It’s time to set the record straight about immigrants
This article by Dr Edward Thomas Jones, Lecturer in Economics first appeared in the Daily Post's business section on Wednesday, 15 March 2023.
In March 2023, Ke Huy Quan won the Oscar for best-supporting actor in Everything Everywhere All at Once. I remember the actor playing Short Round in 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and then starred as the gadget-loving Data in The Goonies the following year. His award on Sunday marked an incredible journey for the actor.
As a child, Quan moved from Vietnam to Hong Kong as a refugee, before settling in the US with his family. This was a traumatic experience for the actor. Refugees and immigrants are used to having it hard, both in life and in the public eye where they are often vilified. This lambasting is unjustified; evidence shows that refugees and immigrants help societies grow and prosper.
The data and research are unambiguous in their finding that refugees and immigrants change the host country for the better. Research by the University College London (UCL) showed that immigrants to the UK who arrived since 2000 have made consistently positive fiscal contributions regardless of their country of origin. That is, rather than being a drain on the UK’s fiscal system, immigrants have made a net contribution to its public finances. Data prepared by the European Foundation has shown it is a myth that people come to Western Europe because the welfare system is better. Other economists have found similar results. For example, it’s been found that the hiring of overseas workers by British employers could add as much as £5bn to the hole in the UK public finances. In America, 40% of the Fortune 500 companies (i.e. the largest companies in the US) have been set up by immigrants or their children.
These results should not be a surprise. Migrants tend to be more concentrated in the younger and economically active age groups compared with natives and therefore contribute to reducing dependency ratios. They, therefore, play an important role in an ageing population, such as we have here in North Wales.
Immigrants are therefore not job takers; they are job creators. They manage to do this despite not having any friends, network, or contact to help them when they arrive. But the fire in their belly that drives them to make the, sometimes dangerous, journey also makes them want to generate economic opportunities.
People coming to Wales to find work, to study or to join their families is nothing new. The UK has become far more accepting of migrant workers. The proportion of Britons who think employers should prioritise native-born workers over immigrants has more than halved from 69 per cent in 2009 to 30 per cent in 2022. A study by Fear and Hope Wales has shown that the vast majority of people across Wales celebrate diversity and community, and are open to difference and change. The moral case for offering a safe haven is undeniable, but there is also a strong economic argument for helping refugees and immigrants.