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25 Jun 2016

So long Europe...

I have been very caught up in the Brexit debate while here. It has been a constant topic of conversation and I couldn’t even nip out for groceries without both leave and stay campaigners thrusting leaflets at me.

It is interesting that one of the big issues in the Brexit campaign has been immigration. With ageing populations in the developed world, the role of immigration to keep economies growing has been much talked about.

In the UK, many people seem to blame immigrants for a lack of jobs and low wages. A paper by the London School of Economics[1] suggests otherwise. It found little correlation between changes in EU migration policies and wages/jobs in the UK. It also noted EU immigrants are on average more educated, younger, more likely to be in work and less likely to claim benefits than the UK-born. About 44% have some form of higher education compared with 23% of the UK-born. The report couldn’t find any evidence that EU migrants had a negative effect on crime, education, health services or social housing.

Net migration has exceeded the natural level of increase in the UK for most of the last two decades. So more than half of the increase in the UK population between 1991 and 2014 was due to immigration. Migrants also make a significant indirect contribution to UK population trends, because the women arriving tend on average to be younger and have higher birth rates than the resident population. So as well increasing the population by arriving in the UK, they go on to increase it by having more children than UK-born parents.[2] By some estimates, if both forms of contribution are included, then up to 85% of population increase in the UK between 2001 and 2012 was due to migration.[3]

If the UK really intends to curb migration through its exit from the EU, it will be interesting to see what impact this has on its population dynamics.

[1] Brexit and the Impact of Immigration on the UK; Jonathan Wadsworth, Swati Dhingra, Gianmarco Ottaviano and John Van Reenen; London School of Economics and Political Science

[2] The Impact of Migration on UK Population Growth; the Migration Observatory at the Oxford University, Dr Alessio Cangiano, 24 Feb 2016

[3] The impact of migration on population growth; Migration Watch UK, 26 Nov 2014