In that case, it was the IPPR’s Matt Cavanagh replying to Fraser’s recent post on immigration and the labour market. Here’s another reply to the same post, this time by Jonathan Portes of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research:

Myths abound when it comes to the effect of immigration on the labour market — and the most damaging of these is that most or all “new jobs” go to migrants. Although I agree with Fraser Nelson’s general views on immigration, he is misleading on this one point. It is obvious to anyone who considers it for more than a couple of minutes that immigrants don’t fill most of our new jobs. Think about where you work. How many of the last ten people who were hired were immigrants? In most workplaces, probably none, one, or two. Very roughly, about 20,000 people start a new job every working day in the UK — the vast majority were born here.

The chart below (produced by Jonathan Wadsworth of Royal Holloway College, and also a member of the Government’s own independent Migration Advisory Committee) shows, using Labour Force Survey data, that in fact about 15 per cent of new hires in 2010 were immigrants. This is somewhat, but not much, higher than their share in the workforce; not surprising, because immigrants are younger and more likely to be new entrants to the workforce, so switch jobs more. So 85 per cent of “new jobs” went to British-born workers. (“new jobs” is something of an oversimplification; this is “new hires”; there really isn’t a proper definition of “new jobs”).

So the interpretation we see in some parts of the press — that somehow native Brits aren’t getting a look in, because employers prefer to hire migrants — is just wrong. The whole argument goes nowhere.

So what did (and does) Fraser mean? Well, as he has been careful to state in recent columns, his figures refer to net changes; his, arithmetically correct, point is that of the net increase in employment over recent years, much or all can be attributed to net increases in immigrants in the labour force.

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But looking at net changes and concluding that this says anything about the dynamics of the labour market is an elementary error. Groups whose share in the labour force is increasing — for whatever reason — will inevitably constitute a disproportionate share of any net change in employment.

This is easy to see, because we can repeat it for lots of groups, other than immigrants, whose overall share of the labour force is increasing. For example, we can repeat Fraser’s calculations for people born between 1980 and 1990. Guess what — they too took all the net “new jobs” created in the last decade. In fact, by my very rough calculations, well over 200 per cent of them! Why? Because hardly any of them were in the labour force before 2001 and now the vast majority are, while older workers have left. Does that mean that employers hire only twenty-somethings, or that they’ve displaced others? Of course not.

Even sillier calculations are possible. Under Labour, all the net new jobs in the UK economy went to people who own iPods and iPhones. And under the Tories, they all went to people who own dishwashers. The informational worth of any of this is, of course, nil.

And there are more problems with Fraser’s recent post on all this. He suggests, for instance, that immigrants have in some sense displaced Britons from the workforce, taking, in good economic times, jobs that could otherwise have gone to unemployed Brits. As he puts it:

“And mass immigration allowed Brown to grow the economy without fixing welfare. It broke the link between more jobs and less dole.”

The problem is that this is just assertion; there’s no evidence. Fraser is just wrong to suggest that the good economic times did not benefit British workers, if what we mean is their chances of getting and keeping a job. What matters is not the absolute numbers in employment, but employment rates — the chances of someone (of working age) having a job. Employment rates rose significantly after the early 1990s recession up until the mid-2000s, and between 1999 and 2008 the employment rate for UK-born people between the ages of 16 and 64 was above 73 per cent in every quarter. As far as I can tell (data for the UK-born don’t go back before 1992), this is the highest sustained rate in Britain’s recorded economic history.

So for your average (British-born) worker, there were indeed more jobs and less dole. And, contrary to Fraser’s assertion, this was at least in part the result of successful labour market reform. I don’t know a serious labour market economist who doesn’t think this good performance was largely the result of successive reforms, by governments of both parties, over the last thirty years.

