NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 4, 2008

The United Kingdom was one of only three countries in Europe to immediately extend free-movement rights to the former Communist countries.  Now, the British economy is reaping the rewards of recent arrivals from Eastern Europe, says the Wall Street Journal. 

The speed of the recent immigration influx to the United Kingdom has been truly astounding: 

  • About one million Poles, Czechs and other East Europeans came to the United Kingdom between 2004 and 2007 -- far exceeding predictions.
  • While some of these workers have left again, this net immigration still added 500,000 people to the U.K. population over this period.

The benefits for the British economy go far beyond just plugging gaps in the labor market:

  • Some 40,000 Polish entrepreneurs have set up businesses in the United Kingdom, creating thousands of jobs.
  • Partly as a result of immigration, trade between the United Kingdom and Poland has increased fourfold since 2004 to some £6 billion (about U.S. $11.7 billion) a year.
  • In the last two years alone, the United Kingdom has received more than 1,300 medical doctors from the new member states, improving Britain's health-care system.
  • The Poles also may be teaching the Brits a lesson or two about work ethic; Poles in the United Kingdom have an employment rate that is nine percentage points higher and work four hours a week longer than the U.K.-born population.

Rather than worrying whether Britain has absorbed too many immigrants in recent years, Britain should worry about the prospect of not having enough immigrants in the coming years, says the Journal.  As Europe's work force ages and shrinks, migration will have to be part of the solution, not the problem it is so often portrayed as.

Source: Roland Rudd and Danny Sriskandarajah, "Revolving Immigration," Wall Street Journal, June 3, 2008.

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