Blog Post

What is the age profile of UK immigrants?

The bulk of immigrants to the UK from 2008-2014 were 20-30 years old, and many of them are in work. But as UK unemployment is close to a historical low since 1975, it is hard to see how immigrants have taken away the jobs of natives on a large scale.

By: and Date: June 8, 2016 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

Immigration is one of the hottest topics in the Brexit debate. Many native citizens argue that foreigners take jobs away from local people and push down wages. The education of immigrant children may cause crowded classrooms in schools. Waiting times in hospitals may lengthen and housing prices may go up due to increasing demand from immigrants.

There is a heated debate about the relevance of these and related factors that I do not wish to assess in detail in this post. Instead, I’d like to emphasise a key feature of immigration to the UK, which has not received much attention: most foreign citizens arriving in the UK are 20-30 years old, and bring a few children and grandparents with them.  While many immigrants are in work, unemployment in the UK is almost at its lowest level in the past four decades.

Most foreign citizens arriving in the UK are 20-30 years old, and bring a few children and grandparents with them.

First, a few numbers. 3,379,442 foreign citizens immigrated to the UK from 2008-14, while 1,432,617 foreign citizens left. So net immigration of foreign citizens was 1,946,825 from 2008-14, which is 3.2% of the UK’s population at the beginning of 2008. These numbers are for the 7-year period of 2008-14: on average, the annual population increase due to migration of foreign citizens was 0.45%, slightly higher than in the preceding 7-year period of 2001-2007 (Table 1).

One can discuss whether a less than half percent of annual population growth due to immigration of foreign citizens is large or not (in my view it is not that large). But what is really striking is the age profile of the approximately 1.9 million net increase of foreign citizens in the UK in 2008-14 (Figure 1).

It is predominantly young people who have come to the UK. They brought few children, as only about 72,000 foreign citizen immigrants were under 15 years old in 2008-14. Few older people have migrated, as the net increase in foreign citizens aged 65-84 was fewer than 18,000 (again, total for 2008-14).

Since most migrants are of working age, they can immediately contribute to the UK labour market, while the taxes and social security contributions they pay support the UK budget and welfare systems.

This means that the costs of raising most of the immigrants were paid in foreign countries. Since most of them are of working age, they can immediately contribute to the UK labour market, while the taxes and social security contributions they pay support the UK budget and welfare systems. Immigrants send only a small amount of child benefits overseas, as my colleague Uuriintuya Batsaikhan has shown using House of Commons statistics.

The employment rate of first generation migrants aged 25-55 is pretty high at 76% in the UK, even if it is somewhat lower than the employment rate of native UK citizens, which is 84% (Table 2). The employment rate of first generation migrants is higher in the UK than in many other countries, eg this rate is 72% in Austria, 63% in Belgium, 67% in France, 73% in Germany, 65% in Italy, 82% in Luxembourg, 60% in Spain and 73% in Sweden. This means that the UK is in a better position than many other countries concerning the employment rate of immigrants.

The UK unemployment rate in February 2016 was 4.9% overall, which is as low as the US level now. It is close to the level of 4.6% unemployment recorded in summer 2004, the lowest rate of UK unemployment in past four decades.  So it is hard to see how immigrants have taken away the jobs of natives on a large scale.

The native population of the UK is aging, while reduced immigration would force cuts to social spending and other government expenditures.

The native population of the UK is aging, due to low fertility rates (1.81 in 2014) and increased life expectancy. The 2015 report for the UK Office of Budget Responsibility showed that migration is actually beneficial for the sustainability of public debt (see Chart 3.17 on page 93). Reduced immigration would force cuts to social spending and other government expenditures.

In my assessment, the UK has greatly benefitted from the arrival of a young immigrant workforce and stands to benefit in the future too. Even if the UK leaves the EU, I expect that despite current rhetoric, substantial immigration will be allowed again sooner or later.

 

 

 

 


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

External Publication

Brexit and European finance: Prolonged limbo

It will take longer than many had anticipated for the dust to settle on the post-Brexit financial landscape and its respective implications for the EU and the UK.

By: Nicolas Véron Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: September 24, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

Banks post-Brexit: regulatory divergence or parallel tracks?

Post-Brexit UK bank regulation is not likely to compromise on international standards, but will place greater emphasis on competition, making close UK-EU dialogue essential.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 6, 2021
Read article Download PDF More by this author
 

External Publication

European Parliament

UK banks in international markets

Implications of UK-euro area divergence in regulation and supervisory practice

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: European Parliament, Finance & Financial Regulation, Testimonies Date: June 25, 2021
Read article More by this author
 

Parliamentary Testimony

House of Lords

The UK’s security and trade relationship with China

Testimony before the International Relations and Defence Committee at the House of Lords, British Parliament on the UK’s security and trade relationship with China.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance, House of Lords, Testimonies Date: May 27, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

New EU insolvency rules could underpin business rescue in the COVID-19 aftermath

Corporate bankruptcies are set to rise in the context of COVID-19. EU countries should speed up adoption of recent insolvency reforms and, in addition, offer consistent treatment to restructuring finance.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: March 24, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

Financial services: The Brexit dust begins to settle

The phase of greatest Brexit-related uncertainty for the European financial sector ended on 1 January. Although too early to discern more than the broadest contours of the future landscape, it is increasingly apparent that London will be less dominant than before.

By: Nicolas Véron Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: March 11, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

The double irony of the new UK-EU trade relationship

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed between the European Union and the United Kingdom goes against six decades of UK efforts to avoid being economically disadvantaged in Europe. Tracking the evolution of the EU-UK relationship over the last 60 years can help in understanding this.

By: André Sapir Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: January 12, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

What will the EU's new migration policy do differently?

What does the EU's new migration policy look like and is it likely to succeed?

Speakers: Hanne Beirens, Margaritis Schinas and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: December 10, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

The future of EU-UK relations (again!)

At the eleventh hour of negotiations, what will the future of the EU-UK relationship look like?

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: October 13, 2020
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

The Sound of Economics Live: The future of EU-UK relations (again!)


At the eleventh hour of negotiations, what will the future of the EU-UK relationship look like?

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Giuseppe Porcaro, André Sapir and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: October 13, 2020
Read article More by this author
 

Opinion

The EU’s Opportunity to Turn Its Markets Toward the Future

Meeting the fiscal demands of COVID-19 will require the European Union to borrow on capital markets more than ever, and for European pension funds and households to look more widely for ways to build their nest eggs safely. The EU should take the challenges of the pandemic and Brexit as a chance to get its financial infrastructure house in order.

By: Rebecca Christie Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 16, 2020
Read article More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

One rule to ring them all? Europe's financial markets after Brexit

What effect will brexit have on Europe's financial markets?

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: June 26, 2020
Load more posts