Migrant workers contributed £6 billion to the country's economic growth last year and earned higher wages than their British counterparts, Home Office figures revealed yesterday.
The study concluded that new arrivals were harder-working, brought sought-after skills and paid more in tax than they used in public services.
The population rose by 189,000 last year, with 574,000 migrants arriving and 385,000 people leaving. The steady increase over the last decade has led to warnings that the country cannot cope with the growth. But the Government figures suggested migration was throwing a life-line to an economy suffering skills shortages and struggling to support a growing bill for pensions.
It was calculated that new migration accounted for about one-sixth of Britain's economic growth, equivalent to £6 billion last year. The Home Office said the newcomers had "high levels of skills – higher on average than the UK natives" and that employers found migrant workers "reliable and hard-working".
It reported that migrants earned on average £424 per week last year, compared with £395 for UK-born workers, and as a result paid more per head in tax and VAT than Britons. It also suggested that the work ethic of the new arrivals was also having a positive impact on British workers, helping to increase their pay levels.
The Home Office said research showed migrants contributed 10 per cent of Government revenue, but used only 9.1 per cent of expenditure in such areas as schools or hospitals.
It said: "In the long run it is likely the net fiscal contribution of an immigrant will be greater than that of a non-immigrant."
The proportion of foreigners in the workforce has nearly doubled in recent years, but employment has increased by 2.7 million, rebuffing claims that dole queues had lengthened because of migration.
"Concerns that native workers would be displaced by migrant workers... seem ill-founded as migrant workers appear to have complementary skills to the native labour force," it said. Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, sounded a cautious note about the figures. "The UK economy and the Exchequer over the long run clearly profit from migration," he said. "But we need to strike a new balance in migration policy where we set benefits alongside what we know about the wider impact of migration."
Danny Sriskandarajah, migration research fellow for the Institute for Public Policy Research, said the figures were positive. "Immigrants bring immense benefits to the UK economy. Let's hope our political leaders pay more attention to this positive evidence than to anecdotes about negative impacts when designing migration policies," he said.
But David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said that relying on immigration to boost the economy was "a short term answer" and said the Government should concentrate on finding work for the 1 million economically inactive under 25s in Britain.
And Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatchUK, which campaigns against mass immigration, dismissed the importance of the figures.
"This is an incredibly feeble justification for mass immigration," he said. "In fact, on their own figures the benefit to the native population is trivial. The addition to production is almost exactly the same as the addition to population."
The Home Office published the research ahead of today's meeting of the Government-sponsored Migration Impact Forum, which advises ministers on the effect immigration is having on all aspects of national life. Its conclusions will be studied by ministers when they decide whether to lift the tough restrictions on workers from Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU in January.
The forum will be told today that all parts of the country have experienced an increase in numbers of new arrivals from the eight eastern and central European countries that joined the European Union in 2004. All regions reported an economic boost from the newcomers, but concluded some problems of integration and pressure on public services had also begun to develop.
It said community tensions had emerged in areas such as the South-west and Scotland which had not previously experienced large-scale immigration, while several other regions warned of the pressure on the supply of cheap housing.Reuse content