A new study from the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration at University College London shows that migrants from the European Union make a net contribution to the UK fiscal system — it looks to me, very roughly, like a cumulative 1 percent of GDP over the past 10 years.
I tell this to Camilla the Polish cleaner as she starts folding washing in the kitchen. She looks suspicious. I ask why. She says that the UK benefits system is outrageously generous and that fake ‘single mothers’ with husbands or fiancees ‘living’ at second addresses of convenience are driving around Cambridge in Audis while claiming benefits.
I ask her to unpack these assertions. First, she says, when she had cancer last year there were bleeding-heart liberals from the council coming round to her flat encouraging her to claim housing benefit because she was too ill to work. Naturally, she refused and sent them packing. ‘I have my savings,’ she says, and she never intended to let cancer keep her out of the labour market for more than a year. It did not.
Fair enough. But does she actually know any fake single mothers whose partners are living at separate addresses so that they can claim benefits? It costs at least £80 a week in Cambridge to rent a room. Would the benefits you could get by this ruse be substantially more than the £80 cost? She doesn’t know because she doesn’t claim benefits. And, no, she doesn’t have any actual cases of fake single mothers with Audis to present. But there are definitely Polish people who drive Audis.
Camilla goes back to earning her £10-an-hour, telling me how much she likes our house and her job. ‘People ask me why I do cleaning,’ she says, ‘but just now I am happy to have less pressure and spend more time with my kids.’ She used to be the Operations Manager of a chain of hotels in and around Cambridge. The last cleaner, a Hungarian, was a Research Chemist and left last year after being offered a too-good-to-refuse job in a research laboratory. She apologised that we poor English people would have to do our own cleaning for a couple of weeks, until Camilla showed up.
So this is all rather bad news for UKIP and Theresa May. How to loathe those who pay in more than they take out? The Brits, of course, are substantial net drainers of the welfare system at present. But self-loathing is hardly a viable election strategy.
Britain’s Essex-born Tory Immigration Minister was quick, when the report was published, to suggest that the Tories have never claimed EU migrants are net benefit scroungers (ho, ho, ho — this chump trained as a lawyer). Instead the problem is all about putting too much pressure on public infrastructure [which the Tories have failed to invest in for several decades]. If you have a sub to the FT, you can read his weaselly drivel here.
The serious point about the study is that it highlights the brain drain from continental Europe to the UK, as over-regulated labour markets in southern Europe, and eastern European countries with a dearth of professional jobs, force hard-working young people onto planes to the UK, with its highly deregulated labour market. Once there, all they have to do is to compete with poorly educated, monolingual Brits who drink during the day…
The point is well made by David Green of centre-right think-tank Civitas in The Guardian.
Anyhow, all this leads us to the blog post I need to write about Italy.