You may (or may not) recall that biased Radio 4 immigration debate from the start of this year, Immigration: Good for Whom?
Well, Radio 4's excellent More or Less [h/t hefyd in the comments] returned to it this week after a listener queried the stats used by two of the contributors - the confident assertion by mass immigration advocate Susie Symes that immigrants contribute £70 billion a year to this country, and the confident but contradictory assertion by the more sceptical David Goodhart that their fiscal contribution was actually either neutral, or slightly negative. The listener said, correctly, that both couldn't be right.
More or Less's Ruth Alexander investigated.
She began by dismissing Susie Symes's £70 billion claim. Susie had got it wrong by a factor of ten. The correct figure, an extrapolation from an OECD study, should have been £7 billion. Moreover, she'd misunderstood what the report was studying. It was not looking at what immigrants contribute to the economy as a whole. They were looking at the narrower question of whether immigrants contribute more to the public purse than they take out and calculated it by comparing how much they pay in tax and social security contributions to how much they receive by way of benefits and services. They looked at the period from 2007-09 and found, yes, they contributed roughly £7 billion, just under half a percent of GDP. Susie Symes argued this was "a large contribution" but, Ruth said, it's "actually quite a small amount".
As for David Goodhart, well he was quoting figures from research from UCL, London. They looked at a much longer time period, from 1995-2011. These show that immigration has been "a drain on the public purse to the tune of about £95 billion". (One heck of a drain!) However, they draw a 'positive' result too - that European immigrants have put more into the public purse than they've taken out, especially post-2000 European immigrants. (All those hard-working Poles). BUT, when you look at all immigrants, the overall impact on the public purse is a negative one. It's non-European immigrants who are responsible for that negative impact.
So between 1995 and 2011, on average each European immigrant put about £6,000 more into the public purse than they took out. Non-European immigrants, on the other hand, each took out about £21,000 more than they put in. There's also a lot more non-European immigrants in this country, which means when you look at both groups of immigrants as a whole - so European and non-European - they take out around £14,000 more than they put in.
But what about native Brits? Do we take out more from the public purse than immigrants? Or less?
We all know the government is in debt and is running a large deficit. That is it's spending more than it's got and it's spending a large proportion of that money it doesn't have on its own people. And we can see that very clearly when we look at how much native Brits are putting in and taking out of the public purse - on average, each native Briton took out roughly £11,000 more than they put in between 1995 and 2011. So, on average, only the Europeans are putting more in to the UK public purse than they're taking out.
So, the stats stack up as:
European immigants = a positive contribution of £6,000 to the public purse
Native Brits = a negative contribution of £11,000 to the public purse
Immigrants (as a whole) = a negative contribution of £14,000 to the public purse
Non-European immigrants = a negative contribution of £21,000 to the public purse
There'll be a second part to this report on next week's programme, and there's a balanced write-up of the whole thing here.
I do like More or Less.