Immigrants who came to live in Britain from outside Europe cost the public purse nearly £120 billion over 17 years, a new report has shown.
The major academic study also found, however, that recent immigration from Europe, driven by the surge in arrivals from eastern European, gave the economy a £4.4 billion boost over the same period.
Experts from University College London also said native Britons made a negative contribution of £591 billion over the 17 years, because of the country’s massive deficit.
The report analysed figures from 1995 to 2011, during most of which the Labour government was pursuing vigorously pro-immigration policies.
It found that migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) made a negative contribution to the public purse of £117.9 billion because they consumed more in public expenditure, including NHS costs, welfare hand-outs and education – than they contributed in taxes.
The report, to be published in the Economic Journal, said the non-EEA group, largely made up of immigration from countries such as India, Pakistan and African Commonwealth countries, contributed less because families tended to have more children and lower employment rates.
“Immigrants from non-EEA countries … contribute less than they receive,” the 50-page study concluded.
The native population made a negative contribution in 12 years during the period, running to £591 billion in total, as the British economy ran at a deficit.
Immigrants from within the EEA, which is the European Union plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – took out more than they paid in during only seven of the 17 years.
It meant European migrants made an overall positive contribution to the British economy of £4.4 billion over the period.
Since 2000 European migrants were 43 per cent less likely than native Britons to receive benefits or tax credits, and 7 per cent less likely to live in social housing, the report said.
The authors – whose research has previously been criticised by the right of centre think-tank Civitas and by MigrationWatch UK, which campaigns for tighter immigration laws – emphasised their findings on the contribution of European migrants and gave less prominence to the findings on the costs of non-EEA immigration.
Professor Christian Dustmann, of UCL’s Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, and a co-author of the report, said: “A key concern in the public debate on migration is whether immigrants contribute their fair share to the tax and welfare systems.
“Our new analysis draws a positive picture of the overall fiscal contribution made by recent immigrant cohorts, particularly of immigrants arriving from the EU.”
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch, said the report confirmed the huge cost of immigration.
“As for recent European migrants, even on the authors’ own figures – which we dispute – their contribution to the Exchequer amounts to less than £1 a week per head of population,” he said.
David Green, director of Civitas, said the new report suffered from a “shallow focus” which “misses out some vital costs”.
Between 1995 and 2011 the foreign-born population in the UK doubled from 3.5 million to about 7 million.
The non-EEA population grew from 2.8 million to 4.6 million during the period. Of those, in 2011, just over two million were not working, either because they were unemployed or for other reasons such as retirement or childcare.
At the same time the number of European immigrants in this country grew at a far higher rate, tripling from 723,000 to 2.3 million.
That huge surge was mainly due to the previous Labour government’s decision not to impose controls on the eight eastern Europeans, including Poland, which joined the EU in 2004.
The method used in the new report to work out the “net fiscal contribution” of different groups calculated how much they cost in terms of government funds, such as medical expenses, schooling their children and the welfare state.
The total was then deducted from their overall contribution to the public purse, including income tax, National Insurance, VAT, council tax and business rates.
Meanwhile a separate study published by the Office for National Statistics exposed the full extent of language ghettoes in this country.
New analysis of the 2011 Census showed that around 90 per cent of elderly Bangladeshi-born women living in the UK cannot speak English.
And almost four in 10 Chinese-born migrants who settled in the UK more than 30 years ago had no English.
David Hanson, the shadow immigration minister, said: “This report shows that immigration since 2001 has contributed to the public finances as well as to the economy.
“However the impact of different kinds of immigration varies and the system needs to be fair – so we need stronger border controls to tackle illegal immigration and stronger action against employers who use immigration to undercut local wages and jobs, but we should welcome international university students who bring in billions.”
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