Immigration becomes global hot topic

The UK’s EU referendum has thrown the issue of immigration into sharp relief for many this year, but new research shows that concerns about high immigration levels are common throughout the world.

A major new Ipsos survey reveals that attitudes to immigration across the globe are often negative, with a majority of people wanting to close their border to refugees. Almost every one of the 22 countries surveyed said that immigration had risen in the last five years, with an average of half saying that there is too much immigration in their country.

On average, more people said immigration has generally had a negative (45 per cent) rather than positive (20 per cent) effect on their country, with six in 10 or more in Turkey, Italy, Russia, Hungary, France and Belgium saying immigration has had a negative impact. 48 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 45 per cent in India, on the other hand, said immigration has had a positive impact on their country.

The Japanese are least likely to say there are too many immigrants in their country (only 12 per cent), and the Brazilians are least likely to say they are uncomfortable with how immigration is changing their country (23 per cent).

Although in Britain, views tend to be more negative than positive, the survey suggests that the country is mid-table on most measures. 35 per cent of Britons think that immigration has been good for the country (up from 28 per cent a year ago, and 19 per cent in 2011), while 49 per cent think there are too many immigrants in the UK, down from 60 per cent a year ago and 71 per cent in 2011.

“This might seem surprising given that the desire to reduce immigration was undoubtedly a key reason for the Brexit vote,” says Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of Ipsos MORI’s Social Research Institute. “But firstly, we need to bear in mind that the survey shows that on each individual measure there are still more people who are negative than positive about immigration. And secondly, the more positive shift in views reflects what we’ve seen in other studies; the Referendum has polarised opinion, with an increasing minority saying we’re focusing on immigration too much.”

In most of the countries surveyed, a majority think immigration has placed too much pressure on public services, and people are split on the economic benefits of immigration. Attitudes tend to be more positive in Saudi Arabia, India, Britain, Canada and Australia.

As the refugee crisis continues, the findings also show that a large minority want to close borders entirely – and there are widespread concerns throughout the world about integration of refugees and doubts that some seeking refuge are genuine. Across all of the countries, four in ten agree that their country should close its borders to refugees entirely.

41 per cent, though, are confident that refugees coming to their country will successfully integrate into the country.

“Immigration is a global issue, with very few countries entirely at ease with current levels, control and the impact of the mass movement of people,” adds Duffy. “None of the 22 countries surveyed have a majority of people saying that immigration has had a positive impact on their country – although there are a very wide range of views within this.”

Views are split, for example, on whether priority should be given to higher-skilled immigrants who can fill shortages in particular professions – on average, 40 per cent agree with this, but this rises to over half in Britain, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Australia. However, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has recently ruled out the introduction of a new, points-based system of immigration, following the Brexit vote.

While the issue of immigration in the context of refugees remains a hotly debated global topic, though, the movement of people around the world remains an overwhelmingly positive force for the property world. Many countries are now actively courting the influx of overseas investment in their real estate, with countries such as Portugal and Cyprus offering “Golden Visas” in exchange for a certain level of investment in property.


Immigration could boost UK economy by £625 billion, suggests study

11th July 2016

Immigration has been a hot button topic in recent months in the UK, thanks to the country’s recent referendum over the country’s membership of the European Union. While many voted to leave the EU with an aim to “claim back” Britain from Brussels and gain more control of the country’s borders, though, one study suggests that migration could actually be a major boost for the country’s economy.

The report by the International Longevity Centre highlights the challenges posed by the UK’s rapidly ageing population. Between 2000 and 2050, the number of over 65s is expected to double, while the working age population (20-64 years) will only increase by around 20 per cent.

Between 1950 and 2013, the number of working age people for every person over 65 has fallen from 5.5 to 3. This is expected to fall further to 2.2 by 2050. As the UK’s dependency ratio (the number of people of working age (20-64 years) for each person over 65) declines, tax revenues will fall and public debt as a proportion of GDP will rise, forecasts the study. Increased demand for the State Pension and health and social care services from the rapidly ageing population would also impact the sustainability of public debt.

The report argues that migration could help mitigate the spending pressures a rapidly ageing population create. The report notes that non-UK nationals living in the UK are more likely to be of working age than UK nationals – 76.5 per cent of nationals from the EEA are between the ages of 15-64, while only 63.3 per cent of British nationals are between the ages 15-64 – and that EU citizens in the UK are more likely to be in employment than UK citizens. (In 2015, the employment rate for EU citizens in the UK was 82 per cent. For UK citizensm it was 77 per cent.)

The ILC-UK’s analysis of Local Authority data found that fears that migrants from the European Economic Area are crowding British citizens out of the labour market are unfounded, though, as on average those local authorities with higher levels of employment among non-UK-born citizens also have higher employment rates for the white, UK-born population.

Between 2001-2011, the research also found, migrants from the EEA put in £22.1 billion more in taxes than they took from the state.

If the UK experiences a “high migration scenario” between 2016 and 2064-65, GDP would be 11.4 per cent higher (the equivalent of £625 billion) than if the UK experienced a “low migration scenario”, concludes the study.

Ben Franklin, Head of Economics of Ageing at the ILC-UK, comments: “Immigration is no silver bullet. The UK’s ageing population is a dramatic shift that will require a myriad of policies to help achieve desirable outcomes. However, we must recognise the benefits of immigration as a means of coping with the challenge. Migrants are typically of working age, in employment and make a net positive contribution to government finances by contributing more in tax than taking out in benefits.”