In the recent years Britain has become an inappropriate country for Indian students to pursue their higher studies due to the rigid immigration policies. Let us for now put all the fuss regarding British immigration policies aside and start analyzing this from the basics using some stats.
According to 2011 census, Britain has around 63 million people out of which around 17% are aged above 65 years. So, close to 11 million of Britons are already over 65 and are out of workforce. As per the estimates, by 2050 these groups of people will be doubled to almost 20 million. This shows that Britain is aging quickly. Another number is that, currently, close to 25% of Britons are below 20 who may not be active in workforce. So, put together around 37% of Britons are, in effect, not participating in the workforce. There is also the issue of youth unemployment which adds to the burden. So fairly speaking, the British workforce is sinking and it needs more people to work.
Over the years Britain had built a generous welfare state. Now due to its closing demographic dividend window and weak growth prospects after the impact of financial crisis, both British government and its economy came under pressure.
There is a case that immigrants are claiming the generous benefits being provided by the British government, instead of actually contributing to the economy. But the thing that needs to be analyzed over here is how many immigrants are opting for these benefits, and how many are participating in the work force and contributing to the economy.
As per the recent survey conducted by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London UK, ‘Immigrants pay more taxes and draw lesser benefits than native Britons.’ So, this clearly implies that immigration had done more good to the UK economy than the harm.
There is also a case that some students are coming into the UK by using illegal and foul ways like cheating in language tests and by the help of bogus universities. Government should have to delve deeper into the issue of student immigration and make sure that UK receives highly educated and skilled people as its workforce. But I am surprised by the current measures that are being taken on this front by the UK government. What UK needs is a better immigration and not ‘No Immigration’. Britain boasts of having world class reputed universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and Warwick etc. But it is an irreparable loss for these universities as well as for the country to create an environment in which getting a job is a nightmare for international graduates. These are the graduates who will be creating wealth rather than being benefited by generous state supplies.
Protectionism is not the way forward. The visa system and UK’s welfare grants that are being abused need stricter measures in order to curb them. However, this does not mean that the UK should have to close the gates for student immigration. This can have serious consequences on Britain’s transnational companies; London can lose its relevance as the financial capital of the world and can also lead to steep rise in the number of people in old age who claim pensions and benefits which can essentially push British economy to the wall. This can make UK look more like Japan over the years.
At one end of the spectrum we have the United States which uses immigration as a powerful tool to lunge forward by employing more and more immigrants in STEM categories. On the other hand, we have the UK which is following popular and protectionist policies to gain votes (I am completely perplexed by UKIP’s stand on immigration).
World is on a brink of change. China and India are steadily increasing their share of global economic pie. Many western countries are aging faster. One of the main sustainable ways to create wealth for supporting the western economies and welfare state programs is to get pockets of young, skilled immigrants, and integrate them into the workforce. I am afraid that the UK can slip into irrelevance in the global economy if these immigration policies continue for too long.
The UK needs an able and determined leader who can take strict and tough measures. Though it may hurt in the short-term but would be fruitful in the long-term. This reminds me of the case of unproductive coal mines in the UK during mid-1980s and how Lady Thatcher, then prime minister, handled the issue. What the UK needs now is a leader like Lady Thatcher who can take bold decisions, break the shackles, and make the country move forward from this fix.