LONDON (Reuters) - Recent immigrants to Britain pay more in taxes than they take out in benefits, a study on the impact of immigration said on Tuesday, and another study argued the influx of skilled immigrants was correlated to an increase in productivity.
Anti-immigration feeling in Britain has been fuelled recently by warnings in the right-leaning media about new arrivals of so-called benefit-scrounging immigrants claiming state handouts and free healthcare.
According to a wide-ranging study based on data from the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey, immigrants arriving from euro-area countries between 2001 and 2011 paid 34 percent more in tax than they received in benefits, while those from other countries paid in about two percent more than they took out.
All immigrants were 45 percent less likely to claim from the state than “native”, British-born citizens, the report showed.
“If you look at those immigrants who came after 1999, both EA (Euro Area) and non-EA immigrants have made a positive fiscal contribution,” Christian Dustmann, co-author of the report from University College London, told Reuters.
“Over the same period, native-born individuals basically took more out of the welfare system than they put in, in terms of taxes.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has made immigration policy an important plank of his government in the face of the perceived threat that the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is siphoning off support ahead of a parliamentary election in 2015.
UKIP, which campaigns for Britain to leave the EU and for a halt to “open door” immigration, made sweeping gains in local elections in May, winning almost one in four votes, mostly at the expense of Cameron’s Conservatives.
Census data shows nearly four million migrants settled in England and Wales between 2001 and 2011 against a total population of 56.1 million, the vast majority of Britain’s estimated current population of 63.7 million.
Cameron has pledged to slash net migration - currently at 176,000 a year - to the “tens of thousands” by 2015.
A report from a leading macroeconomic think-tank, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), argued there was a “positive and significant association” between higher employment of migrants and productivity.
The NIESR’s research, which included interviews with employers and focus groups as well as data analysis, showed employers see migrant workers as generally more highly skilled than British-born workers and able to fill gaps in the labour market.
The report associated a 10 percent increase in immigrant share in employment between 1997 and 2007 with a 0.6 to 0.9 percent increase in productivity during the period, but said further research was needed to establish the causal relationship between the two.
“While employers see skilled migration as most important in meeting their needs, this was at odds with the public’s image of a migrant worker as in low skilled, low paid work.”
The report also said employers saw immigrants as a way of adding to their skillset in the workplace rather than a way of replacing British-born workers.
Britain’s Conservative-led government has sought to cut overall immigration whilst encouraging high-skilled workers from economies such as India and China.
Cameron’s spokesman said on Sunday the government had scrapped a plan to force people from certain African and Asian countries to pay a cash bond in return for a visitor’s visa to deter them overstaying.
Editing by Sonya Hepinstall