This doesn’t directly address the question of whether, despite the overall good performance of the labour market, immigration has harmed the prospects of British workers. For this, because we can’t observe the counterfactual — what would have happened if immigrants hadn’t come — proper economic research is required. There is now quite a bit of such research. Generally, what it does is to look at areas where there are lots of immigrants, and areas where there are few, and see whether (taking account of other factors as well) British workers have done better or worse. And generally what it finds is some version of this:

This chart (taken from my own research, with Sara Lemos at the University of Leicester) shows that there is absolutely no discernible correlation between the areas where new migrants from Eastern Europe settled and changes in the claimant count. More sophisticated analysis shows pretty much the same thing; and using other data sources, and other definitions of migrant, likewise. A reasonable summary is provided by Jonathan Wadsworth:

“It is hard to find evidence of much displacement of UK workers or lower wages, on average … The less skilled may have experienced greater downward pressure on wages and greater competition for jobs than others, but these effects still appear to have been relatively modest.”

I hope the above discussion has shown just how divorced from the facts and evidence the debate on the impact of immigration on the UK labour market has become. Most economists, wherever we are on the political spectrum, think that well-functioning markets usually do a pretty good job of allocating resources. That goes for the labour market too, so it is no surprise that liberal (in the true sense of the word) immigration policies are good for the economy and the labour market.

Jonathan Portes is Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and former chief economist at the Cabinet Office.

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Show comments
  • Darzil Northshield

    As automation increases, fewer workers are needed, but things are more efficient, so the economy overall increases. However, those benefits are largely going to those who own businesses and land/property, with those who are no longer needed losing out. It can’t last like this, as the population is still needed as consumers to keep the businesses going and the owners in profit, which they can’t do on a falling income. A route to a post-capitalist world is needed, and it’s very unclear what it will look like, or how to get there.
    But, look, over there, Immigrants!

  • Pingback: Jonathan Portes: Cut Red Tape to Boost Growrth? Start With Immigration | Country Talk Forum()

  • Nicholas

    Jonathan – why repeat it? Please see my insertion of “Who to believe?” The rise of ideological propaganda has so clouded and constrained this issue that mistrust is great. The empirical evidence of daily experience is difficult to deny, especially in London.

    Whether New Labour had secret sociological objectives or not, the cumulative impact of their immigration policies on Britain, given all other inter-related factors, was reckless at best.

  • Julian F

    On the issue of immigrants and the benefits system, the following from MigrationWatch is interesting. It notes, on the basis of official figures, that immigration will account for some 40% of new council houses built in the period until 2031.

    While Jonathan is right to note that the benefits system is designed to prevent recent immigrants from taking advantage, I think we all realise that this is not the case in practice. An immigrant granted leave to remain can bring in his (sometimes quite large) family thereafter, and the system will not turn away his children.


    All over the country, despite deep opposition, planning authorities have been told how many more houses they must build. They have no idea how much of this is caused by immigration – and nor do the local residents.

    But Migrationwatch dug out the figure from the last line of the last table of a technical paper produced by the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister – and, astonishingly, it is nearly 40 per cent of all new homes.

    This figure comes from the government predictions of new households which are issued every two years. The latest set shows that 252,000 households will be formed every year until 2031.

    They also show that without immigration, there would be only 153,000 households. In other words 99,000 households, or 39 per cent, will be caused, not by existing immigrants, but by future immigrants and their families.


    • Felix

      “An immigrant granted leave to remain can bring in his (sometimes quite large) family thereafter, and the system will not turn away his children.”

      No they can’t, not unless they earn at least £18k per year. Abou ttime you got familiar with the law instead of your ill-informed, knee-jerk prejudice.

  • Ken

    Jonathan Portes overstates the case – his “research” on Eastern European migrants and claimants counts is bollox (for reasons that he should understand and he should be embarrassed to cite it). However, his critique of the use of the net migrants = net new jobs is quite correct. Essentially if unemployment stays stable and employment increases, the “net” will be immigrants.

    Net migration is probably slightly positive for the UK economy (US bankers = good, ill educated cousin marriage from Pakistan = bad) and most migrants (including those seeking asylum) are going to self-starting able individuals. (How easy do you think it is to travel several thousand miles across continents with little money, and how brave do you have to be, to do so?)

    Where Portes oversteps the mark is that there is some evidence that suggests that in low skill categories areas with increasing migrants have seen native workers pushed out of work or seeing lower wages. See Steve Nickell’s work on the impact on lower wage UK workers:

  • Graham

    Can I as an owner of business in London with over 1000 staff add my input.

