Short-term EU migration ‘benefits employers’

A leading economist has insisted that short-term migration benefits employers and taxpayers, after official data showed the huge extent to which people were coming in and out of the UK for work.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that 1.2 million more people from EU countries were given UK national insurance numbers in the five years of the coalition government than showed up on long-term migration records.

Employment minister and Vote Leave spokeswoman Priti Patel said short-term immigration was damaging for workers.

But John Philpott, director of think tank The Jobs Economist, told People Management there was a net benefit to the UK. “Migrant workers will pay taxes here and keep prices down by controlling wages,” he said. “Employers, consumers and taxpayers benefit – as do the migrants themselves.”

Philpott, a former chief economic adviser at the CIPD, said transitory migrants often picked up undesired or seasonal work and did not generally use public services a great deal. “A lot of short-term migrant work will be agricultural and food processing and to some extent retail, coffee shops and bar work,” he said, adding that training was not often an issue for staff in such roles.

The ONS data showed that 2.2 million national insurance numbers were handed to EU citizens in the five years to the end of June 2015.

However, data from the International Passenger Survey used to estimate long-term immigration showed little over one million registrations in that time.

Patel said: “These figures – which had to be dragged out of the government – show that the scale and impact of immigration from the EU is even higher than previously admitted.

“Short-term migration is highly significant, and arguably most damaging in terms of wages and work conditions.”

Immigration minister James Brokenshire defended the figures: “National insurance numbers can be obtained by anyone working in the UK for just a few weeks, and the ONS explains clearly why the number of national insurance registrations should not be compared with migration figures because they measure entirely different things.

“We have always had short-term migrants who do not get picked up in the long-term statistics. Short-term migration will not have an impact on population growth and population pressures, as those migrants, by definition, leave the UK within 12 months of arriving.”

A government spokesman said data showed that recently arrived EU migrants paid £2.54bn more in tax than they received in tax credits or child benefit in 2013-14.


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