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Migration has been in the news a lot this last few weeks, with one report from the National Institute of Economic Social Research finding that migration appears to have had little or no impact on unemployment, and another, from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), saying that it might (for some migrants, under some circumstances, some of the time)

Anybody interested in understanding why the two reports came to somewhat different conclusions should look at my blog article here but I wanted to focus here on a less well reported section of the MAC report, on the impact of migration on public services.  

The MAC asked NIESR to look at the impact of migration on demand for education and health services. What we found was that migrants overall impose somewhat less than proportionate costs on the public services examined (that is, their per capita consumption of public services is less than that of the population as a whole); this is especially true of the migrants that were the focus of the study (non-European economic migrants and those on student visas).  So, for example, looking health, expenditure per head on all migrants is estimated at £1,602 in comparison to £2,003 for the non-migrant population, reflecting smaller number of middle-aged and older people in the migrant population; while for all non-European economic migrants, expenditure per head is even lower at £1,270. 

So although the fiscal and economic benefits of these groups were outside the scope of this study, the relative balance between what they cost and what they contribute is firmly weighted towards a significant positive net contribution, both to the economy, and to public finances.

This is not really surprising.  Non-European economic migrants are likely to be comparatively light users of health and social care services due to their relatively young age profile, good health, their status as employees and presence in professional occupations.  They may place slightly higher demands on education expenditure than non-migrants, as more are at the age when their children are young, and difficulties that schools experience in accommodating pupils who arrive mid-year.  But there is no evidence that the presence of children with English as an additional language reduces overall educational attainment for children whose first language is English.  

Of course, over time, migrants - if they stay in this country - will get older, and their proportionate burden on health and social care services will then rise, although there are reasons for thinking that over the lifecycle it is still likely to be less than that of natives.  But there is certainly no evidence to suggest that - contrary to some of the more overheated rhetoric around this issue- that migration, in particular economic migration from outside the EU, is imposing a disproportionate burden on our key public services.

The full report is here:


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Written by Jonathan Portes   
Thursday, 19 January 2012 10:13
Last Updated on Thursday, 19 January 2012 10:19

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