Steve Doughty — Daily Mail August 1, 2014
Mass immigration will damage the living standards of everyone in the country as minor economic benefits are outweighed by the social pressures of a relentlessly rising population, one of Britain’s most eminent Left-wing economists declared yesterday.
Professor Robert Rowthorn, Emeritus Professor of Economics at Cambridge University and a longstanding adviser to Whitehall departments, said the economic advantages of immigration are ‘unlikely to be very large’.
But the downside – from building on the green belt to the overcrowding of cities – means that the consequences of large-scale immigration ‘are mostly negative for the existing population of the UK and their descendants’.
The findings are a major blow to claims that immigration has and will continue to bring major economic benefits. Over the past decade, widely-publicised studies by academics and liberal think tanks have repeatedly said that immigration will make us better off.
Among those reported by the BBC have been claims by the Labour-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research that immigrants are paying a disproportionate share of the nation’s taxes, and that they bring economic benefits because they do jobs that Britons will not take.
Last November the BBC reported a study by two senior academics at University College London as saying immigrants who have arrived since 2000 have made a ‘substantial’ addition to public finances.
However, since Tony Blair introduced an effectively open-door immigration policy after the 1997 election the Daily Mail has been reporting on the impact of migration on population; on the social make-up of cities; on unemployment, worklessness, and declining wages for low-skilled workers; and on the pressure it has brought on housing and services.
All have contributed to a growing unease about immigration among voters that has led all political parties to pay lip service to curbs on immigration and state benefits for migrants.
Professor Rowthorn, a former consultant to the International Monetary Fund and the UN Trade and Development Commission, said in his report that there may be no economic gains from immigration at all.
If there are, they will be outweighed by extra costs imposed by the strain on housing, land, schools, hospitals, water supplies and transport.
He said in a landmark report for the Civitas think tank: ‘Unrestrained population growth would eventually have a negative impact on the standard of living through its environmental effects such as overcrowding, congestion and loss of amenity.
‘Such losses would ultimately outweigh the small gain in average wages apparently resulting from mass immigration.’
Professor Rowthorn said the major economic benefit that immigration can provide is increasing the number of younger people in the population, so that there are more working-age people to support the growing numbers of the elderly who rely on pensions and need more health and social care.
But he found that the difference to the ‘dependency ratio’ made by mass immigration is tiny compared to the major increases in population needed to sustain it.
‘If many of the immigrants fail to get jobs, or if they end up in low skill jobs or displace native workers, large-scale immigration will have a negative impact on GDP per capita and on government finances,’ he added.
‘The impact could be positive or negative but either way it is unlikely to be very large. The only thing that is certain is that immigration on the present scale, if it continues, will lead to much faster population growth and a much larger total GDP than would otherwise be the case, with consequent pressure on infrastructure and the environment.’
Professor Rowthorn, 74, is a former Marxist and remains a significant figure in Left-wing economic thinking.
His report said that net migration from EU countries remains at around 130,000 a year. Numbers of Poles coming to Britain should fall, because of economic growth in Poland, but ‘prospects for south Europe and poorer eastern states, such as Bulgaria and Romania, are less rosy.’
David Cameron’s promise to reduce net migration to tens of thousands, the levels of the 1990s, will be ‘virtually impossible to achieve’ because of EU immigration, the report found. It said that net migration remains at more than 200,000 a year, close to the highest level considered by the Office for National Statistics in its population projections, 225,000.
This level means the population of the UK will go up by 20million over the next 50 years and 29million over the next 75 years, Professor Rowthorn said.
The report said that immigration from outside Europe has had ‘a perceptible impact on the level of native employment’ since the beginning of the recession, and the same is probably true of immigration from Europe.
‘Unskilled workers have suffered some reduction in their wages due to competition from immigrants,’ the report said. ‘Even on optimistic assumptions, the economic and fiscal gains for existing inhabitants and their descendants from large-scale immigration are small in comparison to its impact on population growth’