Highly-educated migrants: a solution?


Le débat sur les migrations occupe l’opinion publique d’une grande partie des pays puissants en Europe et encore plus au Royaume-Uni, où l’avis sur la question crée des clivages au sein de la population. Pourtant il semblerait que contrairement aux idées reçues, la migration serait plutôt bénéfique au pays d’accueil …


The debate about the UK in the EU is still a wedge issue among Brits. Indeed, they want to negotiate with the EU to have an even more special status, more special rights and so on. One of the main issues is immigration: opinion polls show that the population is very hostile to the arrival of new migrants, especially from Eastern Europe. It’s on that precise aspect that UKIP based its entire political program. However, recent polls from the University College of London have showed that immigration actually benefits the country.

For a long time, the population’s fear was about immigrants from Pakistan and India. But the state found a way to control that and to show its strength: there are lots of restrictions with visa controls which are more restrictive. So the fear has shifted to other countries, in particular to countries from Eastern Europe. Indeed, the latest arrivals have increased a lot, and Britons feel that immigrants from there are coming to “steal their jobs” and to “receive state benefits”.

For a while, the cost of non-UE migrants in public services was higher than their contributions. That could be explained by their larger families, and their lower employement level. But now, immigrants coming from outside the UK are bringing positive contributions to the country (the gap between their ‘cost’ and their net contribution is £5 bn).

Capture d’écran 2014-11-08 à 19.02.10

The phenomenon is even more impressive with migrants from the European Union: between 2000 and 2011, their contribution to the UK’s finances reached £20bn whereas they received less than £5 bn in welfare benefits. So immigration is a huge benefit for the UK.

But who are these migrants? First of all, the average age of these migrants is 26. Studies have showed that since the early 2000s, the average migrant is more educated than the average UK-born worker: 53% of the population in the UK has received little education whereas 8 to 13% of the recent European migrants have (for non-EU migrant the figure is 15%): 25% of recent European migrants have completed a degree whereas only 24% of UK-born workers have. However they are often paid less than the Brits who are not losing their jobs. Indeed, according to the recent study, the available  jobs available are more often taken by Britons than by immigrants. This means that immigrants are less likely to find a job, even though that was one of their motivations for moving to a new country.

Furthermore, the UK is the most attractive country for highly educated people worldwide. The Tories are trying to make migration applications easier for those people, which explains this attractiveness, whereas there are more difficulties for less educated people to enter the country and to find a job, which is discriminating. In particular for Romanians and Bulgarians.

Even though it is a benefit for the UK, migration could in fact be a loss for the countries where migrants come from: it’s also a kind brain-drain and those countries need their elite.

Gabrièle DELTOUR & Céline GAY


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