From BBC News, Net migration to UK hits record 336,000:

The government aims to get net migration down to five figures by 2020.

Why does the UK government have this aim? What are the benefits to a society to reduce immigration of working people? The same article states that 294,000 people migrated to the UK for work, two thirds of whom had a definite job. It appears to be a major issue in UK politics, as apparently many want to limit immigration even for people within the EU.

As far as I'm aware, many developed countries try to actively subsidise childrearing in order to motivate people to get more children, fearing population decline. That includes the UK. Why the discrepancy between stimulating biological population growth, but aiming to reduce migratory population growth?

(Apparently, the UK ranks 38th in net migration rate, with a net per capita migration rate slightly above the USA, but less than half of Canada or Australia)

  • 2
    What is the evidence that the immigrants are "working" as you put it? More specifically, that they produce more economic output that is spent on them?
    – user4012
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 0:52
  • @user4012 I suppose the statistics that the BBC is quoting are from the Job Centre, which assigns insurance numbers to documented migrants, a necessity for documented work. By work I mean paid labour for an employer or self-employed. Not sure why you put working between quotation marks. Certainly there are undocumented migrants as well, but that's not what I'm talking about here.
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 17:56
  • 1
    Why the downvote?
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 18:00
  • @user4012 Actually, correction. BBC sources the figures to the Office for National Statistics. Would you have any reason to doubt their figures, and if so, why? I suppose they might underestimate the fraction of migrants performing paid work, as there are probably some working in the undocumented sector. Is that what you're trying to suggest?
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 18:03
  • 2
    @user4012 As far as I am aware, immigrants pay the same taxes as the UK citizens but do not receive the same benefits. The net effect of that is that they actually help pay for the benefits received only by the citizens.
    – adipro
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 6:30

3 Answers 3


We have to understand how people think in the “no hope” low income areas of the UK; this is not how most readers of this answer thinks. Therefore please don’t down vote the messenger due to you not liking the message.

Firstly like take Fenland, this a farming area that needs lots of low skill works for part of the year.

  • Due to limited public transport, it is hard for UK workers to get to the jobs.
  • The “locals” have families etc so are not happy to work shifts, and need to take time off when their children are ill etc.
  • The employers have decided it is easier to use imported workers
  • These imported workers often don’t speak English.
  • Therefore in some of the farms, only Polish Speaker workers will be employed.
  • The Polish workers are happy to live in very poor quality housing for a few months so they can save up a lot of money to take home.
  • The money is worth a lot more to them at home, than it is worth to a UK worker.
  • When 10 Polish people are willing to live in a 2 bedroom house, they push up the level of rent in the area, and the other people living on the road does not like having 10 teenagers that drink a lot living near them. (The 10 Polish people will often jointly buy a run down car for transport.)

You may not consider the entire list above to be true, so what, enough low income people in the UK do, for it to affect how they voted.

Now take other areas have large distribution centers (Sport Direct for example)

  • If someone turns up 1 minute late to work, they lose 15 minutes pay
  • If someone can’t get into work because their child is ill, they lose the job
  • There are no defined hours, therefore they may have no work and hence no money next week.
  • The employers can do it, because there is a long line of Eastern European workers willing to work there.

Having a little more money in the country, does not improve the quality of life of people where there are no spaces in local schools, the doctors have long queue etc. The benefit of immigrant in the UK tend to go to different people, then the “costs” in poor quality of life from having more immigrants then some towns can cope with.

Is having a little more money in my pocket worth it in exchange for overcrowding and being surrounded by people that don’t speak English…… Lots of people in the UK are now saying no!

Remember the Gordon Brown 'bigoted woman' comment and the white van and England flags tweet both from Labor MPs that benefit from immigrants every time they buy a cheap cup of "push" coffee with some french sounding name.

  • 1
    There are so much better solutions for each of the problems you mentioned than getting rid of immigrants, but I understand that the low-educated people who are impacted by this do not realize these solutions, because they are complicated.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 11:55
  • @Philipp, they are in "safe" labor seats where everyone knows the labor MP will always get reelected therefore none of the "London Political Class" had any reasons to listen to them. see news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8649012.stm to understand how they have been ignored and told they are of no worth for a long time. Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 12:01
  • How do people willing to accept very low quality housing end up increasing the rent in an area? Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 12:44
  • 2
    @user2813274 Supply/demand and what is low quality for 8, can be OK for 2 people. And often the landlord does not know that more then 2 people will be living their until it is too late. Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 13:03

Well, for the first point, many politicians understand that it is way easier to get votes by catering to the most irrational aspects of the voters ("immigrants are only job-seekers who will make you unemployed and steal from you") than by rationally explaining the pros and cons of every situation to their constituents. You should never underestimate that.

In a more rational aspect, too much immigration may lead to difficulties with the integration of the migrants.

If you take one person from China and drop him in the middle a British town, he will have to adapt to it (learn the language, the customs, etc.) Those traits of his previous education that conflict with the new environment will be reduced, one way or the other.

