Migration may increase the size of the national cake, but it also increases the number of people who are entitled to a slice of this cake. — Bob Rowthorn, professor of economics at Cambridge University
Back in October of last year, Professor Rowthorn pointed out that mass migration has actually lowered per capita GDP – or output per individual worker — in the UK since 1998.
Now a House of Lords committee is coming to the same conclusion. From Saturday’s Telegraph (cheers, Darren!):
"Our overall conclusion is that the economic benefits of net immigration to the resident population are small and close to zero in the long run," the report will say….
The inquiry by the committee, which includes two former chancellors and several former Cabinet ministers, is the first to try to balance the costs and benefits of large-scale immigration….
I’ve been arguing for a while now that we need to balance the costs and benefits here in the Republic, too. In any discussion on immigration to this country, immigration advocates point to the economy and claim that we wouldn’t have had such a booming economy without them (although it’s probably more likely that our monetary policy — i.e. floating the Irish currency between 1993 and 2001 — created the Celtic Tiger).
Alternatively, many argue that the taxes that (legal) immigrants pay must put the RoI in the black as far as immigration goes since many of the immigrants from Eastern Europe (especially Poland) have not brought families with them and so they are not so much of an expense on the national budget. Perhaps not — but we do not know for sure since no one (as far as I know) has done a financial reckoning such as the UK studies described above.
The 2006 Irish Census tells us that roughly one-third of Polish people in the country are, in fact, married — and that 7.5 per cent of Polish people in the country are between the ages of 0-14. (Keep in mind that the census wildly underestimates the number of Polish immigrants in this country — the government believes there are at least ca. three times as many as the census figures.) So, the Polish community is consuming the national cake as well as contributing to it.
Furthermore, €90 million in child benefits have gone to the children of immigrants back in their home countries — 80 per cent of these claims were made by Polish immigrants. So, while the families of many immigrants may not be here in body, many are virtually here and need to be factored in when calculating the costs of mass immigration to the Rep of Ireland.
In addition to the economic costs, we should not forget the social costs to both the RoI and the UK (and every other country that is currently experiencing mass immigration). From Harvard political scientist, Robert Putnam:
…in the presence of diversity, we hunker down. We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.
I suspect that the situation here is not all that unlike the UK or France where mass immigration has not proven to be an economic plus. In the absence of a "balance sheet" on immigration, however, it remains difficult to have an informed discussion about mass immigration to this country.