    Whenever we run ads for new staff over 90% of the applicants are foreigners. In essence, for the excutive & managerial positions the UK applicants are plentiful & of a very high standard. However, for the manual positions we get very few UK appicliants. We put it down to the fact that the benefits system kills ambition & makes work unaffordable!

    So in summary, I take Jonathan’s piece with a very large pinch of salt…& that’s putting it mildly!

  • Jonathan Portes

    Nicholas. Thanks. I’m an economist – and the Spectator has a word limit – so of course my post wasn’t intended to be comprehensive. And I certainly don’t think that just because immigration is, overall, good for the economy and labour market that that is the end of the debate by any means. Lots of other things matter, and I am the first to admit that a range of perspectives are legitimate.

    However, there is a broader point. Migration Watch, and the journalists at the Mail and Express who reproduce their press releases, are prepared to misrepresent the evidence on the economic and labour market impacts – where there is actually quite a lot of serious academic research. Why then should you, or others, credit them on other topics?

    Certainly a number of the statements you reproduce (in quotes) in your earlier post (referring to the Home Office research paper) are demonstrably and verifiably false, in particular the much reproduced statement “earlier drafts…included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural”. Since those drafts have been published, it can now be seen – not as a matter of interpretation, but as fact – that this is simply untrue, so why repeat it?

    Martin – no, this is not right, for a number of reasons. First, while half a million or so non-British immigrants arrive each year, several hundred thousand leave. More to the point, as I tried to make clear in my post, the labour market is far more dynamic than this – with annual turnover of 5-6 million, immigrants (those here already, and new ones) and natives are constantly moving in and out of jobs. And finally, of those immigrants who don’t move into work, hardly any are supported by the taxpayer – most are either students, dependents of British citizens, or dependents of working immigrants. In any case, access to benefits is heavily restricted for most new immigrants (in particular those who arrive from outside the EU for work or marriage). The main exception is asylum-seekers who since they are generally not permitted to work, are necessarily dependent on taxpayers while their claim is processed.

  • Julian F

    Martin – of 575000 immigrants in 2010, the ONS figures show 110000 came to take up definite employment. The biggest group was 228000 coming in to study (although undoubtedly, from my previous experience in the FCO, a significant number of those will have arrived for bogus courses). That still leaves 237000 who arrived neither to work nor to study. Some will be supported by family, others still may arrive with the means to support themselves and to create further employment opportunities. But it would be disingenuous for anyone to deny that a very significant proportion of that 237000 will have arrived with a view to enjoying the benefits of the welfare state. Milton Friedman had something to say about that, but I won’t quote him because his views were so much more nuanced than a single quote can capture. Suffice to say that the UK does not currently operate an optimal model.

  • Julian F

    Jonathan – many thanks for your response. It is an interesting debate, that has implications for immigration and employment policy. I can see that it is not unarguably the case that new immigrant employees prevent the non-immigrant unemployed from obtaining employment, even where all net new jobs crated are filled by new immigrants. It may simply be that the jobs would not be created if there were no skilled or willing immigrants to fill them. Or that the non-immigrant unemployed would not take the jobs available. Both scenarioes are equally worrying.

  • Dennis Churchill

    Reading the comments the phrase: “Record Tractor Production statistics for the Ukraine says Comrade Stalin” comes to mind.
    There is such distrust between the general public and the electorate on this issue that no figures are believed. Further it has implications in other areas because the distrust is evident throughout our political debates .
    Can our traditional concepts of democracy survive with this level of distrust in the political class?

  • Nicholas

    Jonathan – I stand corrected about your resignation but it has been misreported in various places. I respect you for responding to some of the comments here, a rarity in the left-wing bloggers for the Spectator who usually throw the brick and then run, but statistics are only part of the picture, assuming they are correct and correctly interpreted. A whole dimension of this issue is unaddressed in the article.

  • Martin

    I’m a little puzzled; wonder if anyone can illuminate me. There are about half a million new people from abroad who settle in this country each year. How many of them enter employment? Will it be reasonable to assume that that figure is about 200000? If so, it looks as if 200000 jobs are taken by new-comers. If this
    ‘rule of thumb’ is incorrect do I take it that, alternatively, most of the new-comers are supported by the taxpayer? Am I right in thinking is either one or the other?

  • Jonathan Portes

    Let me respond as briefly as possible to those comments that are most coherent/relevant.


    1. “You’re not adjusting for the percentage of the population that are migrants.” Chart 1 shows just that, and the text discusses the relationship between the two numbers.
    2. “Net migration is irrelevant.” I don’t use the phrase. As it happens, the impact analysis chart 3 uses gross inflows. And, yes, on average, migrants do on average improve the fiscal balance.

    Stewart Jackson

    Charts 1 and 2 use the most recent data. Chart 3 uses the data used in this piece of research. As the article clearly says, other analyses, using other data, produce similar results. Jonathan Wadsworth’s summary of the evidence is very recent and represents the current consensus in the economic profession, as several Migration Advisory Committee reports have noted. It is not clear what the reference to the Migration Impacts Forum is about, but it is simply wrong to suggest that anything produced by the MIF (a discussion group, as the name suggests, not an organisation that produces research) disproves the evidence-based statements in my post.

    .Julian F

    Your argument is arithmetically correct. But it doesn’t imply that immigrants are in any sense stopping the unemployed natives getting jobs, because the overall number of jobs is not fixed; that is an empirical question, and as the post sets out the empirical evidence at the moment suggests that immigrants have no discernible influence on the job prospects of the native unemployed (or inactive). More generally, while I agree with you (and Fraser) that there are real issues with current levels of worklessness, it is just wrong – as Chart 2 shows – to deny that things have actually got steadily better over the last 15-20 years or so, reflecting, as I say, broadly sensible policies by governments of both parties.

    Finally, on a personal note, Nicholas

    I “faithfully served” administrations of both parties in my 23 years as a civil servant. Throughout that period there were, of course, government policies I disagreed with but I didn’t resign. When I finally did, it wasn’t in protest at cuts or anything else. I resigned to take up my current job.

  • Jim

    Maybe I’m naive or something but I’m amazed to see so many bitter, hate-filled, wilfully ignorant responses to an extremely sensible and informative article. Some of you people should be ashamed of yourselves.

  • Master Cobbett

    I speak from personal experience in this matter, of a rather sour kind. I was forced out of my job some four years ago ( If a company wants you out, and can’t sack you, then they will still make it too unpleasant for you to stay ), along with two or three score others. The company now keeps a core of ‘indigenous’ workers, and for the rest is staffed by Poles, Czechs, etc. Until a similar occurence has happened to Mr Portes I will treat his views with disdain. The inescapable fact is that too many immigrants –however hard working, how ever gifted– will take away opportunities from people of the host nation. Personally I am getting as fed up with hearing how hard working, etc, Poles are , as I am with hearing that Islam is religion of peace. Would that both sets of eastern based immigrants remained in their own habitats.

  • 2trueblue

    I thought I was going to see the phrase ‘Let me put it another way…’. Same difference.

  • Julian F

    It is worth being very clear about this. So, let’s assume that the size (numbers) of the non-immigrant labour force remains stable from year to year. IF the net increase in jobs in any one year is accounted for entirely by immigrants, then the number of non-immigrant unemployed in that year will remain unchanged. The overall unemployment RATE may fall slightly, IF all fresh immigrant additions to the labour force take up jobs, but the TOTAL NUMBER OF THE NON-IMMIGRANT POPULATION THAT IS UNEMPLOYED WILL STAY THE SAME. Unarguable.

    IF the same thing happens year after year the NON-IMMIGRANT labour force will NEVER benefit from the net increase in jobs (of course, there will be some recent immigrants moving from employment to unemployment and churn between the indigenous and immigrant population, but this will be an effect at the margins, so my broad point remains true).

    This is not an anti-immigration point, it is a point of unarguable fact and, if there is a subjective element, a reflection on the poor state of our non-immigrant workforce.

