Thursday, 18 November 2010

Report: To reduce immigration, you have to prevent people coming into the country

The Migration Advisory Committee reported today, after having been tasked to determine:
at what levels should limits on Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the Points Based
System be set for their first full year of operation in 2011/12, in order to contribute to achieving the Government’s aim of reducing net migration to an annual level of tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament, and taking into account social and public service impacts as well as economic impacts?
Oddly enough, they seem to have decided that if we want to reduce the number of foreigners coming into the country, we need to reduce the number of foreigners coming into the country.

They weren't, of course, tasked to try and find out if reducing the number of foreigners coming into the country was a good idea. Mostly because it obviously isn't. Even if you are willing to ignore the benefits to the immigrants themselves. I mean, even David Cameron could work that out.

I've read the first twenty pages or so of the report, and some of the relevant data. I have a few comments below the fold. But just remember, this report was commissioned in order to decide how to reduce immigration. They decided it should be done by reducing immigration. They were not asked to decide whether reducing immigration is a good idea, mostly because they wouldn't have been able to pretend that it was.
The introduction is written by the chairman of the committee. As if in an attempt to demonstrate that he understands the meaning of the phrase non sequitir, he has this to say:
Until 1998 net annual migration (LTIM) was never above 80,000. Since 1998 it has never been below 140,000, and it has exceeded the 200,000 mark in three of those years. Therefore, the Government’s wish to limit net migration is wholly understandable
I'm not sure about you, but I have literally no idea where that "therefore" came from. Compare:
Until 1998 my annual salary was never above £80,000. Since 1998 it has never been below £140,000, and it has exceeded the £200,000 mark in three of those years. Therefore, my desire to limit my annual salary is wholly understandable.
Just because something is growing doesn't mean that reducing it is a good idea. We want to reduce something if we have *too much* of it. We would only want to limit immigration if immigration were bad thing. I know this report wasn't tasked to decide that question, but it has a few things to say about it anyway. Let's have a look at the next page:
non-EU Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrants, at present levels: have a small positive impact on GDP per head; do not increase inflationary pressure; contribute positively to net public finances; play a small but important part in the provision of education, health and social services; increase pressure in the housing market a little; and probably have little effect on crime and cohesion
Sounds terrible doesn't it. All those foreigners, coming over here, teaching our kids, paying their taxes, healing our sick! Taking our jobs! Except, wait... are they taking our jobs? Well.... no:
there is no quantitative evidence that foreign-born migrants are directly displacing resident workers
The summary section is chock full of reasons why we shouldn't want to reduce migration, and recommendations for how we can do so:
It is likely that Tier 1 and 2 migrants, on average, have a positive impact on GDP per-head 
Tier 1 and Tier 2 migration is unlikely to reduce the employment of resident workers in the aggregate
Based on the available evidence it can be inferred that Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrants are highly likely, on average, to make a positive net fiscal contribution migrants, including Tier 1 and 2 migrants, help alleviate skill shortages in key public service occupations in areas such as health and education.
Well, you can see why you'd want less of those pesky Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrants around, can't you? But how are we going to get rid of them? Given that we've arbitrarily decided to keep out all of these useful, highly skilled people who want to come here and do important and worthwhile jobs, what could possibly the recommendation for how we keep them out?
On the basis of our numerous assumptions, for net LTIM to reach 50,000 by April 2015 requires that it falls at a rate of 36,500 per year from 2011/12 to 2014/15. The corresponding reductions that would need to come from Tier 1 plus Tier 2, in net migration terms, are in the range of 3,650 to 7,300 per year, with options A and B as the top and bottom ends of that range respectively.
Option A: Tier 1 and 2 main applicants make a combined contribution on behalf of all work-related migration: 20 per cent of the reduction in non-EU migration.
Option B: Tier 1 and 2 main applicants make a combined contribution in proportion to their actual share of IPS inflows: 10 per cent of the total reduction. This would additionally require that Tier 5 and permit-free employment also make a 10 per cent contribution to
reducing net migration, in proportion to their share of inflows.
In case you're not following, that recommendation amounts to saying, as I said earlier, that if we want to reduce migration, we need to let fewer migrants in, and then they divided 146,000 by 4. In the next few sections of the summary, they go on to do a bit more arithmetic, coming up with several recommendations which they then admit are entirely pointless because we can't control EU immigration anyway.

How is this worth a 250 page report? And why weren't they asked to report on the more sensible question of why on Earth we would want to reduce migration, given that it will have a negative impact on just about every measure of well-being you can imagine?

On the plus side, I honestly can't imagine how any sane person could read even the summary of this report and think that implementing its findings were a good idea. On the negative side, I think they're probably going to be implemented anyway.

No comments: