Britain needs net inward migration of 200,000 a year to avoid economic consequences of Brexit, says think-tank

Global Future, a British think-thank has warned that the country must take in 200,000 immigrants annually  to maintain the working population at its current level.
Global Future, a British think-thank has warned that the country must take in 200,000 immigrants annually to maintain the working population at its current level.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - Britain needs net inward migration of 200,000 people a year to avoid the "catastrophic economic consequences" of Brexit, according to an employer-backed think-tank.

The Global Future report suggests that Britain's low productivity, ageing population and shortage of labour in key areas, such as the National Health Service, indicate that net migration of 200,000 - which is double the Conservative target - is needed annually, reported The Guardian.

The report criticised both the Labour Party and the Conservatives for refusing to be honest with the public about the level of migration needed by Britain and warned that if the country was not flexible about its sources of labour, it could face a decade of slow growth similar to what has been witnessed by Japan.

The target recommended by Global Future, which is backed by three employer groups, was broadly similar to actual levels of net migration into Britain from 2000 onwards.

The figure for both European Union (EU) and non-EU migration was based on a macroeconomic analysis and bottom-up, sector-by-sector examination of labour shortages.

The report said that Britain faces a demographic time bomb and needed migration of 130,000 a year to maintain the working population at its current level. The labour market crisis was likely to become acute in the short term unless ministers gave an early signal in the Brexit talks on Britain's plans for EU residents and migration, it added.

"The dependency ratio - the number of people of working age (16-64) versus those over 65 - is worsening. Between 1950 and 2015, this fell from 5.5 to 3.5. Only the recent increase in net migration has prevented it from falling even more precipitously," it said.

"Between 2000-2050, the number of people over 65 will double, whilst the number of over-85s will quadruple. The working population would need to double in order to maintain the ratio at its current level."

In this respect, the report highlighted the Office of Budget Responsibility's own finding that migration was critical to reduce the fiscal impact on an ageing population.

It predicted that the demand for skilled labour across the social care, construction and nursing sectors alone would necessitate an additional 47,000 migrant workers a year, higher than the current migration of skilled workers across all sectors.

Unskilled industries such as hospitality, in particular, would be heavily dependent on migration, requiring an extra 60,000 migrants a year.

The Global Future report also noted that 22,000 of the permanent workforce in Britain's agriculture sector were from the EU, supplemented by 60,000 seasonal workers, while in food processing, 120,000 of the 400,000-strong workforce were from the EU.

Overall, the report indicated that British industry would need at least 100,000 work-related migrants a year, with the remainder likely to be students and people coming to Britain for family reasons.

"In this general election, political leaders have failed to challenge the assumption that less immigration would be good for Britain. It might help particular politicians win elections but voters and our national interests will be the losers. There are now political leaders from across the political spectrum who either pretend lower immigration will solve every problem or connive in this deceit. These politicians are not only selling voters short - they are selling our country short too," said Mr Gurnek Bains, Global Future's founder and chief executive.