    None of this would matter if we were starting from a position of near full-employment, but we are not – we are starting from a position of millions of unemployed. In an economic upswing, the total number of those unemployed should fall. If we carry on as we are, this will not be true for the non-immigrant population. As I might have said elsewhere, this is neither particularly encouraging nor sustainable.

  • Julian F

    “his, arithmetically correct, point is that of the net increase in employment over recent years, much or all can be attributed to net increases in immigrants in the labour force…

    we can repeat it for lots of groups, other than immigrants, whose overall share of the labour force is increasing. For example, we can repeat Fraser’s calculations for people born between 1980 and 1990. Guess what — they too took all the net “new jobs” created in the last decade.”

    This is not comparing like with like. One would hope that new indigenous entrants to the labour market fill most of the net new posts, because that’s what happens as older workers retire and a domestic labour market refreshes itself. The point about immigrants is that they are an external addition to the labour force and, whichever way you cut it, it must be undesirable that the indigenous labour force is not a net beneficiary of a net growth in employment. It’s pretty obvious, really.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Archibald : 7.42pm

    “I appreciate Fraser and the other chaps all have a statistical background, but for me a large part of the interest is in something perhaps not covered in any great depth – that being people’s perceptions regardless of the reality, and the effect this has.”

    I think “reality” is too strong a word in this context – “evidence” would be better. But your general point is a good one. It really would be illuminating to study the extent to which people’s views and opinions on a particular subject are open to the influence of contemporary evidence, and how much by the psychological need for them to fit in with existing belief systems.

  • EC

    Edward Sutherland, September 1st, 2011 7:18pm

    Yes indeed, bullshit baffles brains and there’s plenty of bullshitters readily available at the IPPR and other repositories for lefties.

    Graduate unemployment is a huge problem yet 6th formers are still being encouraged to go, putting themselves into huge debt, as they are being sold the lie of “you wont get a decent job without a degree. Well, nowadays very few people get a decent job with one. Most graduate entry jobs on offer today are clerical were performed very well by school leavers with decent GCE ‘O’ Levels forty to fifty years ago. Universities have been subverted, degrees have turned into a money-spinning scam are now more or less worthless.

    Here, in The Telegraph more evidence of Blair’s legacy,
    More than one in four graduates ‘fail to find work’

    NB. This article refers to 2006/2007 graduates so the situation, post 2008 slump, must be even worse now.

  • normanc

    Most people working in the UK are British and more people change jobs than there are new entrants into the job market.

    I think most people get that, you don’t need to post reams of statistics to show it.

    The point at question is that there are 7 million economically inactive adults of working age in the UK. It would be far better for them and the rest of the UK if they were in employment, I’m sure almost everyone agrees with that.

    The issue then becomes how can we make that happen if the number of immigrants entering the job market are 90% of the total of the new jobs being created? No one is saying that immigrants fill these jobs, obviously some immigrants will fill an established job due to someone else moving on, or retiring, some will have been working with the company abroad and swapped in to a job, etc.

    I think that is also obvious.

    These are strawmen that detract from the main question, we need to create new jobs at a significantly faster rate than we have new entrants to the market as we have a number of problems: immigrants, people working longer, retired people coming back into the market, an influx of British people entering the market each year and, crucially, a 7 million back log to clear.

    You can make the case that immigration creates more growth than would otherwise have happened so making a positive feedback loop and I wouldn’t argue with that but these posts with all these twisting of numbers aren’t going to convince anyone.

  • Ruby Duck

    @Louise in Yorkshire

    What’s happened in IT would break my heart, if I had one.

    In the early 80s the UK led the world in computer provision and computer science teaching in schools. Remember the BBC computer ? By the early 90s there was a real worldwide shortage of IT people. The universities were training them like mad, but they hadn’t quite hit the job market in sufficient numbers when India pitched for the business. IT contractors had got used to expecting very high hourly rates. Large companies found that it was cheaper on paper to employ Indian rather than British contractors and the bean counters loved it (they were a lot more expensive than British permies, with the inexperienced coming in at something like £25 per hour, but try and tell that to a bean counter) . It very rapidly became bau to use Indian outsourcers.