Now, if you suddenly drop one thousand Chinese people in the same town, those who are not keen on adapting to their new home will have it way easier: they will be able to go shopping in Chinese-managed or staffed shops, spend time with like-minded Chinese people, etc. It will make it easier for those less adaptable people to try to keep their original customs, even if they conflict with local customs and laws.

Now, is a figure of 300,000 too high? That will depend on a lot of factors:

  • The cultural difference of the migrants. Cultural differences with French immigrants will be less than with, say, Ghanaian immigrants, so French immigrants will be generally easier to integrate.

  • Integration policies (e.g. making "naturalization" courses available to them, trying to avoid migration being concentrated in specific neighborhoods, etc.).

  • Distribution of source of the migrants: if a great proportion of migrants share the same origin/culture, its integration is more difficult. In the above example, if the thousand migrants come from different cultures, suddenly the Chinese migrants will find it more difficult to have a normal life without integrating in the local community.

  • Distribution of the destination of migrants: 300,000 migrants evenly distributed through the UK is not that much, but most likely they will concentrate where job opportunities are higher (big cities?). Add to that economical/housing issues resulting in most of them living in the same neighborhoods, and integration problems would increase.

And after that, lots of personal aspects:

  • An educated migrant that already knows how to speak English will have less trouble than an uneducated one.

  • A migrant that only wants to stay a few years in the UK and then return home with his earnings will be less motivated to integrate.

  • Younger people have way more ease in adapting to new situations than older people.

  • Good answer, integration is key. If they only stay for a few years and return home, wouldn't they be expats rather than migrants?
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 15:42
  • 2
    Maybe I am missing some subtlety of the English meaning, but I would see that almost by definition all expats are migrants: learnersdictionary.com/definition/expatriate. Anyone feel free to correct it if the term is more correct.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 17:41
  • 2
    An expat is a migrant who is white, educated and well-off.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 18:10
  • 1
    @SJuan76 - I don't think there's a clear legal definition that defines an "expat". The typical connotation is that expatriation is people who chose to leave their parent country, typically NOT under undue duress (e.g., escaping high taxes==expatriation, escaping a civil war==emigration), and can easily return back without major concerns. However, there's no bright dividing easy line - technically, an American choosing to go to Thailand to work as English teacher isn't majorly qualitatively different from a Guatemalan choosing to go to USA to work as a waiter.
    – user4012
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 19:34
  • Are you implying that integration is the more rational one among all irrational assertions?
    – adipro
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 6:42

The Conservative government, even Labour, have talked about reducing immigration because they know it's what a lot of the electorate want. This is why one of the Conservative party's 2010 election pledges was to reduce net immigration "from hundreds to tens of thousands".

Xenophobia has been a long running problem in Britain. After the second world war the economy was booming, but there were labour shortages. So the government sent recruiters to the Caribbean to find people who would come to work in London. That however invoked a bristling racism, and by the late 1970s the National Front became an influential if minor political force, exploiting economic decline to play on working class fears.

The economy is still used to justify this sort of sentiment, which means that parts of the UK left behind by progress have grown bitter. By the end of the 1970s the Winter of Discontent proved that the left wing establishment had lost control of the economy and their members. Far left union agitation led to economic paralysis, and thus Thatcher's 1979 victory. She then went about dismantling socialism, and in doing so gutted entire communities in the industrial heartlands; predominantly in middle and northern England, built around mines, mills, factories. The poverty, desperation, and anger from that time lasts to this day.

These impoverished and uneducated communities have found it hard to survive and thrive against rising living costs and increasing competition for jobs. They feel that government does not care, and indeed is prioritising immigrants over the white working class.

But that's not the end of it. Another problem is the perception of a fundamental conflict of values between white British and immigrant communities, and this segregation is getting worse. Indeed in some places communities live side by side without mingling, which further fuels distrust. Many of the older generation feel alienated by how much Britain has changed since they were young.

And even many of those neither xenophobic, nor poor, nor uneducated, nor old, are worried about the consequences of unregulated immigration. It has been suggested that it's not that Brits think immigrants are bad per se, but that the system lets in too many of the wrong kind; immigration of skilled versus unskilled workers.

What this all adds up to is the fact that the benefits of immigration for many are besides the point, or completely irrelevant. For many immigration is perceived as an existential threat for different reasons that are often lumped together; to their prosperity, community, or very identity. Whether any of that is true or not is besides the point, and some want society to be more homogenous even if it makes them poorer.

  • The problems with segregation and side-by-side living; does any of it apply to EU migrants? Do people fell alienated by Latvians, Hungarians, and Poles? I thought this was mainly about non-Europe / non-white / non-Christian migration.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 14:21
  • (Of course the question was not about EU specifically, but the recent renewed interest in this question is probably related to very recent EU events)
    – gerrit
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 14:29
  • @gerrit that's a good question. Generally segregation is discussed with regards to obviously different ethnic/religious groups, and not EU nationalities. I don't know the answer, but since there's been hate crimes against Poles reported across the UK since the referendum result, it could very well be the case too.
    – user8398
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 14:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .