Why our ageing population needs immigration

Michelle McGagh
Terror threat
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The debate, and sometimes slanging match, over the touchy topic of immigration often centres on the tired old argument of 'foreigners taking our jobs', but what's often overlooked is just how much immigration contributes economically to the UK.

The figures for just how vital foreign workers are to the UK were laid bare by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) earlier this month. The think-tank estimated that by 2060, UK GDP would be 11% lower than it would be otherwise if the Conservative government went ahead with its target to reduce net migration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands.

NIESR said capping the number of people allowed to work in the country would have 'strong negative effects on the economy' and income tax would have to be increased 2.2% in order to balance the books.

In short, the policy may play to current concerns of a swathe of the population but in the long term the UK would be shooting itself in the foot.

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For those complaining, 2060 seems like a long way off but the impact further down the line needs to be considered. The UK is an ageing population, by 2037 one in four people will be aged 65 and over and old people are expensive.

There are state pensions and other benefits to pay out, increased illness and social care costs to consider. This isn't a criticism, it's fact: as people get older they cost more.

If we have more older people then the costs will rise and we need people to pay for it. We are not having enough children to balance out the ageing population so where else are we going to get taxpayers from? The answer: abroad.

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We need people from overseas to work here, to pay income tax, to buy goods and services and purchase property.

That is the only way the country is going to have enough funds to support a country that is growing older without increasing taxes so much that those of working age are crippled by the cost of paying for older generations.

Those complaining now about the 'foreigners' should be presented with a very stark choice: welcome people from overseas to work in the UK or face retiring even later and with fewer benefits. I'm sure that this frightening glimpse into the future would change the tune of many of those complaining today.

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