    When British graduates started to flow in in sufficient numbers, salaries and contractor rates dropped like a stone. With the big companies committed to Indian outsourcers, any Brits recruited by them went straight into management (or ‘management’), but without the code-face experience they were f-all good, so management, at the technical level, began to be outsourced, too.

    Not being stupid, Brit school kids saw the writing on the wall, and went into banking …

  • Ruby Duck

    “How many of the last ten people who were hired were immigrants?”

    If it’s IT, the chances are somewhere between 70 and 100%.

  • joe

    This isn’t about economics.
    This is about the fact that 25% of the population of England will be immigrant in just twenty years ,and 50% of the population of London.
    And that’s without the mass emigration of the English as they come to realise what’s been done to their own country.

  • Louise in Yorkshire

    well this article just doesn’t gel with my personal experience. I work in IT – more than half our recruits this year have been immigrants. I also had some NHS treatment recently – treated by two immigrant doctors, one from India, and one – training to become a consultant – from central Africa. What is wrong with our education system that we are not producing enough of our own, or are some recruitment practices just very politically correct, liberally minded and favouring immigrants? just a thought,

  • Nicholas

    Jonathan Portes “right to reply” is analogous to a long winded medical report arguing that the pain induced by a particularly bad infection was not really as bad as the patient thought it was, even though the prognosis (not mentioned in the report) was still inevitable death.

    Frankly, I don’t give a damn whether immigration and the labour market is a good or bad thing. This is about scale and time and a more complex and wider impact than pretty economic charts will account for.

  • TrevorsDen

    The logic of this reply is flawed. If you work in certain industries other than a white collar office then there is a good chance that new jobs are taken by immigrants, but also it pretends that there is not movement within the work environment that is regularly filled by the indiginous population. These are not ‘new’ jobs they are indeed ‘new hires’

    A definition of new jobs is easy –
    There has been an increase in the sum total of jobs available (or filled) that is exactly mirrored by the increase in immigrant workers.

  • Nicholas

    “A cabinet minister has admitted the government has presided over an asylum and immigration “free for all” and warned that the recession could be a recipe for racial tension.

    Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, said New Labour had failed to manage the system effectively, allowing many people to enter the country under false pretences.

    “Initially it was a kind of free for all,” she said. “We had a big surge of asylum seekers, a lot of people coming as economic migrants, but through the route of asylum seeking.”

    It is the first time a minister has made a bald admission that New Labour mismanaged immigration in its first two terms. “

    “The massive increase in immigration under Labour was a deliberate policy undertaken for “social” as well as economic reasons. This is the conclusion of a study by Migrationwatch of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

    “In an article for the Evening Standard last October, Andrew Neather, a former speech writer for Blair, Straw and Blunkett in the early 2000s, revealed that mass immigration “didn’t just happen: the deliberate policy of Ministers from late 2000 until at least February last year… was to open up the UK to mass migration”.

    “He went on to describe a Government policy document which he had helped to write in 2000. He said that “drafts were handed out in summer 2000 only with extreme reluctance: there was paranoia about it reaching the media.”

    “The paper was eventually surfaced as a purely technical product of the Research Department of the Home Office but earlier drafts that he saw “included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural.”

    “He remembered “coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended – even if this wasn’t its main purpose – to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date.”

    “Migrationwatch have now obtained an earlier draft of that policy paper, circulated in October 2000, and have compared it to the version eventually published in 2001 by the Home Office Research Department as a rather obscure economic paper. The draft had already been censored but it was to be neutered still further. In the Executive Summary six out of eight references to “social” objectives were removed from the version later published. These included a remark that “the entry control system is not closely related to the stated policy objectives. This is particularly true in the social area, where in the past the implicit assumption has largely been that keeping people out promotes stability.” Also cut out was a statement that “in practice, entry controls can contribute to social exclusion” as well as other politicized passages in the main body of the document.

    “Commenting, Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migrationwatch, said “Andrew Neather later tried to play down the significance of his revelations but these documents show that his original account was correct. New Labour had a political agenda which they sought to conceal for initiating mass immigration to Britain. Why else would they be so anxious to remove any mention of social aspects unless they feared that they would reveal their true motives? Only now that their working class supporters are deserting them in droves have they started to talk about restricting immigration. Our population is heading rapidly towards 70 million, largely as a result of immigration, but they still refuse to set any limits.”

    “Notes to Editors:

    1. The Labour manifesto of 1997 made no reference to an increase in immigration. It said only that “Every country must have firm control over immigration and Britain is no exception”.

    2. The Labour manifesto issued in 2001, after the publication of this document, said only that “People from abroad make a positive contribution to British society. As our economy changes and expands, so our rules on immigration need to reflect the need to meet skill shortages”.

    3. Commonwealth citizens automatically acquire the right to vote in British general elections as soon as they put their names on the electoral register. Since 1997 there has been net immigration of 300,000 from the Old Commonwealth and about one million from the New Commonwealth.

    4. Research into voting patterns was conducted for The Electoral Commission in May 2005, just after the last election. The “Black and Minority Ethnic Survey”, conducted by MORI, asked which party respondents had voted for in 2005. Of Caribbean and African voters, 80% had voted Labour, 2-3% Conservative and 5- 11% Liberal Democrat. Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshis voted 56%, 50% and 41% for Labour. The equivalent figures for the Conservatives were 11%, 11% and 9% while Liberal Democrats came in at 14%, 25% and 16%. Mixed and other categories were similar to the Asians.”

    The increasingly left wing Spectator can perform the Editorial equivalent of burying its head in the sand, jamming its fingers in both ears and singing “La la la!”; it can even provide blogging opportunities to those who support and promote New Labour’s unmandated and disastrous immigration “policy”, who are even prepared to write shameless lies about it (that’s you Nick Cohen that is). But it cannot pull the wool over the eyes of its increasingly right wing readers.

  • Stewart Jackson MP

    Why is Mr Portes making assertions on the impact on the Labour market of EU migrants based on data which is almost six years old?
    His prognostications are out of date and flawed and have been proven so by the Migration Imapct Forum and others

  • Archibald

    I must say I think this is a good initiative, I’m enjoying it immensely. Proper argument and discussion. And perhaps Fraser will respond to some of the points raised here? Either way, keep it coming.

    I appreciate Fraser and the other chaps all have a statistical background, but for me a large part of the interest is in something perhaps not covered in any great depth – that being people’s perceptions regardless of the reality, and the effect this has. It would be nice to have some thoughtful hypothesis in this area, although the perceptions of people in the area of immigration is most likely not something the government would want to get involved in.

    With all this proper open debate going, the real sadness for me is that I have been asking for a proper debate on the EDL for really quite some time now. So, will the ‘Fabulously Fearless’ Spectator actually live up to its name?

    As Fraser himself says, talking of the EDL:
    “The best way to deal with such groups is not to keep them in the dark, but let them perish in the sunlight. It’s a shame that they have been spared this fate.”

    Fraser et al, the Spectator’s continued refusal to rise to the challenge or even simply just answer my requests is showing you in an increasingly bad light. If you are “Fabulously Fearless” and actually believe what you yourself wrote Fraser, then step up and expose the EDL through reasoned argument.

    So what is it going to be, will you stand by your convictions?

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Well, that’s all right then. Nothing to see here. Move along, the man from Whitehall has everything in hand, and anyway unemployment is good for the soul. Whenever you meet an immigrant in a low-paid job and wonder why you can’t have it, or why you have to pay for the doel of those who could do it, you are in error. You have no right teo rsent it, those foreign citizens are actually better and more desirable thmn you, when judged as economic units of production and consumption.

    Suggest the next right of reply goes to Nicholas, who might be able to explain the concept of nationality.

  • Nicholas

    Would this be the same Jonathan Portes who after faithfully serving the last administration resigned from the cabinet office in protest at the “cuts” and is favourably quoted by The New Statesman, The Socialist and Left Foot Forward?

    Who to believe?

