Leading article: Why our new arrivals are to be welcomed, not feared

Share

As miscalculations go, the Government's underestimate of how many new European Union citizens would come to work in Britain two years ago must be up among the great forecasting errors of all time. With around 600,000 new arrivals in the past two years, this movement of population from east and central Europe to the United Kingdom is now among the largest ever in peacetime. Far from being a cause of trepidation or fear - as some have tried to make it - this should be a reason for wholehearted celebration.

There is reason to celebrate, first, because the arrival of so many Poles, Czechs and others - just the latest chapter in our long history of immigration - is evidence of the positive light in which Britain is seen beyond our shores. It is a tribute to our vibrant economy and the perceived openness of our society that so many have seen, and continue to see, Britain as a land of opportunity.

There is reason to celebrate, second, because down the years the hopes of the vast majority of these new arrivals have been vindicated. They have found work that was either not available for them at home, or only at much lower rates of pay. In so doing, they have improved their own fortunes and the fortunes of the families they have left at home. That Britain's towns and cities, and the economy as a whole, has been able to absorb so many new workers with so little upset is something of which everyone should be proud.

And, of course, the benefit flows both ways. The new Europeans, like the Huguenots, the Jews and the Ugandan Asians, have done well in and for their adopted country. Now, without these new Europeans, whole swathes of the economy would be in difficulty. In London and the South-east, the services sector - especially hotels and catering - would be experiencing severe shortages of staff. Ditto the agricultural sector in East Anglia and elsewhere. Like earlier generations of newcomers before them, they are making the wheels of our economy turn more smoothly and adding value to our GDP.

The employers of today, like their predecessors, find their new workforce enterprising, well qualified and reliable. And - to rebuff one oft-cited fear - they contribute far more to the Exchequer than they take out. While paying National Insurance and income tax, they use the National Health Service relatively little. They do not qualify for council housing, and the one pay-out they can apply for is child benefit.

It would be wrong not to note that one reason why the Government looks so positively on this latest wave of immigration is because it is probably helping to keep down inflation. In parts of the country, wages for some categories of workers - builders, house-cleaners and others - have fallen. This is hard on those already doing these jobs, but the relatively high wages often masked shortage. Lower prices for needed services, and lower inflation overall, help far more people than they harm.

Our one concern should be how many of the new arrivals will choose to go home when they want to settle down, rather than putting down more permanent roots. We have a new source of labour at a time when our thriving economy can use it. But do we have a more permanent addition to our population to help fund our pension and health systems in the longer term?

The onus now is really on us: to make Britain a place where the new Europeans feel welcome enough to stay. The exhilarating mix of cultures and experiences that has made London such a successful world city should be a source of pride. The enterprise of this latest generation of hard-working new arrivals can help spread this spirit across the country.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella  

Sure, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella

Chloe Hamilton
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album