We were interested to read the article 'Let Them Come' in this week’s Economist that concludes: “Immigration is, on the whole, good for economies.”
The Economist argues that migrants are generally good for rich countries, even in these recessionary times. The flexibility and willingness of new workers migrating in can boost productivity and encourage innovation. But when economies are at low ebb, governments are reluctant to leave migration flows to the labour market and are quick to reintroduce limited border controls, they argue.
Such a response is starkly illustrated in the UK with the introduction of the points based immigration system and the recent so-called ‘cap’ on inward immigration. But even such efforts to control inward migration do not always work. An article in the Guardian newspaper last week commented on the actual rise in immigration into the UK as EU migrants arrive to fill gaps in the employment market.
Meanwhile, here in Ireland, we have seen a progressive tightening of the rules on employment permits. Our own experience shows that it is becoming increasingly difficult for applicants to obtain permission to work in the State. In visa refusals, we see the oft-repeated argument that the applicant risks becoming a burden on the State: economic considerations are alive and well in the Department.
But the Economist makes some sound arguments in favour of flexibility and leaving economic migration flows to the labour market. Migrants are needed to fill skills gaps; they provide a flexible, mobile work force. When they are here, they work hard and are valued employees. Concerns about public services and immigration in such hard times are understandable. But immigration is generally good and even in these tough times, the government should think twice before tightening border controls any further.