    November 2008:-

    “Claims that mass immigration has benefited the economy have been ‘wildly overstated’ by the Government, experts said yesterday. Record levels of migration have brought virtually no economic benefit to Britain, the House of Lords was told.
    Ministers have repeatedly insisted that newcomers contribute £6billion a year to the country’s balance sheet. But an authoritative report by the Lords Economic Affairs Committee, debated yesterday, blew apart New Labour’s claims that the wave of immigration from Eastern Europe had enormous benefits.
    Instead, it was worth just 58p each week on the living standards of the native population – about the price of a Mars bar. Last night the authors of the report – including former Chancellors Nigel Lawson and Norman Lamont, Bank of England directors and captains of industry – were embroiled in a race row.
    Labour peers said it hinted at ‘racist views’ and did not recognise the contribution of immigrants to the UK. More than 700,000 have arrived since 2004, when former Soviet Bloc countries joined the European Union. Critics have warned that public services, including schools, hospitals and transport, have struggled to cope with the influx.”

  • John Richardson

    ‘Myths abound..[whenitcomesto]immigration’

    Well, perhaps.

    What is certain is that lies abound when it comes to immigration.

    We have been lied to again and again.

    Lies and mass immigration are the policy.

  • John Savage

    As it seems the Spectator is generally in favour of unlimited immigration can I respectfully suggest that you re-name this section “The Right to Agree”.

  • Edward Sutherland

    Just goes to show Mark Twain had it right years ago: “there are lies, there are damned lies and then there are statistics.” This is as good an example of bamboozlement by statistics as I’ve ever come across. Anyway, I am sure Jonathan Portes’s article will be massively reassuring to my middle son who since leaving university a year ago has been continually looking for paid work while working in the voluntary sector for no pay while suported by his parents. And YamYam, you’re absolutely right: one of my former clients who ran a fish farm in Hampshire told me that “all” their employees were Eastern European. I can’t believe they couldn’t have found at least some British-born staff. But Portes would no doubt just dismiss this as unreliable anecdotal evidence.

  • Dennis Churchill

    Peter From Maidstone
    September 1st, 2011 6:49pm
    About as much chance as an open debate on the advantages of Capitalism in 1950s USSR.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    As I said before, when the original post, and all the ‘Rights to Reply’ are from a pro-immigration position then there is no debate at all, just a pretence.

    Stop trying to fool us and provide a proper debate with real conservative contributors.

  • John Savage

    As it seems the Spectator is generally in favour of unlimited immigration can I respectfully suggest that you re-name this section “The Right to Agree”.

  • Nick

    What a pathetic analysis.

    1. Labour Force Survey data, that in fact about 15 per cent of new hires in 2010 were immigrants.

    You’re not adjusting for the percentage of the population that are migrants. Nothing like a huge twisting of the facts to make a case.

    2. Migration is optional. We don’t have to accept migrants.

    So people leaving the UK are an irrelevance. Net migration is irrelevant. It’s migration in that matters.

    When it comes to migration in, what matters to the UK is do these migrants earn more than the government spends per person on average.

    If they don’t then other taxpayers are subsidising them to come here. We can save money by not allowing them in. In fact we should only allow them in so long as they pass that threshold.

    3. As for keeping people on welfare, its self evident.

    A lot of the jobs they are filling are low skilled. A lot of the people on benefits have low skills. The difference is one of motivation. Given you get the money on benefits, or you have to work hard, the rational decision of someone on benefits is not to work.

    So you’re hiding one problem. For those on benefits need more of the stick to get them working. It also needs more vacancies. Get the optional migrants to leave and more vacancies will be created.

    4.Illegal migration is rampant. Completely ignored.

    One country – Nigeria. 154,000 legal migrants (Home office). 1-3 million Nigerians (Foreign office).

    Just one country as an example.

    So come on, why do we still have 4-5 million on benefits?

  • Yam Yam

    How many jobs for fruitpickers, meatpackers and hotel maids have been filled by immigrants?

  • Dennis Churchill

    Are we going to be bombarded with pro-immigration Right To Reply until posters, who disagree, give up from boredom?
    Can we have one from MigrationWatch to even things up a bit?

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