A Conservative migrant migraine
Interesting to see that some Tories seem to be waking up to the fact that their immigration cap is going to undermine growth (as the Office for Budget Responsibility pointed out in its pre-budget forecast) and want to water it down. As I blogged earlier, there’s a contradiction between David Cameron’s rhetoric on encouraging economic growth and his policy on curbing the flow of labour into Britain.
Two thoughts. First, given the doubts among some senior Tories (David Willetts, Michael Gove are mentioned in the FT story) on the cap, perhaps the Liberal Democrats should have pushed harder for the policy to be dropped from the coalition agreement. They might have been successful.
Second, Tory worries seem to be about “the brightest and the best” being shut out and the potential damage to banks and multinationals. But what about the potential economic harm done by curbing flows of unskilled labour? The OBR report (p78-79) makes no mention of the type of migration when warning that slower flows (140,000 a year) are likely to constrict growth.
Even the more enlightened Tories on the subject of immigration still seem to believe that there are good immigrants (well-educated, fluent English-speaking, affluent) and bad immigrants (uneducated, limited language skills, poor). But what matters from an economic perspective is not the social background of migrants, but where the shortages are in the labour market. Artificially restricting the flow of unskilled labour can be just as damaging as keeping out the skilled.
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