Increased immigration is 'the last thing' young British workers need, says Migration Watch

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Since 1 January, migrant workers from Bulgaria and Romania have had the same freedom of movement as all European Union citizens.

This has led to some commentators fearing young British workers could lose out to foreigners at a time when youth unemployment remains stubbornly high. So, as David Cameron battles with the EU over the issue, should the UK try to impose stricter rules to limit migrant workers, or could an increase in immigration help Britain's economic growth?

HR magazine asked Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch, for his views:

"There is nothing the Government can now do to restrict the arrival of Romanians and Bulgarians. The end of controls was agreed seven years ago as part of the two countries' EU accession treaties and cannot be undone.

The Prime Minister has proposed to toughen up access to out-of-work benefits for EU migrants, and he is right to do so. That might deter some Romanians and Bulgarians from coming which, given the potential pressure on employment and public services, can only be a good thing.

Unemployment in the UK, though falling slowly, remains stubbornly high at 7.6% of the working-age population, and youth unemployment is a staggering 22.2%. Migration Watch has forecast that 50,000 Romanians and Bulgarians could come to the UK every year for five years from 2014. At a time when more than one in five under-25s cannot find work, increased competition for jobs is the last thing young people need.

Immigration from Romania and Bulgaria will increase competition for the low-skilled, low-paid jobs traditionally done by young people and students. Also, there is clear evidence that immigration drives down wages at the bottom of the labour market, which won't be welcomed by young people in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.

What's more, a study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research found the contribution to GDP per head of the first round of eastern Europeans is likely to be "negligible". The solution is to also limit migrants' access to in-work benefits (tax credits, housing and child benefit). When these are taken into account, the fiscal contribution of eastern European migrants is negligible.

Reform is difficult, but would be worthwhile to ensure the taxpayer no longer subsidises EU migrants on rock-bottom wages."

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