European and Highly-Educated Labour: Find Yourself Unwanted in Britain

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Jean-Claude Juncker, the new president of the European Commission launched an attack against the British prime minister of ‘beating up’ poorer migrants who are legally seeking to earn a living in the UK. 

Jean-Claude Juncker

The head of the EU executive commented on a TV debate in Austria about Britain’s immigration policies. He accused David Cameron of his plans to restrict immigrations and supported that the motives behind this were politically driven. Mr Juncker claimed that his plans were an attempt to appease agitating Conservative back-benchers and undermine the rise of Ukip. According to him immigrants from Eastern Europe are brand us criminals in Britain although the principle of free movement for labour in the EU meant that there could be no discrimination against any member country.

Mr Cameron announced his plans to cut the number of people flowing in Birtain from the rest European Union in a speech in late November. He suggested that EU migrants who arrive in UK must wait four years before claiming welfare or council houses and deport foreign jobseekers if they do not find work within six months. Mr Cameron gave this speech just a few days after the revelation of a report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) that net migration of Britain has increased significantly despite the Government’s promise in 2011 to cut the numbers of immigrants to just “tens of thousands” by 2015.

The statistics from ONS suggest that 583,000 people moved in the UK in the year to June 2014. That number includes an increase of 45,000 people from the EU and 30,000 from the rest of the world. The figures of emigration suggest that at the same time around 325,000 left the UK. The difference between these two numbers is called net migration and gives us an idea about population growth. In total the level of net immigration has surged by 75,000 in the past year – a level substantially above the one in 2010 when David Cameron and Theresa May took office, according to the revealed statistics.

The positive value of immigration net was considered a significant failure coming from the conservative government. The benefits of this influx are constantly undermined although Britain attracts the most highly-skilled young workers who provide a boost to the economy. What is portrayed as a negative effect to Britain’s immigration policies indicates actually the exact opposite. According to a recent study called “the Fiscal Effects of Immigration to the UK”, the country attracts the highest number of university-educated migrants compared to any other country in the European Union.

European migrants who have moved to the country since 2000 till 2011 are, on average, much younger and better educated than the UK-born labour force. The average age of them in 2011 was on 26 years old compared with 41 for UK-born workers. More 62% of migrants from Western Europe have a university degree, compared with 24% of British labour force. While statistics show that the most European countries are ageing faster than any other regions of the world, Birtain seems to be benefited by the increased flow of young working force. Germany’s 82 million residents will dwindle to 74.7 million by 2050 and their average age will rise to nearly 50, assuming unchanged levels of migration, according to EU statistics agency Eurostat. Britain will have overtaken the Germans by 2050 as the EU’s most populous nation with 77.2 millions. More the ratio of people aged 65 or over to those aged 15-64 will rise more slowly than in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland in the coming decades.

This highly-skilled youth fuel the economy. The study, conducted by University College London Britain, is mainly based on the Labour Force Survey. It indicates that EU migrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits, helping to relieve the tax burden on UK-born workers and making a positive contribution to funding public services. The calculated positive fiscal contribution was 20 billion pounds from the beginning of the movement of migrants in Britain in 2000 until 2011. What is more, migrants who move in the UK for studies contribute billions to the economic system. As a result of tighter rules for student visas they have started going elsewhere, according to Universities UK, and an estimated 2.4 billions might be lost to the British economy over the next decade.

One of the main arguments coming form the government is that the increased numbers immigrants are due to unskilled Eastern Europeans movements. These were initially induced by the Labour government’s decision to allow Eastern European workers access to the British labour market by not applying restrictions to when they became members of EU in 2004. At the same time other EU countries sustained temporary restrictions. The figures of the aforementioned study shake down the myth of the poor neighbours. Although it is true that the opening of the UK labour market resulted in a large wave migrants flowing into the UK from Eastern countries, the detailed figures show that workers from one of the A8 countries hold a better educational level than a decade ago. The amount of those holding a university degree has increased from 6% in 2004 to 25% in 2011. The numbers might not approach the standards of skilled workers from Western Europe but it reaches the same levels as UK natives.

According to the Migration Observatory “EU citizenship and free movement of persons have become more controversial in the UK of late. They are framed as part of the immigration debate, although they are based in long-standing commitments at the core of the EU project to facilitate movement of persons across the EU and make the status of EU citizenship meaningful”. Most young migrants moving to the UK account for more than half of all the workers in the UK who are not local citizens. Latest figures for the third quarter of 2014 show there were 1.7m EU workers in the UK, out of a total non-UK national workforce of 2.9m.

This new highly-skilled young labour force derives from the core of European Union. It makes use of one of the main pillars of EU citizenship that is a common market among the member states. It involves reciprocal commitments so that not only products (goods and services) but also the factors of production (labour and capital) can move freely inside the borders of EU. Although constant efforts of the UK government attempt to question the benefits of European citizenship and restrict the free movement of persons, in the end of the day the existing numbers indicate reality. They might have to work on the opposite direction.

Photo: Shutterstock

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