But I was struck by the figure of immigration benefiting the UK by "only 60p per person per week" (contrast this with Migration Watch's previous figure of 4p) apparently sourced from this Lords report (although I can't find that specific figure), and contrasted with the 'misleading' government use of the benefit to GDP of immigration.:
The total size of an economy is not an index of prosperity. The focus of analysis should rather be on the effects of immigration on income per head of the resident population.
The report makes an interesting point about how while in the short term migrants fill vacancies in he economy but in the long term the economy proportionately expands (increasing vacancies again). But in emphasising the raw monetary figure of per capita increase in GDP I think it is equally if not more misleading than the government approach. In particular I take issue with their rejection of the argument that a large proportion of the UK population are not of working age, whereas new immigrants are largely young or working age such that they swell the (shrinking) working age population which contributes (proportionately) the majority to the economy and state coffers - so that dividing immigrant contributions over the whole population is unfair because they are largely not addding to the dead wood of the non-working populace (who actually cause most of the costs to the state). The report says:
Arguments in favour of high immigration to defuse the “pensions time bomb” do not stand up to scrutiny as they are based on the unreasonable assumption of a static retirement age as people live longer and ignore the fact that, in time, immigrants too will grow old and draw pensions. Increasing the retirement age, as the Government has done, is the only viable approach to resolving this issue...
Lord Turner argued that as people live longer, it is reasonable to assume that the extra years of life are divided between working years and retirement so as to keep roughly stable the proportions of life spent working and retired. Under this assumption, half of the projected increase in the dependency ratio disappears, when compared with the simplistic case in which the retirement age stays unchanged.First of all I'd like to make clear that it is generally considered that for every additional year of life expectancy you can expect at best 6 months of relative health and 6 months of ill-health such that the policy of incrementally increasing the retirement age with life expectancy is basically aiming to work the populace until they are sick and to erode the few years of healthy retirement they might otherwise have expected*. It is also worth noting that immigrants can have a tendency to return to their country of origin after a few years. So while it is true that increasing the working age population will increase the number of retired people eventually (although to a lesser extent in the first generation due to decreased life expectancy compared to the UK population as a whole) it is still more sustainable in the short term than increasing the retirement age until people are being worked right to their death beds (in order to pay for the current older generation's nice early retirements at 60-65yrs old with over 10 yrs of life expectancy).
In this vein, if we're going to talk about how much immigrants add in 'per capita GDP' we have to compare them to other members of the population - old people or the unemployed for instance - what do they cost in per capita GDP? Averaging over a homogeneous UK 'indigenous' population is completely misleading because compared to significant proportions of the UK population immigrants use much lower poroportions of national expenditure. The question should be how many 'indigenous' people does each immigrant support? And 'per capita GDP' can't answer this.
To look at it another way, if we consider a British person who contributes exactly the average per capita GDP to the country, are they having zero effect on the country or a net benefit? According to the 'per capita GDP' measure of economic contribution they are giving nothing to the country - despite working, paying taxes etc. - whereas common sense shows that they are helping to pay for those people who are a net cost to GDP (the economically inactive like the old, the young, the sick, the unemployed).
* Another gift from 'The Most Selfish Generation'