Bring in migrants to cut billions from deficit, says Osborne's watchdog

OBR figures sound alarm on plans for drastic limits to immigration

Higher levels of immigration over the next 50 years would spare taxpayers from the need to endure much greater austerity, the Government's fiscal watchdog has said.

The ageing population will put growing financial pressure on future taxpayers and governments, and Britain will need to undergo an extra £17bn of spending cuts and tax rises to bring down the national debt to 40 per cent of gross domestic product by 2062, the Office for Budget Responsibility said.

This is on top of the £120bn fiscal consolidation the Chancellor, George Osborne, is pushing through as he seeks to close the budget deficit. But higher levels of immigration would help the economy to grow faster and ease the pressure to cut spending, according to the OBR.

Boosting immigration would prove controversial, however, because the Coalition has pledged to reduce the annual figure to the "tens of thousands" of people by the end of this parliament in 2015, down from the current official level of 260,000 a year.

The Treasury is already warning other departments that a "very tough" government spending review will be needed before the 2015 election – and the OBR's verdict provides Mr Osborne with ammunition. The OBR's analysis was based on the assumption that annual net migration over the following five decades will fall to 140,000.

It also showed that if annual immigration were to remain at present levels of 260,000 the economy would grow more quickly. The OBR said that higher immigration would raise the annual growth rate over the next five decades from 2.4 per cent to 2.7 per cent. Under these circumstances the size of the fiscal consolidation needed to bring down the public debt to 40 per cent of GDP would be three times smaller, at just £4.6bn.

Even the OBR's central projection, which sees net inward migration falling to 140,000 per year, would prove contentious if enacted because of the Coalition's pledge to dramatically reduce immigration.

The Government is struggling to meet its target of just "tens of thousands" of immigrants coming to the UK each year, and some ministers want to see foreign students taken out of the figures on the grounds that few of them remain in the UK permanently. The move would be controversial as it would be seen as an attempt to "move the goalposts" so the Government can hit its target.

The economic benefits of migration highlighted by the OBR could make it harder for the Conservatives to justify their tough approach on the issue. Private polling for the Tories suggests that the three issues of most concern to voters are the economy, immigration and welfare. Tory strategists plan to exploit immigration in the run-up to the next election as the two Coalition parties diverge.

The OBR's analysis showed that with annual immigration of 260,000 the UK's population, presently 62.3 million, would reach 85.8 million by 2060, and the working age population (16-65) would be 50.3 million. If annual migrant flows were 140,000, the British population would reach 77.2 million and the working age population would be 44.5 million. With zero migration the population would rise to 64.1 million and the working age population would fall to 35 million.

The OBR also forecast that if net inward migration were cut to zero over the next five decades, the scale of the public austerity facing Britain would need to be three times larger, at £46bn. If all migration ended tomorrow, the UK's average annual growth rate would fall to 2 per cent and the national debt would spiral to 120 per cent of GDP by the middle of the century.

The OBR said: "Higher net migration than in our central projection – closer to the levels we have seen in recent years, for example – would put downward pressure on borrowing and PSND [public sector net debt], as net immigrants are more likely to be of working age than the population in general." The OBR said that an ageing population would put pressure on state finances through increasing health spending, higher state pension costs and rising social care bills.

Case study: 'Immigrants have more drive to be successful'

Mumtaz Khan Akbar arrived in Britain from his home in Kashmir in 1972, aged just 12.

In 1979 with capital of just £1,500 and with the guiding help of his mother, he opened a tiny Asian delicatessen measuring just 12sq m bearing his name. Today he employs more than 350 people and is at the head of a company turning over £25m a year.

Now one of the richest men in Yorkshire, with a personal fortune estimated at £25m, Mr Akbar owns three factories manufacturing ready meals and condiments.

He puts his success down to hard work and determination to succeed. He said: "What I found is that many immigrants have more drive to be successful. You want to be an entrepreneur so you want to do business because you came from a country where there were not many opportunities.

"In Britain there is equal opportunity for everybody and that is what is so great about it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable