Boris Johnson's New Immigration Rules Will Harm Britain's Economy
Added 02-21-20 08:34:02am EST - “The U.K.'s new points system will keep low-skilled non-English speakers out, pleasing pro-Brexit voters but devastating entire sectors?"from agriculture to health care.” - Foreignpolicy.com
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Argument: Boris Johnson’s New Immigration Rules Will Harm Britain’s Economy Boris Johnson’s New Immigration Rules Will...
Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was motivated in large part by a desire to “take back control” of immigration. The voters in northern English towns who switched to the pro-Brexit Conservatives in last December’s general election, providing Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his decisive parliamentary majority, are particularly hostile to immigrants. They accuse low-skilled Eastern Europeans in particular of depressing local wages and straining public services such as health care. So the political rationale for the U.K. government to cut migration from the EU and deny entry to low-skilled foreigners is clear. But the economic cost of its new skills-focused, points-based immigration policy is likely to be large.
The British economy is reliant on immigrants to do jobs that not enough locals are able—or willing—to do. Overall, long-term immigration for work has averaged more than 200,000 a year since 2010. More than one-third of doctors, pharmacists, and dentists in the U.K. are foreign-born, as are more than 20 percent of nurses. Seven in 10 workers in the meat-processing industry are from the EU. Structural demand for types of workers in short supply in the U.K. is compounded by a cyclically tight labor market. Even though the economy has stagnated since the Brexit vote in June 2016, the unemployment rate fell to a mere 3.8 percent in the final quarter of 2019.
Immigrants’ growing contribution to Britain’s economy and society has largely happened despite successive governments’ immigration policies, not thanks to them. As any foreigners who have had to apply for a U.K. visa can testify, Britain has a particularly dysfunctional immigration system. It is unduly slow, costly, burdensome, and restrictive—not to mention economically misguided and politically mismanaged.
But until now, the harmful rigidity of the system for migrants from outside the EU was partly offset by the flexibility it offered to EU citizens coming to work in the U.K. Poles, Portuguese, Romanians, and other Europeans didn’t need to jump through bureaucratic hoops to obtain a U.K. work visa; they could just turn up and apply for any job of any skill level, or start working on a self-employed basis, almost as easily as Californians moving to Colorado can.
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